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Former US Ambassador Joining Flotilla to Gaza

A former US ambassador to Ecuador is joining the flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza despite State Department warning it is irresponsible.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/27/2011, 10:20 AM / Last Update: 6/27/2011, 11:57 AM

Courtesy of Jacksonville Times-Union/Bruce Lipsky

Samuel Hart, a former U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, is joining the flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza despite State Department  warnings that doing so is irresponsible. 

The State Department warned Americans that the Gaza coast is "dangerous and volatile" and added, "Delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration." 

Hart said that if he succeeds in boarding a ship to Gaza, "If I had a bet, I'll spend some jail time.”

A native of Mississippi and now living in Florida, he told the Jacksonville Times-Union he  does not support Hamas and is not anti-Israel but thinks that breaking the Israeli embargo on the Hamas terrorist organization is “good for the Palestinians’ it's good for Israel as well."

Hart spent 27 years in the Foreign Service, including a stint as a political economist in Israel and a post in Saudi Arabia.

His own views of Israel were revealed in an interview in a Foreign Affairs Oral History Project for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in 1992.

“I served in Saudi Arabia – had no great love for the Arab world, and got the hell out of it,“ he told interviewer Charles Kennedy.

“But at the same time, I've always felt that Israel has been a little bit of a burr in the saddle in our foreign policy,” he added. “Here is a small country with no particular interest to us in any real strategic terms, yet it sort of jerks us around because it has not only a very vocal Jewish population, but also supporters of Israel from non-Jewish groups.

Hart once wrote in an essay that Israel was "an exhausting place to live” and that the "the tension, anxiety and intensity wear you out." 

Hart told the Jacksonville newspaper that that one of the reasons he is joining the flotilla at the age of 77 is his having “missed”   participating in the efforts of the civil rights movement to break segregation in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s.

"I wasn't at the March on Washington. ... I see great similarities between this and the civil rights movement. I am pleased to be a part of it," he said.

Hart is joining the Free Palestine Movement and accepts reports that the blockade, which in effect no longer exists overland except for terror-related items, "limits food to a little bit better than starvation levels.”

Although Israel continues to open up the land crossings for building, including items for $100 million worth of new houses and schools, Hart stated that the limitedly control on the entry of goods into Gaza “limits building materials [and] people are left to stew in their misery."

In an essay explaining his participation, he asked, "What did the residents of Gaza do to deserve such punishment? The honest answer is that they voted in a fair election in 2006 for Hamas, a political party which also engages in armed resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory."

The Times-Union noted that after the election, “Israel came under rocket fire from Gaza, which killed 13 Israelis over several years. Hart said those attacks were wrong but didn't justify Israel's response in 2009, when it invaded Gaza - 1,300 Palestinians died and Israel tightened the blockade."

Hart did not note that most of those killed were terrorists.