On November 4, 2010, more than 300 students, teachers, and activists packed a student center on Rutgers University’s Busch campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. They were treated to three hours of speeches assailing Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and asked to open their hearts and their wallets for an organization called USTOGAZA. The organization was attempting to raise enough money to join the latest trend in anti-Israel activism: flotillas. But the event’s organizers—most prominently the Rutgers student group BAKA—did more than support a run-of-the-mill political rally. They may have encouraged everyone in attendance to run afoul of federal terrorism laws. How and why this is the case represents the dangerous turn campus anti-Israel activism has taken in the age of the flotilla.
The “flotillas” began in May 2010, when a Turkey-based organization known as IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi) led a convoy of boats through the Mediterranean in an attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. It soon became clear this was anything but a humanitarian mission; French and American counterterrorism authorities have been warning of the organization’s involvement in terrorism for years, and IHH is banned in Israel for that reason. Israeli naval commandos boarded one of the ships to ensure weapons weren’t being smuggled in to Hamas. They were assaulted, and the ensuing struggle resulted in the deaths of nine of the attackers.
About the Authors
Brooke Goldstein is a human-rights attorney and filmmaker based in New York City. She serves as director of the Lawfare Project and is the founder and director of the Children’s Rights Institute. Gabriel Latner is a law student at the University of Cambridge and currently a student fellow at the Lawfare Project.