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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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Officially, Israel is afraid that weapons or dual-use materials will be brought into Gaza along with aid. That is why the blockade has been placed over Gaza. Hamas has aggravated the situation by the frequent rocket attacks on Sderot. But you knew that.

What I find frustrating is that any argument for a nonmilitary approach to Hamas and Gaza comes up against the same fears again and again.
To be afraid is a normal human behaviour, while blocking everyday needed normal things is completely different matter. Some sort of partial list which are blocked & allowed :

http://gisha.org/UserFiles/File/HiddenMessages/ItemsGazaStrip060510...


Cant quite get ( in my experience in the field of military & exposives etc., im engineer as in military ), how sage, cardamom, cumin , coriander and so forth. Are included in blocked items. So there must be some other explanation than so called "security".
The simple reasin for this blockade is that Israel is wanting to starve the people of Gaza into submision.The Israelie act of piracy was against international law. It occured in international waters
But then how often has Israel broken the international laws. The laws of moralety and the laws of humankind?
Yet nothing is done about it.
That is the reason why the world in general is turning its initial sympathy for Israel into contempt, mistrust and anger.
Israel has shown itself to lack compasion and humanety.,
I have never known the world to show any sympathy for Israel at least not for the last 30 years. Both sides in this conflict have broken laws.

I have been under the opinion that Israel allows humanitarian aide into Gaza.Israel is intent though on keeping weapons and rockets out. Not sure how else they could go about it other than the blockade.

I think with so much bitterness and distrust on both sides it makes it difficult for either side to come up with any kind of solution.
The blockade of Gaza is a matter of principle right now. This blockade will be left as soon as the soldier Shalit will be free.
and what you say is also not thurth cause i got alot of jewish freinds here in denmark young and older they all say zionism is bad because one it have nothing to do with religion second it only likes power and dont care how they get it and as you say real zionist will agree if the state of isreal is doing something wrong this also a lie here is some statement from famous jews RABBI YEHOSHUA LEIB DISKIN

Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin
"The rabbis of the generation should gather together and issue a writ of excommunication against the Zionists and eject them from the Jewish People, and make decrees against their bread and wine, and to forbid marrying with them, JUST LIKE OUR SAGES DID WITH THE SAMARITANS."
Naomi, I don't accept that the two are compatible. To see anyone as irredeemably evil is to put them beyond the reach of repentance or compassion. To try to goad an adversary into revealing their inherent evil for all to see precludes any possibility of moving toward, or inviting them into, a process of reconciliation and restorative justice.

I agree with you that Israel's knee-jerk reaction is increasingly, to my great chagrin, to turn to violence. You ask why that should be; well, obviously, it should not be, so I take your question to be, rather, why is that the case? Not, I'm sure, because of a love of cruelty. But for two reasons. The first reason is the still-recent historical trauma in which a full third of the Jewish people were wiped out, leaving many Jews in Israel and elsewhere feeling isolated and beleaguered by what they perceive as a uniformly uncaring world, The second thing driving the Israeli leadership's addiction to violence is, I'm beginning to think, the denial they are in about their own untenable dilemma. They know what they want, and they know they can't get it, and the pain of the historical trauma prevents them from being able to acknowledge to themselves and accept their powerlessness over that impasse.

What is it that Israel's leaders want and cannot have? Simple, really. Just like many Palestinians, they want their homeland to be theirs alone, not shared by another people. (Not that there should be no non-Jews living there, but that there should be other credible national claim on it.) So they refuse either to share the whole land of Israel/Palestine as neighbors within a single binational country, or to fully withdraw from the territories they have occupied militarily for over 40 years and let a truly independent Palestinian arise there. And they cannot bear to admit that it is their own desire for the impossible, and their consequent rejection of the only plausible and acceptable outcomes, that locks them into acting repeatedly in ways that the world sees are both reprehensible and futile. So they remain in denial about the fact that they are, willy nilly, rushing headlong toward a state of Israel that is neither democratic nor Jewish - all the while lashing out at anyone who reminds them that they continually choose as their destiny the powerlessness that they most hate and fear. That's the meaning I hear when, for example, Israeli government spokespersons say of their attack on the Free Gaza flotilla that "they left us no choice,"

I realize this is not the sort of explanation one can "prove" one way or the other. I offer it to stand or fall on its ability, or lack thereof, to help anyone understand the mess we've all made in Israel-Palestine.

This understanding of Israel's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one reason I take the betrayal by some Marmara passengers of Free Gaza's commitment to nonviolence so seriously - whether it was done as an alternative strategy or merely to satisfy the self-defense instinct with an hour of adrenalin rush. We are on a site called mePEACE because, I presume, we want to empower the urge of the heart toward reconciliation. A spirit of nonviolence is essential to our success, and goading one side or another to "show its true colors" of evil is just another face of the tempting impulse toward retribution that must be withstood.

Blessings,
-Hayyim
“We look like the British stopping the Exodus,” he said.

Different circumstances, but brilliant symbolic analogy, really perfect! Thanks.

Btw, Basil, I wonder if you also agree 100% with my reply to your earlier comment? {;^)
Hayyim I think your analysis is reasonable and subject to more hard facts being made available, accurate. From the information to hand so far, made available to the international media, I understand that there were the requisite warnings made by the Israeli Navy in accordance with international law for the flotilla to change course with specific information about the consequences of not obeying those messages. Don't get me wrong. The Israelis botched the whole operation from the planning stage through to its execution. What has become painfully obvious was that those commandos were attacked and believe it or not, iron bars and certainly knives can kill. It is my experience, here in very comfortable Australia, that if your confront and physically attack police or any other branch of the security apparatus, they will use force. In the event a demonstrator or group of demonstrators attack those forces with weapons such as knives, their professional protocol requires them to use lethal force to protect their own - and they will always protect their own, whatever the collateral damage. As one example only, a few years ago, in Sydney, a young mentally disturbed Israeli brandished a knife in front of 5 policeman and refused to surrender the weapon. There was very little negotiation and 2 of the policemen fatally shot young Levi down. I also believe, that unbeknown to the majority of peace activists, there were a small number of hardcore militants intent on escalating the confrontation. News reports indicate, that the families of some of the militants who were killed, admitted freely that their family member wanted to be shihads. As far as the legalities of whether or not Israel was in its rights in enforcing the blockade outside of its territorial waters, legal argument will be made by both sides defending their positions. I also understand that the organizers of the flotilla anticipated a confrontation with the Israelis and had given instructions to all the activist to return to their cabins, if and when the Israelis boarded their vessels.
And I thought the Somali pirates were that bad.
Sholem aleichem Edwin, and thanks for your reply. Just a couple of small points...

First, I've heard radio interviews with Adam Shapiro, Huwaida Arraf, and one or two other leaders of the Free Gaza Movement, and yes they anticipated a possible confrontation with the Israeli military, as you said. But at least one of them (I don't recall who) referred to the group's intention to offer nonviolent resistance (someone named two or three specific ways, but I don't remember what they were) in a symbolic effort to prevent and perhaps actually delay the Israel's commandeering of their boats, not to merely retreat to their cabins.

One of the reasons Gandhi changed the name of his movement to satyagraha (truth-force) is because what he originally called "passive resistance" is not passive.

Second, it's true that all sides can make their legal arguments. However, it's also true that there are legal bodies that are authorized to rule on which of these arguments are correct. For example, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Florida court ruling so that there could be no recount of votes, thereby essentially appointing George W. Bush as president. Many, many people thought that decision was politically motivated and wrong with regard to both the facts and the law. Yet there was no serious challenge to the Court's authority as the body that gets to make such decisions and have them stick.

Israel can make all the legal arguments it wants. The question is, once a legal ruling has been made by the relevant international body, does Israel respect that ruling and accept it as authoritative despite whatever disagreement they may continue to have? No, they do not. If it is not to their liking, they simply dismiss it. One widely noted example was Israel's dismissal of the ruling by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation barrier, in which the Court unanimously agreed that 1) it did have jurisdiction; 2) the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply to the Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; 3) All Israeli settlements in those territories, including those in and around Jerusalem, are illegal under that Convention; and 4) all portions of the wall designed to protect such settlements are therefore illegal - all of which Israel continues to reject, apparently on the basis of its own "higher authority."

Blessings,
-Hayyim
I hadn't heard about Emily - so awful, especially for a visual artist - but I know that incidents of that sort are happening more and more.

I agree completely with your description of how hard it is to maintain a nonviolent stance and (even more so) attitude even when one is being subjected to brutal, terrifying, and painful violence. Not everyone can act like Gandhi. Therefore not everyone should participate in nonviolent direct actions, which almost always involve that risk.

But nearly everyone can and does learn to do many difficult things, starting from a very young age and throughout life, and this too can be learned by those who care to apply themselves to it - if not learned perfectly, at least learned well enough.

It's not as though the passengers involved were able to reduce the risk of death or injury to themselves or those around them by acting on their self-defense instinct (if that's what it was). But they certainly did reduce their own moral standing and that of their movement in the eyes of the world when the images are broadcast and the events become known. And they probably made things even more risky for the next group of folks who even now are bravely on their way to repeat the attempt (and loudly proclaiming their commitment to responding nonviolently no matter what provocation they encounter).

Yes I think nonviolence is a safer response for the participants in such actions than armed self-defense. But neither provides safety, and that safety is not the main concern of those involved (if it were they would simply stay home). These are humanitarian and political actions, directed toward humanitarian and political goals, guided by one or another set of moral and strategic principles.

Let those who wish form flotillas committed to breaking the siege by any means necessary do so; let them show the world how they can stand up for themselves and for the Palestinians of Gaza by doing heroic battle with the Israeli military against overwhelming odds even at the cost of their lives. I don't see that as contributing to a just resolution of the conflict, but so what? It's not my call. Maybe I'll write critically about it here. But how DARE they join the efforts of others as if they share their nonviolent commitment, only to subvert it when the time comes!

If, as the Free Gaza leaders have been saying, those passengers merely lost control, then yes, I could forgive that. But guess what? I've not heard of a single participant saying, in the voice of their own perspective, "I intended to remain nonviolent, but when we came under the completely unjustifiable terrorist attack by the Israeli pirates I just lost control and I'm so sorry!" Have you?

(I'm sorry if some of this sounds harsh, Basil; it's not aimed at you. I know you and I are in relatively close agreement, even if not 100%. I just feel betrayed and really disgusted, as I said at the outset.)

Last thing: You've probably been paying close enough attention to know that the Israeli government's spin, while powerful in our country (USA), does not hold nearly the unchallenged sway it once did. Our actions, and their ability to chip away at the moral authority of the pro-occupation forces, do make a difference. That's why they are worth taking some risks.

Blessings,
-Hayyim

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