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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,
-Hayyim

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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.

Blessings,
-Hayyim
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
Ed
Edwin,

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.

Blessings,
-Hayyim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HOvmlD54ok

or

http://www.youtube.com/user/CharlieRose#p/a/u/2/8HOvmlD54ok

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:


Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_puiuvWHQ4

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.

http://www.demotix.com/news/329368/israel-allows-shipment-cement-an...
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.
So, you think that you got it "right", what Meshaal mean with this. Lets look other options, than the most favourite "religion etc. based" assumption. ( in some extent even right, but not as whole )


Texan is GI death 1,000 in Afghan war
'He always wanted to die for his country,' brother says

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37418020/ns/us_news-life/

We joined the SAS prepared to die for our country but we were abandoned and sacrificed to cover up our own officers' mistakes

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/We+joined+the+SAS+prepared+to+die+for...


http://ww2f.com/wwii-general/10102-would-you-fight-die-your-country...


Any need to continue, if we could understand really that meaning around this. Or have we found something that this and that group cant die for their country, because they are fighting on a "wrong side". So we must make their dream come true soon as possible.
You're very right, Mika. Personally, I despise both the GI and Meshaal and his 'martyrs'. Why? Because I simply cannot believe that anyone really voluntarily dies for an artificial construct called 'nation' or 'country' or 'people'.

There's always something else behind it. Some ideology (let it be 'religion', or 'nationalism', 'ethnocentrism', ...) is involved when people say stupid things like 'I'm proud to die for my country'.
I'm sympathetic to your statement here Oliver, though not entirely in agreement. But in the context of your response to the Mashaal interview, the question is this: Would you dismiss the ability of all other parties to contribute to any peacemaking efforts because they, like Hamas, honor their martyrs? If not, then perhaps you also should not dismiss Hamas so completely (even if you remain skeptical).

Blessings,
-Hayyim
Excellent post.

Thanks Hayyim for expressing so clearly the discomfort that I have been feeling this whole week. You managed to ignore the prevailing cynism and refocus the debate on a central issue: what exactly are we fighting for and what are the means we are ready to use to realise our objectives?

But I wonder how the Mavi Marmara passengers could have reacted non-violently and effectively to the commando's boarding. How could they have been trained by non-violent activists to resist this night attack and intimidating use of force?
JC, my computer ate my first reply to your questions. I'm going to have to make this one shorter.

What response is "effective" depends on one's answer to your first question about objectives. From what I've heard, the intention of the Free Gaza leaders was to delay as long as possible the inevitable ultimate success of the IDF in seizing the boats if they sought to do so.

The Marmara had, what, six or seven hundred people aboard? That is a tremendous resource for nonviolent resistance. I know far too little about operating boats of the kind that comprised the flotilla and about the particular circumstances and ararngements on the Marmara to give anything approaching a precise answer. But here are a couple of purely illustrative answers:

What if each commando as he boarded were welcomed by a small throng of, say, 15 or 20 bodies pressing in on him to immobilize him with no use of force, just their calm but immediate physical presence? (That's straight out of the classic playbook of nonviolent peacekeeping tactics.)

I assume there are certain strategic locations and facilities that commandos would have to seize control of in order to commandeer the boat. What if those were barricaded not only with locks and other obstructive physical objects, but also with several hundred seated or reclining people packed very closely with chains and locks linking them with one another? What if, during the hours it took the commandos to cut them all apart and remove them (after first having to send to heaven-knows-where for the right, non-combat tools for the job), the interlocked passengers were singing peace songs and making eye contact and humane conversation with the fighters (possibly with video rolling the whole time)? What if one or two of those fighters was moved to the point of speaking out publicly after the fact about their experience and their feelings about it?

If they wanted to be a bit more disruptive and cheeky, but still nonviolent, how about some grease strategically placed on bodies, decks, handles, etc. to make them more difficult to navigate or control?

There you have my one-person, 10-minute brainstorm. With a whole band of practiced nonviolent resistors, the creative possibilities are myriad.

Blessings,
-Hayyim
There are two separate issues here the "legality" of the blockaid and the boarding of the ship which for which death and injury was the result.... I would like to deal with the later...

As the video clearly shows before the Israelis commando boarded the ship you can see the activist getting the pipes, knives and axes read, even practicing. They put on their gas masks (i.e. getting ready for a fight).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onDRr_fqPSA (this is from the ships camera)
Then when the navy ship is along side, previous to the boarding, they start to throw things and use the poles and chains and a stud grenade into the ship below... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6sAEYpHF24&feature=related
As far as i understand from the arab journalist the IDF fired back something to those hanging over the ship and killed or injured some passengers but there is no footage of this. This includes the life footage being broadcasted at the time.
Then the soldiers come down on the ship..we all know this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LulDJh4fWI&feature=channel
They are beaten we can see by the peace activists and then brought to the lower cabin where they are stripped down to just their pants and some sort of hostage situation takes place as can be seen in the turkish newspapers pictures...
The IDF sends more soldiers down and take over the ship somewhere of the course of the time 9 peace activist are killed 30 injured and 4 soldiers seriously injured...

Is this correct?
To Dan Smith
Come on Dan, you don't have the capabilities to reconstitute what happened... and I doubt you have the will to do that. What you want is a comfortable narrative that would whitewash everything the Israeli government and the IDF did. And this intention comes out quite clear from what you write. You are lucky you're being offered enough material to come up with this narrative.
I'm sure if you had more time and more material to work with, you'd reinterpret the whole incident as turkish commando attack followed by a collective suicide.

It would have been entertaining were there not deaths envolved. But please try to be more self critical and less sloppy in your work. Unlike you, I'm not interested in constituting a comfortable narrative. I will not go to pro-Palestinian sites and get some footage that I would use and manipulate like you do to support a face-saving version of the incident. I'll stick to what you have so generously shared with us and highlight some inaccuracies and how you framed things to suit your comfortable narrative.

What are you showing us, and what can we actually see? ( unfortunately two distinct things)
The first film shows neither axes nor knives (instruments that you find in all ships, and no ship would sail without them, even a small sailing boat...) finding them on board doesn't mean that they were used. It's like saying that the IDF used grenades just because the soldiers were in possession of them!

Watch these pictures more calmly and you might notice that the men are wearing life jackets and gas masks... These are good signs that their intention was not "jihadist", and certainly not military. You can also see that they are nervous. They are expecting an attack. Try putting yourself in their shoes for a second. And remember, they are human, just like you, and not mechanical beasts, they have families back home...

In the second film, you see a group of men trying to prevent the Israeli navy from boarding. What is used to push them away is WATER. Obviously you didn't notice that. Don't forget that we are in international waters (and not in Israeli waters) and the Israeli operation was done at night (when things usually turn more violent for several reasons, and the IDF who chose the timing knew this).
And after all that, the IDF, knowing that the protestors DID oppose their boarding and WOULD oppose their boarding decides to intimidate them by coming through the air (Helicopter and commando boarding). This means that they chose a violent confrontation and were armed accordingly. The first air-boarding was sloppy (by any military standard), the second boarding was trigger happy (by any military standard).

Can you question yourself or just hammer your certainties?
So please, stop hammering this face-saving narrative. We all know it and heard it a 1000 times. This is not what Hayyim's post is about. It's about ethics, and being clear about one's objectives and the means one is ready to use to get to them.

I think it would be a good exercice for you to ask the same questions he is about ethics, the IDF and the Israeli government's policies toward Palestinians and the means that are being used to implement that policy. I hope you can do it with the same sincerity.

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