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?