Portland activist Erin DeRamus is part of a flotilla of 10 ships trying to visit Gaza in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Last year, Israeli special forces killed nine civilians trying to break the blockade.
The all-American crew of DeRamus' ship, The Audacity of Hope, has sent out a series of news releases describing political drama unfolding since activists in the flotilla began gathering in Athens last week.
First came reports that Greek authorities were threatening to hold up the American boat based on an anonymous complaint that the vessel wasn't seaworthy.
Then came news from Jerusalem that an Israeli "lawfare" group had taken credit for lodging the complaint. The flotilla said it was confident the Greek government would let the Americans sail.
And today, the American activists refuted allegations that the flotilla intends to attack Israeli soldiers with chemical weapons. Here's the latest press release:
Passengers on the U.S. boat to Gaza rejected as ludicrous and provocative an unsubstantiated accusation by the Israeli Army that passengers in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla plan to kill IDF soldiers with chemical weapons. The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday an Israeli Defense Forces allegation that some passengers on the flotilla had prepared sacks of sulfur which they planned to pour on Israeli soldiers.
"Passengers on the U.S. boat have long histories of responding to injustice nonviolently and peacefully. Every participant in the flotilla has signed a pledge of nonviolence," said Melissa Lane, a passenger on the U.S. boat. "We have been engaged in nonviolence training for the last several days. We have no weapons, and we have repeatedly offered to have our boats inspected by neutral authorities. We are absolutely not seeking any confrontation with the Israeli military. We just want to sail to Gaza."
"These spurious claims are merely an attempt to establish a justification to attack us," said Brad Taylor, another passenger on the U.S. boat. "Instead of fabricating horror stories about the hundreds of unarmed civilians in the flotilla, Israel should come clean about what it is they have in store for us. It is safe to conclude that the only chemical weapons, including tear gas and smoke bombs, that will ever be brought on board our ships to Gaza are those that the Israeli military apparently intends to fire at us."
"This is truly a shameful and desperate tactic on the part of the Israeli government. They know full well that the passengers have no intention of being anything but peaceful" said passenger Paki Wieland.