WASHINGTON - Israelis are preparing for a march for Gilad Shalit, starting next week, but New Yorkers have already set sail in a call for his release. The "True Freedom Flotilla" for the captive soldier set sail on Thursday from Pier 40 on the Hudson River, en route to the Statue of Liberty and then to the United Nations building. The sail includes two vessels, each carrying 600 people.
The passengers include Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, New York Consul-General Asaf Shariv, France's deputy consul and a representative of the International Red Cross, who is slated to receive from Shalev a package meant for Gilad Shalit, containing undergarments, a pair of glasses and food.
The event was organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group of 51 organizations throughout the United States.
The conference's Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein noted that the Red Cross was prevented from seeing Gilad Shalit just last week, while Israel allows some 15,000 to 18,000 tons of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip each week.
'True Freedom Flotilla' for Gilad Shalit on Thursday (Photo: Ilan Klein)
The flotilla's goal is to secure Shalit's release from Hamas captivity, or at least pressure the organization into allowing Red Cross representatives to visit the soldier.
In a press conference before the flotilla's departure, Ambassador Shalev said, "For four years the Hamas terror organizations has deprived Gilad Shalit of the most basic human rights, including visits by international organizations."
Shalev said such conduct is "illegal and immoral", and accused human rights organizations of ignoring the severe violation of Shalit's human rights. "It is disgraceful that people who cry out for human rights are silent in this matter," she said.
New York Consul-General Asaf Shariv said, "The humanitarian aid package we are trying to get to Gilad via the International Red Cross is a the minimum he should be receiving, after four years of depriving him of the most basic rights, including visits by representatives of international organizations."
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip 1,460 days ago – 4 years on Friday