We''re on the verge of another "flotilla" to Gaza.
Estimates of the number of ships and participants vary from day to day, tending downward, but the erstwhile organizers insist that the maritime operation will take place.
Their spokesmen have been hyperactive in drawing attention to the event. After all, without coverage, they''d be denied their oxygen. And the kind of coverage they seek - idealistic humanists and peace activists determined to aid the poor, beleaguered residents of Gaza versus stone-hearted oppressors in military uniforms determined to block them at all costs - would, needless to say, portray Israel in the worst possible light.
The International Solidarity Movement, Free Gaza Movement, U.S. Boat to Gaza, and kindred spirits want the world to believe there is a strip of land called Gaza that, left to its own devices, would create the Shangri-La of the Middle East.
All its residents want are peace, harmony, coexistence, and tranquility. Some spokesmen acknowledge that Gaza has a governing authority. A very few even mention its name, Hamas, but hasten to add that it was elected democratically, so end of story. The rest don''t give it a name, as it might muddy the waters.
According to this narrative - a word particularly popular in Middle East discussions- the residents of Gaza face a neighboring oppressor, Israel, which, for diabolical reasons of its own, wants to inflict maximum harm on people whose only dream in life is to live and let live. For these spokesmen, the wealth of vocabulary in the Oxford English Dictionary fails to capture the true nature of Israel''s venality.
Enter, then, the self-described, modern-day Freedom Riders. They''re boarding flotilla ships, they suggest, to bring aid, relief, and attention to those trapped in Birmingham, Alabama, circa 1963.
George Orwell, where are you? You could have a field day with this story.
Actually, you anticipated it when you wrote about the Ministry of Truth in your classic book, 1984. What were the ruling party''s slogans on the outside of the 1,000-foot-tall building housing the ministry? Weren''t they "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery," and "Ignorance is Strength"? And didn''t the ministry rewrite history at will to ensure it always served the party''s interests?
The Gaza flotilla spokesmen are inverting the truth and rewriting history at will to serve their interests. And what are those interests? To prop up the Hamas regime in Gaza and delegitimize Israel.
While they are entitled to their own opinions, however misguided, they are not entitled to their own facts.
They cannot separate Hamas from the equation. Much as they might try, the central fact is that Hamas is key to understanding Gaza today.
Hamas is a terrorist organization. Don''t take my word for it. Check with the United States and European Union, both of which have designated Hamas as a terrorist entity.
Hamas preaches the elimination of Israel and a toxic brew of classical anti-Semitism. Again, don''t believe me. Read the Hamas Charter.
While Hamas may have been elected to govern with the PA in 2006, the first and only national Palestinian elections, one election does not a democracy make. Hamas used the ballot box to gain a foothold, then employed anti-democratic means to impose its own suffocating vision on the land. Hamas violently ousted the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007 and has ruled ever since. Because Hamas cannot reform, the much heralded "unity" agreement it signed with Fatah six weeks ago is headed for an uncertain future.
Hamas celebrates violence. It joyously speaks of jihad, martyrdom, conflict, and the ultimate destruction of Israel. It has matched its fiery rhetoric with a sustained effort to import weapons, courtesy of Iran, smugglers in the Sinai, and tunnels from the Egyptian side of the border. In recent years, literally thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired from Gaza at Israel. Why?
Israel has no claim on Gaza. To the contrary, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Soldiers and settlers alike were pulled out by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, giving local residents the first chance ever in their history to govern themselves.
Indeed, with Israel''s encouragement, a number of Jewish donors purchased Israeli greenhouses in Gaza and left them behind to help jump-start the local economy. The first reaction was to ransack them, when they could have been sources of flowers and vegetables for the local economy.
Israel has an interest in a stable, peaceful, and prospering Gaza, not a gun-toting, missile-firing, jihad-preaching entity. After all, you can change a lot of things in life, but not neighbors. Israel and Gaza are destined to be neighbors for a long time to come.
The Quartet - the U.S., EU, Russia, and UN - set three conditions for engagement with Hamas. The group must forswear violence, recognize Israel''s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. To date, none of those conditions have been met. Apologists for Gaza would have you believe otherwise, but Hamas''s spokesmen always undercut them. When it serves their purposes, they might briefly curtail violence to regroup and rearm, but Hamas is adamant that it will never abandon its struggle against Israel.
So, let''s be clear. The flotilla participants, whether they acknowledge it or not, are handmaidens of a terrorist regime. That regime, not Israel, is responsible for the conditions in Gaza, which may not be enviable, but are a far cry from the dire picture of starvation and stunted growth painted by the hyperbolic spokesmen.
Israel has only one concern, which is to ensure that Hamas, a declared enemy of Israel, does not get additional means to threaten its neighbor. That''s it, pure and simple.
As has been said, if Hamas laid down its weapons, there would be peace. If Israel laid down its weapons, there would be no Israel.
The flotilla participants claim their mission is nothing more than humanitarian, but, in reality, it serves the interests of a regime that espouses terrorism, peddles anti-Semitism, and praises the memory of Osama Bin Laden.
To portray themselves as the new wave of Freedom Riders is to trample grotesquely on the legacy of America''s civil rights struggle and rewrite history. Orwell''s Ministry of Truth is back.