This report was first released prior to the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla
On Sunday, May 30, 2010, participants in the international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip will hold a memorial service at sea to commemorate the 34 Americans killed and 173 injured in Israel’s 1967 attack on the U.S.S. Liberty.
Joe Meadors, a signalman on the Navy surveillance ship 43 years ago and a member of the Free Palestine Movement delegation to the flotilla, will lead the ceremony in honor of his crewmates. The service will be held aboard the Sfendoni, a ship contributed to the Freedom Flotilla by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. It is scheduled to be held in international waters about 30 miles off the coast of Gaza, near the site of the deadly incident.
Mr. Meadors believes that while the facts of that day in 1967 may never be fully acknowledged, the men who died should not be forgotten. “I am sailing again in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said, “to remember the brave heroes from the Liberty and the forgotten 1.5 million people trapped in Gaza.”
Among the passengers joining Mr. Meadors will be Ambassador Edward L. Peck, former State Department Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania, Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism at the Reagan White House, and State Department Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Explaining his presence on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Amb. Peck stated that, “I have been on several trips to the Middle East to promote a resolution but I wanted to do something tangible instead of just talking.”
Gaza has been under an Israeli-led blockade since 2006. Amnesty International, in its latest Annual Human Rights Report (May 26, 2010) stated that Israel’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages have left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”
The Freedom Flotilla carries 10,000 tons of relief and developmental aid to Gaza. These supplies are being delivered by a coalition of international civil society and human rights organizations directly to the people of Gaza, using only international waters and the coastal waters immediately off Gaza for passage. The flotilla is expected to arrive in Gaza late Monday morning.