What Do The Flotilla Activists Want?

I know what I want, but I’m not quite sure what the flotilla activists want, although I do have my suspicions.

I want a peace deal to be cut between Israel and Palestine, along the lines of the proposal made by President Clinton and Ehud Barak in the year 2000. I want to turbo-charge and sweeten that deal by having Israel agree to help consolidate Palestinian security, because they need that, and to help grow the Palestinian economy with good paying jobs, including green jobs. I want to end the occupation. I want to see two states living side by side in peace, and partnering together for the sake of a brighter future. And finally, I want this peace between Israel and Palestine, this model, this seed, to be the impetus that gives birth to a new and revitalized Middle East, a Middle East in which everyone has a place at the table, a stake in his or her future, and where every child bears witness to the realization of a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.

That’s what I want. Is that what the flotilla activists want? With all due respect to the dead, I tend to doubt it.

Let’s start with the assumption that the activists are peace loving people who simply want to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. OK. But why not allow the ship to be inspected? The other ships were inspected and the humanitarian goods were sent directly to Gaza. Such is the case with the many ships and trucks that deliver aid to Gaza on a daily basis. Why did the activists on the Mavi Marmara not cooperate in this regard? Could it be that they were trying to deliver more than humanitarian supplies?

There are other troubling questions which come to mind. The activists, according to extensive video footage, seemed highly prepared for a violent confrontation. They wielded weapons such as knives, handguns, steel rods, and chains. And when the Israeli soldiers first came on board, albeit by helicopter, they were violently attacked by an angry mob, and in fact, one of them was thrown overboard. This happened before the soldiers started shooting, when they were armed with paint-ball guns. Do peace activists normally resort to violence so easily? Is that what peace is all about?

Other questions come to mind. Why was a prayer meeting held on the ship with the call for the downfall of the “Zionist Entity” and for Shuhad (suicide in the name of Allah)? Why did the Arab Media report that the flotilla activists were writing wills, preparing for martyrdom, and determined to reach Gaza or die? Why was Senanur Bengi, one of the activists, quoted as saying, “I love my father very much. I miss him a lot. He asked me if I want something. I replied him that I hope he would become a martyr?”

Does this incident strike you as an example of peace loving activists who want to help by delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza? What’s all this martyrdom talk all about? Since when has martyrdom become a pre-requisite for humanitarian aid?

Is Israel without blame in all this? No. The violent confrontation could probably have been avoided with better planning on Israel’s part. And some would criticize Israel for imposing the blockade in the first place. But a good case could be made that Israel’s actions do comply with international law. Israel and Gaza have been, and are still, at war. Thousands of missiles and mortars were launched from Gaza into Israel’s cities, putting some 250,000 Israelis in harm’s way. Hamas has stated publicly, over and over again, its determination to liquidate the Jewish State. Hamas gets its funding and weapons from Iran, who has also expressed its desire to “wipe Israel off the map.” Is it that unreasonable to inspect incoming ships for weapons, considering that weapons are being smuggled into Gaza on a daily basis? Would you expect any less of your government under similar circumstances?

Could Israel be doing more to advance the cause of peace? Yes. A lot more. But advancing the cause of peace should not, and cannot, come at the expense of security, especially when a nation is facing existential threats on a daily basis.

My hunch, although I could be wrong, is that the flotilla activists, or at least some of them, were determined to break the blockade, and in so doing, provoke a violent confrontation with Israel. In short, they were looking for a fight. At least some of the people, I hate to say it; do not want an end to the occupation. They do not want a peace treaty. They do not want two states living side by side in partnership and peace. They want; I’ll call it as I see it, nothing less than to dismantle the Jewish State.

And what better way to begin the process of dismantling the Jewish State, than by first undertaking to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world? In this public relations war, a war which Israel has failed to win, what better way to delegitimize Israel than to provoke her into attacking a flotilla of humanitarian aid? It’s perfect. Let Israel fall on her own sword, and she did. And such an effort at delgitimization is part and parcel of an international effort to demonize Israel, and to use that platform to call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

It is the ultimate irony, however, that Israel is not the problem in the Middle East. She is the solution. Eran Shayshon, who works for a think tank in Israel, wants to rebrand Israel as the fount of “creative energy.” He emphasizes her high tech and science, burgeoning economy, entrepreneurial zeal, energetic lifestyle, and vibrant diversity of opinion and culture. I would add that Israel is a vibrant democracy that for the most part, protects the rights of minorities including her 20% Arab minority. As far as I’m concerned, it would not be an exaggeration to say that if you destroy Israel, you destroy the hope for the Middle East. Israel offers a lot of what the Middle East needs. Israel is one of the few examples in the Middle East that inspires a sense of hope. And for some, that’s exactly the problem. Couldn’t the Middle East benefit from some of what Israel has to offer? And couldn’t Israel benefit from partnering with the Arab world? What keeps us from making that happen except an allegiance to wrong-headed thinking?

I may seem overly cynical to some. I’m not. Hope and peace resonate loudly in the very being of my soul. But I would like to believe that I see things as they are, at least some of the time. I understand that passions run high on both sides of this issue. In the final analysis, however, I cannot help but conclude that the flotilla was not simply an honest effort at humanitarian aid. It was designed and executed as a provocation, with violence and martyrdom as the intended outcome.

Such efforts may make some feel good about themselves, but they will not bring peace. For peace to come we will have to find the courage and the wisdom to let go of some of our closely held beliefs, in favor of ideas we can believe in even more, like Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom

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Comment by JC | WorriedLebanese on June 7, 2010 at 1:15pm
What ticks me off?
Instead of simply reacting to what I've been reading, I decided to pinpoint the different arguments that triggered an emotional response.
- A title that doesn't correspond to the content: "What Do The Flotilla Activists Want?" The interrogative for used in a title usually means that there is an interrogation in the article, an open-ended argument. And one would expect that when you ask what people wants, you start by listening to what they have to say about it. This clearly isn't the case. The key word in M. Dahan's approach is suspicion.
- Generalisations and antagonism: The ongoing dynamic in this article is the us versus them. The us are the perpetual good guys (who might have done one or two mistakes), and the them are the conniving and hating bad guys.
- Inaccuracies and misrepresentation: "a nation is facing existential threats on a daily basis". Here each word counts, and there is nothing less true than this sentence. Israel is by far the most secure country in the Middle East. It is the strongest military power and its enemies are extremely week. And then security isn't only about the military. If you take into account the "human security" dimension, you'll also find Israel among the most secure nations in the world... If you want to look at countries facing "existential threats on a daily basis", look at Lebanon or Palestine...
- Then there is the "they were armed" argument. To start with, the firsts reports the IDF made about being shot at were not continued, for a simple reason, no fire-guns were found among the passengers and crew. As for the knives, it seems that they were on board (which is normal... for cooking, eating, fishing or ship maintenance). The IDF did a clever montage. It show a video showing the confrontation between the passengers and the commando, and then shows a video of everything on board that could have been used as weaponry.
- Portraying martyrdom as a kind of suicide attack. This is done indirectly. When the author speaks of the passengers readiness to martyrdom, he doesn't mention another party, the one that is likely to kill them. Another simple explanation for the preparation to martyrdom could be the statistically proven possibility that some of them would be killed by the IDF.
- "But why not allow the ship to be inspected?", "Could it be that they were trying to deliver more than humanitarian supplies". This approach puts doubt where there is no doubt, and gives you the impression that it was only about inspection, while actually it was about a blockade. The IDF not only inspects, but actually confiscates the merchandise, keeps some of it (what it considers as not falling under "humanitarian aid", and this can include hospital equipment, toys, cement, building equipment) and delivers the rest itself. As for the unwarranted suspicion about the goods, well Israeli intelligence knew exactly what was on those ships. They had been very publicly inspected in Turkey, and nothing different from what was declared was found on board.
- Reframing:"My hunch, although I could be wrong, is that the flotilla activists, or at least some of them, were determined to break the blockade, and in so doing, provoke a violent confrontation with Israel". I don't know if the approach is unwittingly naïve or deliberately naïve. If the author bothered listening to the activists, the expressed aim of the flotilla was to break the blockade. And this is not necessarily a "violent provocation". If you look at non-violent operations throughout the world, you will find that they are ALWAYS a provocation, and that by definition, they oppose a state policy that is backed by the state's army or police. The first target of Gandhi was the British military and he blocked the army's movements by blocking all the train networks, in that way crippling it. I wonder how the IDF would had reacted to a similar move.
- Constant self-celebration: imagine yourself at a dinner with a guest next to you flattering himself continuously, telling you how successful he is and how great he is in everything he does. And as you recount all the suffering that he has inflicted on you and you think you cannot take it anymore, he starts telling you that he is your only hope for salvation.


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