Just steps from last month’s attempted Times Square bombing, a group of lawmakers gathered Monday to express concern that three people they called terrorists may be planning to come to the U.S.
The three were aboard one of the six Gaza-bound aid boats that were forcibly stopped last month by Israeli soldiers. A clash with soldiers by activists on one of the ships led to the deaths of nine activists, with several soldiers wounded.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) said that 40 to 50 passengers aboard that ship, the Mavi Marmara, boarded separately, wore bulletproof vests, that each carried $10,000 in cash and apparently carried guns.
“It is on them that the loss of life must be blamed,” he said, adding that they were from a Turkish group affiliated with al-Qaida.
At the press conference, Janice Shorenstein, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, handed each lawmaker a copy a petition with 23,000 signatures calling for the State Department to investigate any and all passengers aboard the ships who apply for U.S. visas. Three of the passengers have reportedly announced plans for a speaking tour, including a stop here.
“We have the opportunity to declare once again where we as New Yorkers stand in our confrontation with terrorists and their supporters,” she said.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) said the matter went beyond Israel.
“There appears to be some serious question about Israel’s right to survive,” he said. “This is not a Jewish problem; this is a problem for the world and for the United States of America.”
He said Israel has a legal right to impose a blockade on Gaza, just as President John F. Kennedy did when he imposed one on Cuba to stop the further import of Soviet missiles.
“Imagine, if you could, what would happen if we thought the Cubans were terrorists,” Rangel said. “It seems to me that if you believe there are arms going to an enemy that has pledged to destroy you, that you have every right to prevent that from continuing.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) made a similar point, saying the flotilla “wasn’t about aid to suffering Palestinians, it was about arms for terrorists. … What kind of humanitarian mission brings medicines that are past their sell-by date? What kind of humanitarian mission brings night-vision goggles? What kind of humanitarian mission arrives with dozens of slingshots and jars full of pebbles?
“All we are asking is for the State Department to recognize that some of these passengers pose a danger to us,” she added. “Use extra caution. Take this threat seriously.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer asked why the JCRC needed to gather “thousands of petitions to simply get the State Department to do its job. Why isn’t Homeland Security doing its job? Why should there be any doubt when a ship is coming to our shores that we have to fully investigate a potential terrorist threat?”
Signup for our weekly email newsletter here.