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Groups hope flotilla raid could lead to change in Gaza blockade

From Paul Courson, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Muslim-American groups speak out against raid
  • Groups call Gaza blockade 'medieval tactic'
  • Israeli PM defends raid, blockade

Washington (CNN) -- Several Muslim-American groups said Wednesday they hope the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla will pressure Israel to end its blockade against Gaza.

"No human being in the 21st century should have to be subjected to medieval tactics, like in the old days of surrounding the castle and starving the people out," said Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society.

The groups were speaking out Wednesday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's news conference to address his country's controversial raid.

At that news conference Netayahu defended the raid and the blockade. He said the blockade is intended to keep Iran from shipping weapons to Gaza militants and said Israel has the responsibility to stop every ship heading for Gaza.

"It's a national security issue for the United States," said Corey Saylor, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, linking Israel's action to the rise of anti-Americanism and extremist attacks.

Saylor declined to say the Israeli military raid could trigger terrorism against the United States.

"If we are seen as the hand that finds a just and lasting solution to this, we will stop that avenue of recruitment that they have," Saylor said.

The groups announced a post card campaign, an internet petition drive and a grassroots effort to post signs in front yards around the United States. They called on U.S. leaders to "persuade Israel to lift the embargo" against Gaza that includes a maritime blockade.

Bray said if Americans can convince Washington to act, the U.S. has leverage it can use with Israel.

"Without the support that the president of the United States and the U.S. Congress continuously give to Israel, the embargo of Gaza would collapse," Bray said in prepared remarks.