Support flotilla, with all its faults

Rattling the Cage: The choice is easy: I dislike the flotilla much, much less than I do the status quo with the Palestinians.

Freedom Flotilla 2 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
Freedom Flotilla 2 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
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.
To 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 true anti-Semite.
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 flotilla.
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 Palestinians.
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.
CORRECTION: 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 Reconsidered (