Former Ambassador Edward Peck, a career diplomat who served as deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, was on board a ship that was part of the flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip when Israeli commandos seized the vessels in a deadly raid Monday.
Peck, an outspoken advocate for Middle East peace who in recent years who has been critical of US and Israeli government policies in the region, was removed from the ship he was on, along with hundreds of other survivors of the attack on the aid flotilla. The ambassador was detained by the Israelis, but Peck's wife said she had been informed by the Israeli foreign ministry that he was well and would be returned to the United States Tuesday.
In addition to serving President Reagan, Peck was the special assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs during Richard Nixon's presidency.
The former US Army paratrooper served as the State Department's deputy director of covert intelligence programs, director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs, ambassador to Mauritania and as a Foreign Service officer in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
An expert on Middle East affairs, Peck was a critic of the rush to war with Iraq. But his primary focus in recent years has been on fostering dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians. With the Council for the National Interest (CNI), Peck has argued for what he describes as a more evenhanded US policy in the Middle East. An appearance by Peck on Fox News is said to have inspired President Obama's former pastor, the Rev. James Wright Jr., to make his controversial statement about "America's chickens coming home to roost."
Also on boards ships in the flotilla were a number of other Americans, including retired Colonel Ann Wright, a former US diplomat who resigned her post in March 2003 in a show of opposition to the invasion of Iraq. (Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor and author of Remembering Is Not Enough, was among those who attempted to join the flotilla.)
Ann Wright has written about the flotilla, arguing that: "Many of us would like to see our boat renamed 'The Audacity of Hope' as that is what we want to see from the Obama administration— courage to challenge the Israeli government on the siege of Gaza. It would be a really brave, bold move as every U.S. presidential administration since the formation of the State of Israeli in 1948 has blindly given free-rein to Israel in whatever actions it wishes to undertake no matter if the actions are a violation of international law. The carte blanche given to Israel by the United States has been dangerous for Israel’s national security as well as for the national security of the United States." You can read her full piece here.
Here, too, is a link to a 2006 interview Ambassador Peck did with Democracy Now!. In it, he was highly critical of US policies in the Middle East, suggesting that the United States was out of touch with the internationally accepted understandiing that "the first thing that you do in any struggle anywhere in the world is try to get a ceasefire so you can work on solving or trying to solve underlying problems."