For political reasons, I wouldn’t go on the flotilla that’s trying to sail from
Greece to Gaza, nor would I board the planned “air flotilla” to Ben-Gurion
Airport on Friday. But for weightier political reasons, I hope the people on the
boats make it to Gaza and those on the planes get through to the West Bank (even
though it’s understood Israel won’t let them).
As a Zionist, I don’t
identify with these activists. But as a hater of the occupation, I support what
they’re doing now. My heart isn’t really with them - but my head is.
start with the cons of the flotilla movement, I doubt there’s a person aboard
who thinks Israel should remain a Jewish state. I doubt there’s one who even has
any doubts about the Palestinians’ right of return. But these are still
relatively mild objections; my more serious ones are about some of the
connections the flotilla movement has made.
I can overlook their joining
up with Turkey’s IHH organization in last year’s voyage to Gaza; at the time,
the IHH was known only as a relief agency in Europe that aided Palestinians and
others. But by now, everyone knows that the IHH is an Islamist, pro-Hamas
operation. If Turkey hadn’t ordered it to withdraw three weeks ago, the IHH
would have been involved in the flotilla that’s now trying to set sail – and the
prospect of the IHH’s return didn’t deter these remaining activists from going
on the mission.
There was an Israeli report that one of the 10 boats was
financed by the brother of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. I don’t know if that’s
true, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
If the IHH is kosher, in a manner of
speaking, why not Hamas? I just saw photos from a 2008 protest boat that Israel
let into Gaza, and there’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire
smiling as she accepts a plaque from Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Other
photos show Israeli Jeff Halper and other activists palling around with the
Hamas premier. A May fundraiser in Oakland for activists slated to board the
flotilla’s Audacity of Hope vessel starred Gilad Atzmon, a jazz musician and
That’s more than enough for me to say that these are
not my people. So why do I still sympathize with the flotilla? First of all,
this is not a pro-Hamas movement, and certainly not an anti- Semitic movement;
it’s an anti-occupation campaign. The flotilla activists are not out to destroy
Israel, they’re not evil, they’re not my enemies. Unfortunately they lack the
strength to draw red lines against people and organizations that are evil. They
suffer from a degree of moral cowardice – but then, so does everyone doing
business with Avigdor Lieberman, Rabbi Dov Lior and the many other bloody-minded
bigots in this country. If laying down with Islamo-fascists puts the flotilla
activists beyond the pale, the same goes for Israelis who lay down with
Judeo-fascists. But I don’t judge Israelis as harshly as that, so I won’t do it
with the flotilla folks, either.
Second of all, they’re non-violent. Even
those IHH guys on the Mavi Marmara only used wooden clubs against the IDF
raiding party; the violence was overwhelmingly, lethally on the Israeli side. If
we compare the flotilla campaign to other anti-colonialist movements – including
the Zionist struggle against British rule – these people really are Boy Scouts
and Girl Scouts.
Finally, I support the flotilla movement because it is
the only game in town, the only non-violent force that’s pushing back against
the greatest threat Israel faces, which is the occupation. I wish Meretz, Peace
Now and the New Israel Fund were doing something that similarly confronted it
head-on and made a dent; if they did, I would join that effort and oppose the
But they’re not. So the choice today for a Zionist who hates
the occupation is either to support the flotilla, with all its faults, or
support stopping the flotilla and allowing Israeli rule over Gaza and the West
Bank to go on unhindered – with all its faults.
In politics, you rarely
get to choose the option you like most; it’s usually about choosing the one you
dislike least. And in those simplest of terms, the choice is easy: I dislike the
flotilla much, much less than I do the status quo with the
Because of their political worldview and some of the people
they’ve been known to hang out with, I can’t truly say I welcome the activists
trying to get here by boat and plane. But I have no problem at all – not in this
mission, anyway – wishing them success.
IHH men on the Mavi Marmara used mainly metal rods and wooden clubs against the IDF raiding party; it was not the case that they “only used wooden clubs,” as I wrote. Also, one IDF soldier said he’d been shot in the stomach, another said he’d been stabbed. The IHH men, however, could have done much worse – they held three IDF soldiers prisoner and took their guns, but did not shoot them. I wrote that “the violence was overwhelmingly, lethally on the Israeli side,” and that is correct. L.D.The writer blogs at Israel
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