Tell them to let our people go

To all: By now you’ve no doubt heard the news about Hillary’s people defining the about to take off Gaza flotilla as a “provacative act”! Could Obama be getting a bit nervous that he might have to take a stand? He may be nervous but not as much as the Israeli government that is throwing everything in the book at them to prevent them from even leaving the shores. Below is a partial dialogue from the State Dept. press conference where Matt Lee of the AP was a bit persistent in his questioning. I’m sure he’ll pay for it in some way but good on him as Molly used to say.

Reporters hector State: Is the blockade legal? What right does Israel have to ‘defend itself’ from humanitarian aid?
by Philip Weiss on June 25, 2011

Matt Lee of AP is on fire. Be like Matt Lee, you docile bovine seven-stomached beasts of the mainstream media, grow a pair. And it looks like other State Department reporters are emulating him. Here's the video . And here's an extended excerpt from the briefing, below. Gaza is just about the first order of business. And listen to Lee's genius question toward the end about Saudi Arabian women driving and breaking the law. "It seems to me that's a pretty provocative act," too, but Hillary Clinton defends them. I have to believe stuff is shaking. Oh brave flotilla, be safe and make it to Gaza!!!!

QUESTION: This morning, Victoria, you put out a statement – or a statement went out in your name – about the flotilla. This is the  third warning in three days from this building or people in this  building about this. What is the big concern here? Are you – is there a  worry that this is going – that this may upend your efforts to get the  peace talks restarted?

MS. [Victoria] NULAND: I think this just continues a year of diplomacy  and public statements that we’ve had making clear that we don’t want to  see a repeat of the very dangerous situation that occurred last year. So  we thought it was timely to put out all in one place our views on this  issue, and I do commend to all of you the very detailed statement that  we put out earlier in the day.

QUESTION: Right. But is there a concern that this may have  broader – if it goes ahead, that there may be broader implications for  the effort?

MS. NULAND: We have seen some warming in relations between Turkey  and Israel, as we talked about I think it was on Tuesday. We want to  see that effort continue. We want to see those who want to aid  humanitarian situation in Gaza use the appropriate channels. There has  been some progress, as the statement makes clear, in opening the way for  more humanitarian aid. More humanitarian aid is getting in through  legitimate channels. So we’d like to see that process continue and not  have a repeat of the dangerous situation we had last summer.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, one of the things that the Secretary  said yesterday in – when – in her comments to this was that attempts to  go into Israeli waters were provocative and irresponsible. And it’s my  understanding that the flotilla organizers do not intend to go into  Israeli waters but in – they will stay in international waters. Is that  your understanding or is that not your understanding per what the  Secretary said yesterday?

MS. NULAND: I can’t speak to the intentions of those involved  in the flotilla. I think the Secretary was clear it was in response to a question yesterday --

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. NULAND: -- as you remember, so that also speaks to the  fact that publicly this issue is out there, that we do not want to see  the bad situation of last year repeated. We do believe that channels  exist for providing humanitarian aid to Gaza in a safe and secure way  and that that situation is improving. And we urge all NGOs who want to  participate in that to use those channels.

QUESTION: But does a flotilla sitting in international waters off the Gaza – off the coast of Gaza, is that a problem for the U.S.?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t want to get into the Law of the Sea issues here. I simply want to say that we don’t want to see a conflict at sea, on land. We want to see appropriate legitimate channels used for  the --

QUESTION: I understand, but in the briefing that just preceded this --


QUESTION: -- you talked about wanting to – in another  instance, in the South China Sea, the U.S. has been very concerned about the freedom of navigation.


QUESTION: And so I’m not quite sure what the U.S. problem  would be with a flotilla that stays in international waters, whether  it’s off the coast of Gaza or off the coast of the Philippines.

MS. NULAND: I think we’re not talking about a freedom of  navigation issue. We’re talking about appropriate and safe and agreed  mechanisms for delivering aid to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: So it’s --

MS. NULAND: So I think the statement speaks for it --

QUESTION: Well, but you believe that Israel is within its  rights to defend itself to take on or to prevent ships from going into  international waters?

MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to speak to international  waters, territorial waters. I’m simply saying that we are encouraging  those who want to aid the people of Gaza to use the channels that have  been established.

QUESTION: All right. And then was – on the flotilla – this is  on the Middle East – I just want to know, wondering if there’s any  update on the Quartet meeting in Brussels?

MS. NULAND: Simply that they had a good meeting today, they  did begin a conversation about when they’re going to meet next, and  they’re looking to do that in the next few weeks. But I don’t have any  specific announcements out of the Quartet today.

QUESTION: Is there – is the thought that the next meeting  would be at the principals level or is it going to be, again, at the –  at an envoy level?

MS. NULAND: I think decisions have not been made on that subject.


QUESTION: To follow up on --

QUESTION: Just to – this is a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Are we on flotilla too or are we --

QUESTION: We’re on flotilla. Just to make sure, does the U.S. consider that blockade legal?

MS. NULAND: I think the main point that we were trying to make in the statement was that we’ve got to use the channels that are safe, the channels that are going to guarantee that the aid get where it needs  to go to the people it’s intended for, and to discourage, in strongest  terms, any actions on the high seas that could result in a conflict.

QUESTION: Right, but again, that doesn’t answer the question  of the legality or the – whether the U.S. perceives that blockade as  legal or not.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on legality here. We can take a stronger look at that if you’d like, but again, the reason  that the Secretary spoke to this yesterday when she was asked, the  reason that we’ve put out this very fulsome statement that points people in the correct direction, is because we want to avoid the problems of  last year, and we do believe that there are good and reliable channels  for getting assistance to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: And just one more. I’m sorry. The people who are  putting this together have a rather elaborate website, and they say that – on that that the U.S. should be protecting the rights of American  citizens, protecting their safety abroad. So that is the argument that  they are making. They’re very disappointed and shocked that the State  Department would be warning people off. What do you say to that?

MS. NULAND: It is in the interest of protecting both Americans and other citizens from around the world who might be thinking about  engaging in provocative moves like this that we were putting out these  warnings so strongly in the same season where we had this problem last  year. We don’t want to see a repeat, and we do believe that those who  want to aid Gaza can do so and need to do so in the correct manner.


QUESTION: You kept repeating that they have available to them --


QUESTION: -- proper channels and so on. What – could you share with us some of these proper channels?

MS. NULAND: Well, the Rafah Crossing, as you know, is open  again, and we have seen an uptick in the humanitarian aid that is going  through there. There are also channels through Israel, and we’ve been  relatively encouraged that the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza  through these appropriate channels is improving.

QUESTION: But the Rafah Crossing was only recently opened. I  mean, until then, it was completely closed. So that’s one issue. And  another: Could you clarify for us whether, in fact, the Gaza waters or  crossing through the Gaza waters, is that legal or illegal under the  Laws of the Seas and so on? Could you clarify that, please?

MS. NULAND: I think that’s the same question that Jill was  asking. And I will admit to you I’m not a Law of the Sea expert here,  but let me take the question.

QUESTION: Okay. And a quick follow-up on the Quartet: You said that it was a good meeting. Now what constitutes a good meeting? How  was the, let’s say, the meeting today different or improved the  situation from, let’s say, 24 hours ago?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you saw and as we’ve been discussing here for the course of the last week, David Hale has been involved very  intensively with the parties, with the regional states. For the members  of the Quartet, I think it was a chance to compare notes on diplomacy  that we’ve been doing, on diplomacy that other members of the Quartet  have been doing in our shared effort to get these parties back to the  table. So, from that perspective, there was a lot to discuss and then to take stock of where to go next.


QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up on the flotilla?

MS. NULAND: Please, yeah.

QUESTION: My understanding is that there were a number of the  Americans who planned to participate and went into your – I believe in  your Embassy in Athens and sought some advice. Can you tell us what the message to them in person was today?

MS. NULAND: I’m sure that the message to them in person was  identical to the statement that we’ve put out today, that we would ask  them to use established and reliable channels and to refrain from action that could lead to the kind of difficulty that we saw last year.

QUESTION: When you say that you want – you don’t want a repeat of last year, you want people to refrain from action that could lead to  the kind of difficulty that you saw last year, does that only apply to  the flotilla organizers or does that also apply to Israel?

MS. NULAND: We’ve been urging all sides, whether it’s the NGOs or whether it’s governments involved, that we not have a repeat of what  happened last year.

QUESTION: Right. Well --

MS. NULAND: And I think this speaks to the fact that the  neighboring states that – to Gaza have worked hard to establish  legitimate mechanisms, efficient mechanisms to get aid in so that people have a way to do this other than to risk provocative action.

Please, Jill.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. NULAND: Anybody – anything else on this? Lachlan?

QUESTION: Just one more on this. Yeah. I don’t think you said  it, but people at the State Department have said Israel has a right to  defend itself against these flotillas. What exactly would it be  defending against, though? That’s what’s not clear to me.

MS. NULAND: Like all states, Israel has a right of national  self-defense. Again, I don’t want to get into where the boat might be  and Law of the Sea and all this kind of stuff. We are simply saying this is the wrong way to get aid to Gaza. The correct way to get aid to Gaza  is through the established mechanisms which are improving, which are  open, and which can get aid to the people that it’s intended for.

QUESTION: But it’s just humanitarian aid, so I don’t see why  it would be – Israel would have to defend itself if it’s just  humanitarian aid coming in.

MS. NULAND: It’s the matter of all states to provide coastal  defense, but I’m – again, I’m not going to get into the Law of the Sea  issues here. We’re simply trying to make the point that we want this  done in a way that not only is going to get the aid where it’s intended, but is going to ensure that we don’t have dangerous incidents.

QUESTION: In general, would you say that the Administration, the U.S. Government, is – would advise anyone against provocative acts?

MS. NULAND: I think that’s a fair point.

QUESTION: It is. Okay. So you don’t see, when the Secretary  comes out in support of women who want to drive in Saudi Arabia,  deliberately violating Saudi laws and regulations, that – her support of that is – doesn’t mean that you’re not – I mean, I don’t understand  where you – if you’re coming out against all provocative acts, it seems  to me that that’s a pretty provocative act, and yet she’s supporting  that.

MS. NULAND: The Secretary was supporting the right of not only Saudi women, women around the world, to live as men do. She wasn’t  encouraging any particular course of action one way or the other. She  was simply making a strong public statement of empathy and support for  the campaign that these women are on to have these laws changed.

QUESTION: Okay. So a provocative act in support of the Palestinians in Gaza is not okay, though?

MS. NULAND: I don’t think we are supporting provocative acts  of any kind. I think you can’t equate these two issues. The Secretary  was simply speaking to the aspirations of Saudi women to have the laws  of their country changed. She wasn’t encouraging any particular course  of action for that.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me try and put it a different way, then.  You believe that because there are established – already established  means, the Israeli port where things are inspected and the Rafah  Crossing, that in this case, being provocative is unnecessary and unwise because it’s just not needed; there are other ways to do it? Is that – that’s the bottom line?

MS. NULAND: That’s certainly the case, and we don’t want further incidents. It’s not in anybody’s interest.

QUESTION: Is the regular blockade a provocative act?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go on this subject.

QUESTION: I’ll ask again. Is the naval blockade a provocative action?

MS. NULAND: We would consider it provocative and it would be dangerous to have a repeat of the situation that we saw last year.

QUESTION: But the current existing blockade, the naval blockade of Gaza, is that provocative action or is it not?

MS. NULAND: As I said, we believe that there are legitimate  and efficient ways to get assistance into Gaza and that those mechanisms are working and that we’re seeing, as a result of them, an improvement in the humanitarian situation.

Jill, are we moving on now? Yeah. Thanks. Please, go ahead.

Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
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