July 1, 2011
Dear Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.:
By letter to you dated June 21, 2011, Attorney Neal Sher (formerly the director of the Justice Departments Office of Special Investigations) urged you to warn the participants in the upcoming flotilla to Gaza that their conduct would run the risk of violating U.S. criminal law by providing material support and resources to the terrorist group Hamas which controls Gaza. We share Attorney Shers concerns, and urge you to go further by filing a civil action to prevent the American ship and American citizens from supporting and participating in this flotilla, as authorized by federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(c).
The flotilla participants proceeding with their plan to break Israels lawful naval blockade of Gaza risk not only violating federal anti-terrorism law (18 U.S.C. §2339B), but also the Neutrality Act (18 U.S.C § 960), which makes it a crime for individuals within the U.S. to begin a naval expedition against a government with whom our country is at peace which plainly includes Israel. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned American citizens about participating in the flotilla. In its most recent statement issued on June 24th, the State Department reiterated that [g]roups that seek to break Israels blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers. The State Department also warned that American participants may be violating federal law: We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statues and could lead to fines and incarceration.
Two Members of Congress have publicly condemned the flotilla and suggested that American participants may be prosecuted. Disputing claims that this flotilla is a humanitarian mission, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey rightly stated, The materials on the flotilla can be brought to the areas that they are needed in the legal way. (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2011/June/Gaza-Flotilla-Vows-to-Set-Sail-Despite-Greek-Unrest/.) U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman agreed, stating, Israels blockade of terrorist territory is absolutely legal . . . . And the people who would run an international legal blockade are subject to the legal ramifications of all countries, including the United States. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-28/u-s-lawmakers-say-americans-in-gaza-flotilla-may-be-prosecuted.html.) Rep. Ackerman did not mince words in describing the participants in the flotilla to Gaza: This is really a flotilla of fools who have been duped by people who are thugs and terrorists, who are promoting a political cause trying to destroy the state of Israel. (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/insideisrael/2011/June/Gaza-Flotilla-Vows-to-Set-Sail-Despite-Greek-Unrest/.)
A report this week in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reinforced the concerns about the flotillas potential for danger and violence, and its possible connection to the terrorist group Hamas. According to Haaretz, senior Israeli officials have received information that organizers of the flotilla to Gaza may be bringing chemical substances on the ship to use against Israeli soldiers. In addition, two activists participating in the flotilla reportedly have connections to Hamas and to efforts involved in funding terrorists. (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-fears-gaza-flotilla-activists-may-try-to-kill-idf-soldiers-1.369923.)
The participants in the flotilla to Gaza appear completely unaffected by the repeated warnings by our government. They continue to tout their activities and to seek financial support for them, including on their Web site, http://ustogaza.org/. The Web site even lists the names of the passengers with their self-written bios. One of the passengers is writer Alice Walker who, in an interview published last week, had the audacity to say, I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves. (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/23/interview_alice_walker?page=full.) As you probably know, those organizing and participating in this potentially illegal endeavor had the temerity to name the American ship in the flotilla to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope. They disrespectfully usurped the title of President Barack Obamas book, written before he became president, in which he called for a new kind of politics that builds on shared understandings that unite us as Americans and help us move forward together. This flotilla to Gaza has absolutely nothing to do with those goals and aspirations. It is deliberately provocative, irresponsible, dangerous, and possibly illegal conduct that may well end up aiding and supporting the terrorist group Hamas and harming our greatest ally, Israel.
Respectfully, it is time for the administration to do more than issue warnings. The federal law that prohibits providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas specifically authorizes you to seek injunctive relief, [w]henever it appears to you that any person is engaged in, or is about to engage in, any act that constitutes or would constitute a violation of this section. 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(c). Consistent with the law, we urge you to seek injunctive relief against (1) the American ship, The Audacity of Hope, to prevent it from participating in the flotilla to Gaza; (2) the U.S. citizens who are planning to participate in this flotilla to Gaza; and (3) anyone who is financially supporting or soliciting funds for the flotilla to Gaza, and thereby aiding and abetting potentially criminal activity.
Morton A. Klein
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice