Friday, July 1, 2011

Advice for the Next Gaza Flotilla

Let me put my cards on the table. I think that Israel's blockade of Gaza blockade is illegal, has nothing to do with Israel's security, and has everything to do with Israel's desire to control the lives and resources of Palestinians without taking responsibility for their welfare -- and without treating them as equals.

All that said, the present Gaza flotilla, which I support, has left its purpose open to misconstrual by its insistence on bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza. Its real purpose is to demonstrate the illegality and immorality of the blockade. But, no matter what its expressed intentions are, and despite the fact that the American ship, the "Audacity of Hope," apparently contains no humanitarian aid on it, the focus of the media story has been the aid -- and that plays into the hands of the Israelis, because they can counter that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; that they themselves are prepared to deliver the humanitarian aid to Gazans; that they cannot take any chance that illegal material is being smuggled to Hamas. None of this is true -- the flotilla organizers themselves wish to focus on the questions of freedom of movement and economic freedom -- but to this end the humanitarian aid gets into the way.

Even Gisha, the excellent NGO that monitors the situation in Gaza with respect to access and freedom, wishes to focus on the freedom of movement and freedom to export. They are not very happy that the question of aid has dominated the discourse.

So, here's my proposal to the organizers of the next Gaza flotilla:

Bring to Gaza empty boats.

Install webcams in each cabin to show that it is empty, with members of the crew going in and out. Invite members of the press and the world community to travel on the posts. Heck, invite Prime Minister Netanyahu and any of his cabinet.

Ships that are designed to take out exports in the full light of day cannot be described as a clandestine operation to smuggle in weapons or threatening materials. Israel may want to make the argument that its security is threatened by a healthy economy in Gaza -- in fact, I would love to hear that argument -- but that won't fly with anyone outside the true believers.

On the contrary, such a flotilla would point to the real humanitarian crisis in Gaza -- the inability of Israelis to treat Gazans as fully human, with the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as they enjoy.

Of course, the last thing a Gazan may want to do is to put his person and property in jeopardy by loading up one of the flotilla boats. So this would have to be a symbolic gesture, like publishing the names of all the Gazan students who have been prevented from studying abroad, or the Gazans who have been denied exit visas, or medical attention.

But symbolic gestures are important, too. After all, isn't the Flotilla ultimately a symbolic gesture?


David Ender said...

Interesting, but you know that's not what's going to happen as the people leading the flotilla's do not actually think rationally.

Anonymous said...

Any symbolic gesture should have two components, not just one.

Oriented to:

1. Changing Israel's policies
2. Changing Hamas' policies

Otherwise, the flotilla action will not be understood sympathetically.

Hamas should be encouraged to fully participate in the PA, not discouraged to by militant dissent. (Even as stated as non-violent, storming a border, even an occupied one, is not perceived as non-violent in effect.)

Moshe said...

There is another reason it won't happen:

The organizers of the Gaza flotilla are trying to create an international incident. The more blood that runs, the happier they are. Bringing in empty boats (which will only get towed to an Israeli port) will not generate any PR or buzz and anti-Israel sentiment, and therefore will never be done.

I'm surprised that you think their intentions are different.

Devir said...

Very original and creative, Jerry !
Symbolism with a pratical impact !

Anonymous said...

"I think that Israel's blockade of Gaza blockade is illegal"

and you would think wrong...and it wouldnt be the first time

read san remo

and even empty ships cannot be allowed to breach the blockade

Grendal said...

The big hole in your argument is that Israel keeps capturing ships loaded with deadly weapons meant for Hamas.
Should Israel allow Hamas these weapon shipments?

LeaNder said...

Bringing in empty boats (which will only get towed to an Israeli port) will not generate any PR or buzz and anti-Israel sentiment, and therefore will never be done.

I wouldn't be so sure, Mosche, actually the US-love-letters-for-the-people-of-Gaza already is the first step in that direction.

You are, of course, absolutely correct again, Jerry. That's exactly the right focus. This should be cross-posted on Mondoweiss.

Jerry Haber said...


If what you said were correct, then there would be no cases of Free Gaza boats being stopped and dragged into port without serious incident. As you know, this has happened with most of the boats, including last year's Jewish Boat to Gaza.

Jerry Haber said...


To what Hamas policies are you referring? To oppressive regulations concerning women? I think the women on the Flotilla ships are not pious Muslims. To attacks on Fatah? I don't think these have been worse than Fatah attacks on Hamas. That is an internal affair? To suicide bombings? That has stopped. To rocket fire? That has stopped. To the holding of Gilad Shalit? You're right. I think that the flotilla should call for the release of all political prisoners. I imagine they have.

Or maybe you meant the continuing Hamas settlement of Israeli lands? The abuse of human rights of Israelis under Hamas control? The control of the Israeli economy and natural resources? The restrictions on Israeli freedom of movement.

Oh, hang on. You think that Hamas should be encouraged to fully participate nonviolently in the PA? I have a truly radical idea along that line. Let there be a free and supervised Palestinian election, in which Hamas, the party, fields candidates for PA positions in the parliament and the government. Then, when they get elected, they will be part and parcel of the PA leadership.

I am sure many, many liberal Zionists will agree with you on that one. Because they are are true democrats when it comes to the Palestinians.

Jerry Haber said...

Grendal, my response.

First, Israel has never stopped a single ship heading for Gaza that had weapons destined for Hamas -- unless it had prior intelligence that arms were on the ship. That includes the Mavi Marmara, for which no independent evidence has been produced that there were arms on the ship destined for Hamas.

Second, the Flotilla ships have been inspected repeatedly at their point of departure, and, to date, no arms have been found on them, nor is there any indication that they would be, since they preach unarmed resistance. Even on the Mavi Marmara, which was a huge boat with many passengers, few weapons were found that didn't belong to the Israelis.

Third, last year a picture was circulated on the web of all the arms seized on the Mavi Marmara; it turned out that it was an old picture that had nothing to do with the flotilla.

Fourth, and my main point -- I am for an arms embargo on the Gaza government in which all incoming transport is inspected by third parties for weapons. But at the same time I am for an arms embargo on Israel in which all incoming transport is inspected by third parties for weapons.

Fairness is fairness is fairness. Or so I learned in kindergarten. If Israel can have arms to defend itself, so can the Palestinians.

Tobias said...

Bravo. I fully agree. Adopting the language of "aid" means playing the Israeli government's game - that as long as people in Gaza are not dying in droves from starvation and illnesses, things are somehow okay. They are not, and I do not think that the ideas of free trade, economic development and commercial opportunity are at all hard to sell to Western audiences. You just need to come forward and sell it.

It's easy enough to demonstrate that 95+% of the blockade measures are not about weapons "smuggling" but about strangling the Gazan economy. That Israel is intentionally and maliciously turning Gaza into an aid-dependent economic black hole is something which Europeans, especially, should be made to realize - along with the point that they are paying for it.

Anonymous said...

"To rocket fire? That has stopped."

tell that to the 16 year old boy who was murdered in his school bus

you are an absurd little man and a hamas apologist

Jerry Haber said...


Add to my comment to Grendal, "With the notable exception of one incident and its aftermath" -- an incident, I may point out, which did not lead to any prolonged deterioration of the situation.

Needless to say, neither Israel attacks on Gaza nor Hamas attacks on Israel have completely stopped. And you, as I, equally regret the loss of civilian life.

Tobias said...

... Hamas attacks have come considerably closer to "completely stopped", than Israeli attacks, one might add. The incident in question was preceded by Israeli attacks killing several Hamas leaders.

In fact, the IDF apparently feels no incentive at all to cease their attacks even if Hamas holds its fire. They just go on killing Hamas members, their families and whoever stands in the way, regardless. This fits with the typical pattern of Israel usually being the first to resort to deadly violence after prolonged absences of killing.*

Gee, it's almost as if they wanted the conflict to continue at a low, manageable level of violence - sufficient to keep the Israeli population conveniently paranoid and to justify basically anything they might want to inflict on the Palestinians.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gonen.S said...

In the Popular new sport of Twitting against Israel everyone forget to mention that Gaza has a border with Egypt,
Why not change the flotilla direction to Egypt , Egypt can open the border to gaza and Israel can't do anything about it
But no that is too easy solution and not much fun like bashing Israel .

Gonen.S said...

In the Popular new sport of Twitting against Israel everyone forget to mention that Gaza has a border with Egypt,
Why not change the flotilla direction to Egypt , Egypt can open the border to gaza and Israel can't do anything about it
But no that is too easy solution and not much fun like bashing Israel .

i_like_ike52 said...

Jerry, you stated:
Fairness is fairness is fairness. Or so I learned in kindergarten. If Israel can have arms to defend itself, so can the Palestinians.

That is a fine statement derived from the religion of "post-Modernism". There is no truth, there is deconstruction, and the only thing that is absolute is FAIRNESS. You oppose Israel because Israel is not FAIR to the Palestinians. Well, all I can say is "who says the post-Modernist religion is correct and who says FAIRNESS is the only thing that matters?"
I'll tell you about how I view the Arab/Israeli comes from a scene in the movie "Exodus". Hero Ari Ben Canaan's uncle (played by David Opatoshu) is a leader of the ETZEL and he is interviewing a potential new recruit, played by Sal Mineo. The Uncle asks Mineo's character about what the Jewish claim to Palestine is. The Uncle then lays out the Arab claim. He then says something to the effect that both sides' claims have merit, so his view regarding the Arab/Jewish conflict is LET THE NEXT INJUSTICE HAPPEN TO SOMEBODY ELSE. To tell the truth, this is the way the world works, and if Israel operates on this basis, as it should, we are NO DIFFERENT than the Americans, the British and all the other self-righteous people in the world. Thus, I say that Israeli SHOULD have weapons and HAMAS should not, no matter how much that may offend your sense of post-Modernist "fairness", which is after all, nothing more than a personal preference on your part.
Even the "liberal Zionists" agree with me based on their demand for a "demilitarized" Palestinian state.

Anonymous said...

Your response to my very simple post was angry, rather than informative or constructive.

You should be more than aware that the rocket-firing has not stopped, nor has terror (when was the school bus targeted?)

My point has been consistent, that the only path to any peace is through mutual humanization, and in the case of dissent - clearly stated goals and conditions.

Peace is constructed by #and# math. Mutual.

Temporary support for one-sided dissent continues as advocacy for peace so long as it is temporary. When the dissent approach becomes permanent, it ceases to be peace-seeking dissent (in fact, not just in appearance and posture), and instead becomes partisan.

The unification of the PA includes:
1. Permanent participation by Hamas and Fatah (independent of outcome. If Hamas' participation is dependent on outcome, then they were never fully participant, just opportunist.)

2. Negotiation with Israel as a unified Palestine, implying and then affirming recognition

The "maybe if" approach to Hamas is really insufficient. They have to decide, not manipulate. (By "maybe if" I'm referring the the few hundred times dissenters have stated that Hamas "has" changed to a conditional acceptance of Israel view. I don't see it.)

The current status of announced attitudes towards Israel by Hamas is "We will NEVER recognize Israel." To date, the extent of their 'willingness', their conditional view, has been "We will recognize Palestine at 67 lines".

Its different.

I personally cannot bend my moral convictions to regard anyone that uses the term "resistance" as humane, accepting, progressive.


Israel must change. Hamas must change.

If only Israel changes, that will quickly devolve back to animosity and war, "we've got them on the run" will be the most heard slogan.

If both continue to only condemn and to only condemn each other, then nothing changes.

I don't see more intense dissent as change. I see it as a continued pattern, a form of nothing changing.


So, when the flotilla for example only condemns Israel, it MISSES the #and# construction in favor of habitual either/or.

Jerry Haber said...


Please limit your comments in length.I am sure that will make them clearer.

You compare "Israel" and "Hamas" saying that each must change. I reject that comparison.

Israel is a state; Hamas is a political movement. True, it has some control now over territory. But this anomalous situation should end by electing a fair and representative PA, which includes various elements. That is not easy, given the level of mistrust between Fateh and Hamas, but that must be done. At a time when there are calls for Israel to investigate the sinking of the Altalena, we would do well to realize that there was a time when Jewish guerilla groups were at each other's throats.

Negotiations should be conducted between the representatives of Israelis and of the Palestinians (inside and outside Palestine). The PNC would be good for that, or the PA, if indeed it becomes truly representative of the Palestinian people. Needless to say, those representatives will include people from Hamas and the rightwing Israel parties, since both represent important constitutencies

And a final word on balance. I think both sides should be praised and condemned in proportion to their respective strengths and control over the other side. A false symmetry, of which liberal Zionists like yourself are fond, papers over the fundamental asymmetry.

Only one side controls the lives of the other. If you can't integrate that basic asymmetry into your worldview, then your call for balance will remain fundamentally imbalanced.

Anonymous said...

If there is a sequence to realizing peace, then the question of symmetry is not a relevant consideration.

If Hamas has a veto on peace, then it just has a veto on peace.

It doesn't matter if Israel affects more on the ground, it is still necessary for Hamas to join the PA in a permanent sense, an unconditional sense, which includes the continuity of governance, treaty, peaceful transfer of power via election, and debt.

If any of those are regarded as conditional, then there is no peace, and the likud argument is substantive (that there is noone to negotiate with).

I hear the arguments of anti-Zionist dissent frankly as "more of the same".

"More of the same" is stuck. The two state is not as stuck frankly, as jarring as that may seem to you.

With Palestinian and solidarity militancy, likud will get reelected. If it is at all smart it will take a step back from its suppressive policies directed towards free speech, as the combination of militant dissent and remaining free speech and assembly will get it elected and elected and elected.

Again, I perceive an intimate but bitter tango between Hamas and likud.

Dan Kelso said...

The so called "suffering of the Palestinian people". They chose the path they are on when they launched their terrorist campaign. They must walk down that path. Israel`s hands are clean, all it has done it protect its people from the murderers who hide in amongst their own civilian population.

We can show sympathy to Palestinians who were hurt because they were victims of their own leadership