My deep condolences go to the family, friends, and comrades of those who were killed or injured by this latest unjustifiable atrocity.  

There was a demonstration here in Boston yesterday, one of many around the world against Israel's act of piracy.  I learned about it too late to go, and haven't yet heard anything about how it went.  But when I was thinking about if I could go, a chant came to me, bearing the message I would have wanted to say there.  I doubt it would have been welcome.  I was thinking:

<i>No more pirates; no more knives -
No more games with human lives!</i>

It's been awhile since I've participated in the kind of non-violent direct action (not the same as protest) that the Free Gaza flotillas have brilliantly exemplified.  But I have done so, and I know that its success depends on the firm commitment of participants to maintain a non-violent approach, even when resisting unjust violence by armed authorities.  

As much as I am repulsed by Israel's unnecessary and self-destructive brutality, and knowing that they are fully responsible for the assault and the murders they committed, I must say that I am also disgusted with what I see as the betrayal committed by those participants in the Free Gaza flotilla who took up arms against the invading Israeli commandos.  Not because I think self-defense is illegitimate; I don't.  But let those who want that kind confrontation organize their own effort, train themselves in hand-to-hand combat if they wish, and then go out to provoke an attack so they can be glorious martyrs all by themselves.  I will grieve for them and for their choice.  

Instead, for their hour of exhilaration, they brought down the fury of Israel's enraged and frightened special combat forces also on their nonviolent partners to whose path they had made, or feigned, a commitment.  Do you think the commandos retaliated so precisely that the casualties of their attack were all and only the ones who beat them?  Neither do I.  

Videos show some of the passengers gathered to receive the rappelling commandos with iron blows, and hurling bodies over the side (reminiscent of Hamas's treatment of Fateh supporters during the civil conflict in Gaza after the Palestinian election).  These videos will be broadcast as widely and frequently as the Israeli government and its defenders can manage.  Naturally, Free Gaza spokespeople are downplaying this as an almost instinctive and understandable, if regrettable, lapse into self-defense.  But what will be the effect on FG's image and prospects in the coming year?  On their ability to recruit the necessary support from various governments, prestigious international leaders, and other participants commited to nonviolence?  On the prospects for their, or anyone's future challenges to the blockade?

Israel's response to the violent defense they encountered on the Turkish boat was so ugly (and Free Gaza so European and non-Palestinian) that they are taking quite a hit in the international arena.  Is this a propaganda victory for those who risked both their own and their nonviolent comrade's lives to provoke that response?  What if they had exercised the passive resistance for which Free Gaza (they say) had trained them?  No carnage, no international criticism?  I don't think so.  I think we've all experienced enough images of the massively armed Israeli David defending itself against the feeble brutality of the antizionist Goliath to know that whatever criticism of Israeli aggression it engenders is undercut by the perception of two comparably nasty antagonists endlessly slugging it out. 

Much of Palestinian gains have come through nonviolent means.  Minimal as those gains are, they still make a significant difference in both the lives of Palestinians under occupation and in the political prospects of the Palestinian people as a whole.  In the West Bank, for example, there is now a rapid rate of economic growth and job creation in the West Bank, where the leadership has also, with the support of the Obama administration, more or less forced a reluctant right-wing Israeli government to enter into final status negotiations and give lip service at the outset to a two-state solution.  This coincides with the most extensive network of internationally supported (including support from much of the Israeli left, as in Sheikh Jarrah) nonviolent Palestinian resistance to occupation there has ever been, laying the groundwork for the international campaign of "anti-apartheid" boycott, divestment and sanctions that would likely emerge as the next phase of struggle if a two-state solution is taken off the table by another failure of negotiations.  How much of this could have been accomplished by, or even during, the Al-Aqsa intifada?  None.  Compare this to the bleak situation in Gaza, for which Hamas proudly claims violent "victory," where the economy and public health are tatters and the ability of ordinary Palestinians to engage in independent political resistance is extremely limited.  

Participants in the Free Gaza movement cannot afford to "make Israel look bad" at the cost of crawling down into the mud with them.  The power and beauty of passive resistance is that the passengers could just as well have exposed Israeli aggressiveness without losing the moral high ground and, more importantly, without loss of life - all while growing the pool of credible and influential future participants.  I hope Free Gaza's internal response to this tragedy will be as incisive and clear-minded as what I've seen so far of their public response.  

But supporters of Palestinian rights must examine our own motivating impulse at a deeper level than a strategic cost-benefit analysis.  Are we confronting zionism as an irredeemable evil that we must reveal (or goad the zionists themselves into revealing) to a world that stubbornly refuses to adequately recognize it?  Or do we want to model - and thereby invite from those who, in fear, stand against us - the kind of compassion, humility, and repentance that are ultimately essential for reconciliation to occur?  Because that is the underlying spiritual vision of nonviolent action.  

Love and blessings,

Tags: Free, Gaza, nonviolence

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salaam-shalom Ali,

I'm surprised to hear you say that Muslims cant be antisemitic because Arabs are semitic. I'm sure you know, probably better than I do, that most Muslims are in no way Arab. But, I agree that Arab and Jewish origins are similar - in fact, some studies have shown a very close genetic relationship between Jews and Palestinians (which perhaps shouldn't be so surprising). And I understand that Muslims consider themselves spiritual descendants of Ishmael.

Now let's see if you can also try to understand, with some help, how most Jews see this question, and why most of us don't respond very well to the idea that "Arabs can't be antisemites because they are semites themselves." I'm going to start by trying to tell a very long and complicated story as briefly as I can.

You probably know there was a long history of Jew-hatred in Christian Europe. (Less so in the Arab world or the pagan world before it.) Sometimes it was called by a fancy Latin word, Judeophobia, meaning fear or hatred of Jews (just like people talk about Islamophobia today), It was mostly a religious thing; for example, the church taught that "the Jews killed Christ" - and for Christians, that meant we killed G!d (as if that were possible!). But in modern times, as kings and then nation-states grew more powerful than the church, and as capitalism began to emerge, religious conflict between Christians and Jews became also economic and political. Those who continued to see Jews as a dangerous alien presence began to speak of it differently, eventually in the fake-science language of "race." In our time, nearly everyone agrees racism is a terrible thing. But in the early 20th century, racism was widely seen as the exciting new science of humanity. Until then, there was no such thing as a "semitic race." There were only semitic languages, like Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew. Secularized European Jew-hateres called Jews "semitic" in order to paint them as an alien race that, for "biological" reasons, could not become and integral part of European nations. Thus, the new word "antisemitism" was born - first used by antisemites themselves, to advance their new "science."

I tell this story here because it makes two important points: 1) Until racism came along, semitic was a linguistic, not racial-genetic, term, and there is in truth no semitic race - neither Jews nor Arabs/Muslims, both of which include, for example, people of a full spectrum of skin color. By tradition, Arabs and Jews are both Abrahamic peoples, and that is not a racial concept, but more like an extended multiracial and culturally diverse family. So, no, Ali, neither you nor I are semites; it's just a word and idea invented by racists to further their own purposes.

2) Those European racists did not use that word of Arabs or Assyrians or other speakers of semitic languages. They used it only of Jews. That's why Jews still now understand the word to mean racism against us. That's why so many of us get very upset at the claim that Arabs (or anyone else) can't be antisemites because they are semites. It doesn't matter if they are semites (though they are not, and neither are we), because antisemite never meant hatred of semites - it meant, and still means, hatred of Jews.

If you want to test the accuracy of what I just said, ask yourself this: When Arabs or Muslims or anyone else are talking about hatred directed at them by the Christian or post-Christian (or colonial or post-colonial) West, do they ever call it (do you ever call it, "antisemitism"? Of course not. People call it Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, orientalism, and so on - words that emerged, each in their own context, for that purpose. The context for the invention of the word antisemitism was Jew-hatred, not "semite"-hatred or hatred of semitic-language speakers.

Imagine how you would feel if you were speaking about the Japanese empire's colonization of Islamic countries, and a Japanese person replied, "Oh but we can't be orientalist, because we are oriental too!" The analogy is not perfect, but maybe it can give you a sense of why most Jews respond poorly, often angrily, to the denial of Arab antisemitism.

In any case, some kinds of very serious antisemitism are frighteningly easy to find in Arab and Muslim society. The most disturbing and far-reaching example I know of is the widespread credibility given by so many people (governments, opposition movements, religious leaders, secular intellectuals and ordinary people) to one of the most damaging fraudulent texts of European Jew-hatred: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. When that book and its inflammatory ideas no longer hold a place of influence throughout the Muslim world, I will be ready to consider the possibility that antisemitism has no place there.

I should have read your reply first--much better than my sorry attempt . . . . Still, the bottom line is we're dealing with bigotry or prejudice, and it's fair to ask whether such attitudes are bi-directional.
James, I would not only ask whether such attitudes go both ways; I would assume they do - but on the part of only some people in either community. Even for those who do express such bigotry, there is a diffrerence between being motivated by it and merely allowing it to be triggered by the immediate conflict. The problem is that when the conflict is ongoing, the antipathy and chauvinism are constantly being triggered, so that over time they tend to acquire a motivating power of their own. The only remedy ("tikkun"), I think, is to develop one's spiritual capacities for a more generous openheartedness and for vigilance over oneself.

hello my friend listen my brother when they say antisemtitic yes you a right they mean the jews but how come do people think you hate jews while we really do not hate jews because as you know we are the same familiy and yes you are right its been proved genically and languge matter that arab and jews are close i know other muslims is not only the arabs and the assyrian and the jews but i want to bring my idea infront of everybody because many jews think we are antisemtitic while we are not i never hate the jews when arabs and jews are fighting eachother its not a war of religion its a war of politics iam i not right i see the jews as my brother now and for ever
Thank you so much for your encouraging reply, Ali. I believe you, and I don't for a moment think (and never did) that you are an antisemite. I'm traveling now and having some trouble with this borrowed computer, but I will respond more fully when I am able, insha'Allah.

iam from iraq and we arabs and jews are familiy
Thanks for the link, David. It's a good and important interview. But take care not to read more into it than is present. Meshaal didn't actually say anything new on the key questions. Although Charlie Rose seemed not to catch it, the fact is that Meshaal was careful not to say that Hamas was ready to enter into a negotiated two-state agreement with Israel as a way to move toward solving the conflict. Rather, he repeated several times, if Israel first withdraws unilaterallyfrom all the territory it conquered in 1967, Hamas would then be willing to accept the results of a referendum held in the already established free and independent Palestinian state about whether or not to accept that situation as a final-status solution.

Yes, that indicates a clear willingness to accept the state of Israel's continued presence for the long term, if that is the decision the Palestinian people reach after they have been freed from occupation.
No, it does not help to move things forward from where we are to where most people - perhaps including Meshaal - would like to get.

Salaam Aleikum Hayyim, I tried to get the link to the Charlie Rose interview with Meshaal but it appears I must buy the DVD. Is there an alternative?
Israel made a huge mistake in 1984 (I think that was the year) when Jordan renounced its sovereignty over those lands occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Israel blinked and took on the responsibility of governing those Palestinian Arabs who lived there.Presumably its belief was that somehow over time these Palestinians would accept all those benefits accrued from being residents but not citizens of a larger Israel state. Any student of politics at that time would have known that this was unsustainable. The 1st and 2nd intifadas ensued resulting in many deaths, civilian and military on both sides. Ultimately a separation wall was built, albeit imperfectly but it did reduce the incidents of suicide bombing dramatically. Subsequently, Israel's military withdrew from the West Bank and early in 2006 withdrew from the Gaza Strip. In 2006, elections were held in the Palestinian territories, resulting in an overwhelming victory for Islamist Hamas. In 2007 a power struggle between Hamas and the secular Fatah ensued with the Fatah leadership relocating to the West Bank. The fact that Fatah had recognized the State of Israel and pursued non violent policies has resulted in a far more positive outcome for the residents of the West Bank. There economy is now projected to grow at a rate of 8.2%, albeit from a very low base. You then look at the miserable conditions of the residents of Gaza, the vast majority of whom I am certain are more concerned about the usual human things such as providing for their families and ensuring their safety. Hamas's inability to control their militants from provoking Israel's might, and I believe that it is their inability and not their intention, shows that confronting Israel takes a much higher priority than actually governing in the best interests of its citizens. I am not trying to rationalize Israel's behaviour, because many of their policies are unjustifiable. Its unsustainable settlement policies, unpopular with the silent majority in Israel, its pandering to the ultra orthodox nationalist parties and their infiltration into the IDF. There is no doubt that Meshaal believes that time is on Hamas's side and ultimately the accepted international policy of a two state solution will be replaced by a one state for two peoples solution. He is prepared, from a very comfortable lifestyle in Damascus, for the impoverished Gazans to make many sacrifices in pursuit of this objective.

Best regards

David Crier posted the interview link in this discussion thread, here.

Yes, time is certainly against a two-state solution, and likely favors a single state (though there are other possibilities). But I wouldn't assume that Meshaal prefers the latter. He must know that short of genocidal war, the single state that would emerge would be a democratic one with rough numerical parity between Jews and Muslims (as well as some other minorities). Hamas would be not nearly as powerful a force in such a state as it would in a small, independent Palestine. It may well be that Hamas is torn between more or less the same two mutually contradictory desires as the Israeli leadership. Yes, they would like Palestinians to have all of Palestine - at least in terms of return and citizenship, if not sole sovereignty. But if they also want to help lead a Palestine in which Islam prevails, whether constitutionally or merely as the majority religion and culture, that may give them a quite different set of incentives.



should work using your pc's browser and adjunct media-watching software.

Real condition in Gaza may not be so uniform as regards impression in one direction or the other. One tries to "see" using Israel's statistical reports covering aid throughput to the strip--it has been substantial by every reckoning--and through photography, including videos, produced by Gaza residents and posted online as journalism or, frankly, commercial promotion. This, representing "Roots", has been making the rounds of late:


I have a first piece on basics on my blog as well.

Recently, Hamas has had to come out against adult web sites coming through one of its Internet Services Providers (ISP's), indicating--and one may dig for further research--that the place is online and not quite all dust, olive groves, and beleaguered farmers. Also, I'm sure some to many here have visited and may be ferrying mixed impressions.

All would do well to look twice and then some at both claims and empirical evidence until freedom of speech and the transmission of the experience of the life in place and time becomes open and we no longer feel compelled to slice and dice according to partisan agendas.
I was into the 2nd minute of the interview when Meshaal says "every Palestinian wishes to be a martyr" - any need to continue watching from there?

Guess not - Meshaal immediately introduced a key point in Hamas' mindset.



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