2011-07-01 Gaza Flotilla: a fight to take a stand [Updated]

The fight enroute to Gaza between the worldwide volunteers and the governments of Israel, the United States and Greece—has been portrayed from two opposite sides, yes, but opposite in a political and moral compass completely broken: on one side, the flotilla argues the desperate need of help and hope with which the Gazans live every day while, on the other side, the authorities trying to block the flotilla have accused it of being “ready to kill Israeli soldiers” or—more rhetorically convenient—“ready to kill Jews” due to the allegedly obscure intentions behind “Muhammad Sawalha, a senior UK-based Muslim Brotherhood figure connected to Hamas”, according to the website Gaza Flotilla 101.

After the threats reported by The Foreign Press Association, which has accused the Israeli government of using intimidation to stop media coverage of the flotilla due to sail to the Gaza Strip this week, new reports have tried to answer such claims by anti-flotilla voices with similar accusations, confusing more impartial coverage with the usual turn of the compass and the trick of the false equivalence. But the solitude these voices against the flotilla are sunk in does not touch the message sent to Gaza or, rather, from the route to Gaza to the rest of the world. As Mark LeVine pointed out in his editorial comment “Waiting for Godot on the Gaza flotilla”:

Israel well understands the stakes if the narrative represented by the flotilla were ever to penetrate into global consciousness, which is why it considers the propaganda war surrounding the flotilla and other acts of non-violent resistance, whether protesting land seizures in villages like Bil'in or the growing academic and cultural boycott, to be as big a threat as Palestinian militancy. It is not surprising, then, that it is a master at the game of "hasbara" or propaganda - literally, in Hebrew, of explaining itself to the outside world.

It seems plausible that the ones currently ruling in Gaza would prefer a violent flotilla because such would serve the Israel argument to keep sub-human conditions for life in the area or, as Mark Weisbrot has pointed out:

One of the most important foreign policy statements of the year came from Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister, on May 16 […]: "The Palestinians' transition from terrorism and suicide bombings to deliberately unarmed mass demonstrations is a transition that will present us with difficult challenges".

To achieve an environment ambiguous enough to excuse the violence that might come over the Flotilla, is precisely the goal of the latest sabotages on the ships that have taken place in Greece. It could be only under such hostile environment that a government like Zapatero’s would ask the Israelis for “self-control and prudence”, on the voice of the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad Jimenez. Jimenez’ take on the matter would be considered nothing but ordinary if a country like the United States had not remained quiet after the killing of an American citizen last year during the first flotilla attempt to reach the Gaza Strip and had not the US State Department issued a warning to all Americans to prevent them from participating in this year's tour.

If anything, the high tone of the Israeli propaganda makes the case for anyone attending the current Flotilla Affaire. If it is hard to buy the case made by websites like Gaza Flotilla 101, though, the real problem has been the pursued ignorance by most of us out of Gaza or the general conflict of the whole region. It is not a mystery for anyone informed on the conflict that the real mission of the flotilla is not only to bring hope or supplies to the Gazans, just like nobody believes they are out there to “kill Jews”: the flotilla's dangerous trip to Gaza is a fight for our rights to take a stand; those of the volunteers on each boat, who have been warned by their own governments against their political and humanitarian will, but also those of ours, the ones who have taken no risk at home and who hardly have even developed an opinion about the misery the Gazans have been drawn into.

It is not clear how a few ships can bring any benefit to the thousands of prisoners in Gaza if we all do not acknowledge that, as Nancy Murray said once, Gaza is “a territory which over the past […] years served as kind of a laboratory to find the breaking point of human beings”.

Update 1: Around the same time this note was posted, one of the volunteers on the American ship posted "From Alice Walker, at sea on the Audacity of Hope", a human look into the enviroment of this group of people that have been called a threat to the security of Israel. Make your own conclusions.

Update 2: Democracy Now dor Org, U.S. Ship in Freedom Flotilla Attempts to Leave Greece For Gaza, Despite Threats and Risk of Sabotage: "The U.S.-flagged ship 'The Audacity of Hope' left a Greek port today bound for Gaza, but the status of the 10-boat flotilla remains uncertain. At least one boat has already pulled out due to sabotage, another is still being repaired. All 10 ships were supposed to set sail earlier this week but the Greek government — already facing a financial crisis and public uproar over austerity measures — blocked the ships’ departure under international pressure. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is entitled to stop the flotilla as part of its 'full right to operate against efforts to smuggle' weapons into Gaza. Democracy Now! Producer Aaron Maté and videographer Hany Massoud are in Greece covering the journey of 'The Audacity of Hope'. They were there Thursday as it was publicly unveiled. They spoke with novelist Alice Walker, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and others".

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