Listen to the full interview.
Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Activists are again trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza strip. They're trying to sail from Greece and deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory. So far they have not succeeded. Greece has banned all boats in the Gaza Flotilla from leaving port. Greek authorities cite security concerns, given last year's raids by Israeli forces on a similar flotilla. Nine activists were killed in that raid. Former State Department official and retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright is aboard the ship the ship in question, the Audacity of Hope, to participate in the flotilla. Colonel Wright, you were planning to join this flotilla? Why? What are you trying to achieve?
Ann Wright: Well, I was on the flotilla last year. The flotilla with over 700 civilian unarmed citizen activists on six ships. The ships were attacked by Israeli commandos. I'm a part of this flotilla -- in fact, one of the organizers of the U.S. boat to Gaza, called the Audacity of Hope - because we are challenging U.S. government policies as well as Israeli policies.
Werman: Well, given what happened to the Mavi Marmara in the last flotilla and the raid by Israeli security forces, why would you expect any different treatment this time?
Wright: It seems like the governments of the world have got this thing backwards. They are accusing the activists of being provocative toward Israel. We are saying that Israel is provocative toward unarmed civilians; that they use violence, gratuitous violence on unarmed civilians that are in the traditional, classic, nonviolent ways challenging policies [Werman: Right] as we did in the Civil Rights movements and everything else.
Werman: Fair enough. But you are attempting to breach a country's territorial waters.
Wright: Well whose waters are they? They are Gazan waters. They aren't Israeli waters. Israel is coming out into the Mediterranean, going into other people's waters and
Werman: Wherever the international lines are in the water, the fact of the matter is this is a provocative act that you are engaging in. As a former diplomat, do you believe that provocative acts are what ultimately influences policy?
Wright: The provocative act is stealing other people's waters and and stealing other people's lands and those illegal settlements that they're doing in the West Bank. That's provocative. Citizen activists from around the world are challenging governments who are claiming we are the provocateurs when it's the governments themselves that are the provocateurs.
Werman: It sounds like you have a very political message here to deliver but also this flotilla is supposed to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip. And the Greek foreign ministry has offered to deliver the aid for you. Why not let them take the aid to Gaza?
Wright: I think it would be great for the Greek government to send all sorts of stuff to Gaza. We have two cargo ships that are carrying important stuff. It's really a drop in the bucket for what Gaza needs. The Greek government, I would welcome them to go ahead and create their own flotilla to Gaza and take in as much construction materials, medical equipment, as they want to.
Werman: Why not take your aid, though, Colonel Wright, from the Audacity of Hope ship? Why not let the Greeks take it to Gaza.
Wright: Because we don't want the Greeks taking our stuff to Gaza. We, as international citizen activists, feel we have the right to challenge this illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Werman: So your mission in fact then is less humanitarian that it is political and hoping to provoke some kind of reaction from Israel.
Wright: No, we do not want to - what we want to provoke is Israel really looking at its policies and seeing that its policies are actually dangerous for the security of Israel. That indeed, when you occupy lands, when you put blockades around lands, when you take people's lands in illegal settlements and you build apartheid walls - that is being provocative.
Werman: Colonel Wright, just one final question. I have to say I'm a little surprised. You're a former diplomat and a retired army colonel, somebody who presumably understands the importance of authority and chains of command. You seem to have gone in a very different direction as an activist.
Wright: When I was in the U.S. government, both as a military officer and as a diplomat, when I saw that our government was doing something that I thought was illegal, I always spoke up for it. I resigned in opposition to the war in Iraq. I gave up a career in the U.S. government because I felt that my government was doing illegal things. We cannot be silent when we see things that are happening. And whether I'm a citizen now or whether I was in the government, I spoke up and I intend to do it until my dying day.
Werman: Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright on board the Audacity of Hope, which is currently impounded in Greece. Thanks very much for your time.
Wright: We appreciate it. Thanks so much.