An Israeli patrol boat intercepted a yacht carrying three tons of medical supplies to Gaza in international waters early on Tuesday as it attempted to run an Israeli blockade. According to those on board, the patrol boat accused the relief vessel of being involved in terrorist activity and then deliberately rammed it, forcing it to return to port in Lebanon.
Among the yacht's 16 passengers were doctors, journalists, and human rights activists, including former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). McKinney spoke to CNN from Lebanon, telling John Roberts, "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and once on the side."
McKinney described as "outright disinformation" a statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry which called the charge that the ramming was deliberate "absurd." According to the Israeli spokesman, the boat was struck as it attempted to outmaneuver the Israeli vessel.
The Free Gaza movement, which sponsored the relief mission, explained in a press release, "This is the sixth boat that the Free Gaza movement has sent ... in a symbolic effort to end the seige of Gaza. These are small boats, and they do not cross into Israeli waters at all. This Israeli attack on the boat, which occurred in international waters, cannot be described as 'self defense' by any stretch of delusional imagination."
"Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies," McKinney told CNN, "and our mission was thwarted by the Israelis -- the aggressiveness of the Israeli military."
McKinney then appealed to President-elect Obama to "say something, please, about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced right now by the people of Gaza." She referred to Martin Luther King's description of the United States as "the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet" and noted that "the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that are being supplied by the United States."
McKinney has been known for her opposition to Israeli policies, which is blamed in part for her loss of her Congressional seat. According to the Washington Post, "In 2002, two Democrats in Congress with records of voting against Israel's interests -- Reps. Earl Hilliard of Alabama and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia -- faced primary opponents who received substantial support from Jewish donors. A majority of AIPAC board members gave to either McKinney's challenger or Hilliard's or both. Hilliard and McKinney lost."
The full CNN story can be read here.
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Dec. 30, 2008.
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