Friday, June 04, 2010

Second thoughts: Flotilla

With almost a week of hindsight, I am now prepared to say that my worst fears were unfounded: This has not turned out to be Israel's Selma. Thank God.

What we know now is the following: 

(1) Six ships tried to run the blockade. Had they gone about it nonviolently, this would have been a legitimate protest, and a fair way both to bring attention to what they believe is a serious humanitarian crises and to deliver what they believe to be much needed assistance. However, as noted by many before me, Ghandi these flotilla people were not. 

(2) Five ships were diverted to Ashdod. One refused to go. It was raided by IDF soldiers, who were attacked with makeshift weapons such as kitchen knives and batons. This happened because at least some of the flotilla participants wanted a violent confrontation. As the New York Times put it in the first sentence of an editorial: "The supporters of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla had more than humanitarian intentions. The Gaza Freedom March made its motives clear in a statement before Monday’s deadly confrontation: “A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade.”

At Selma, Martin Luther King also wanted a violent confrontation, but here's the crucial difference: King and his people marched nonviolently. They didn't raise a finger against the Alabama troopers, and even after they were attacked with hoses, dogs and worse, the black marchers steadfastly refused to fight back. Because the flotilla people initiated the violence any comparison to Selma fails.

Also:  I do not retract what I said about the raid being both a strategic and tactical blunder. The reasons for this judgment have already been given.

Also: The exaggerations and mischarecterizations made by Israel supporters hurt Israel more then it helps. I'm all for getting the story straight, which is what I've attempted to do in this post and others. However, many of the hasbarahniks aren't concerned with the facts, but with their own spin.

A good example is the "We Are the World" parody currently making the rounds. One of the lyrics suggests that we won't see the truth on TV as IDF videos of soldiers being attacked flash across the background. The problem is I have seen every single one of those videos on my TV, even on CNN, the right's favorite whipping boy. Who does it help when we exaggerate media bias? All such statements do is destroy your credibility. Here is Jon Stewart making the point quite perfectly as he mocks Glen Beck for saying no one but Fox is showing the videos a full 24 hours after they appeared on every station, including CNN.

Another example is that claim that the flotilla was made up of terrorists and Hamas supporters. Though I have no doubt that there were Hamas sympathizers on board, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some actual terrorists participated, I think its more accurate to say that the flotilla was largely made up of people who honestly and sincerely believe that innocent people are suffering in Gaza, and want only to be of assistance to them.

Now, its fair to ask why FreeGaza and similar organizations don't care about those who are suffering in places like Sderot, but their likely reply isn't hard to guess. The are likely to say that the situation in Gaza is far more dire. For instance, anyone who wants to leave Sderot can, whereas the Gazans are trapped.; also no one in Sderot is starving or denied basic medical care but there is at the very least a widespread perception - true or false - that people in Gaza are denied such basic necessities. In short, they may be misguided, but I do believe that the flotilla participants - for the most part - think there is a serious humanitarian crises in Gaza, and were sincerely attempting to be of non-violent assistance. (What about the handful of rifle scopes? I said "for the most part". I don't know that the presence of 20 or 30 or 100 rifle scopes among several tons of food and medicine discredits the entirety of the mission. It just means that among 6 shiploads of people, not everyone was equally committed to non-violence. See above where I conceded some actual terrorists may have participated in the mission)

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