Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A new 'peace' flotilla heading for Gaza

WRH links to a story at Desertpeace, written by Medea Benjamin whom is currently aboard a ship called "The Audacity of Hope" which is intent on breaking the blockade of Gaza. Apparently they are carrying not aid, but letters of support. [Couldn't they post them? Do they have anything for Gilad Shalit?]

Commendable enough in some sense, I suppose. But what about the context?

In another article by the same writer we find some contrasting ideas which seemingly are applied inconsistently to Israel and the USA versus say, Iran, Hamas, PLO, etc.

About intervention in Libya and elsewhere, Benjamin writes:
If the bitter lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan has taught us anything, though, it's that wars of liberation exact a deadly toll on those they purportedly liberate -- and that democracy doesn't come on the back of a Tomahawk missile.
Well, ok. But what about missiles fired indiscriminately into Israel? Does democracy and liberation come on the back of that? Is it any more tolerable? Benjamin doesn't say, not here nor in his writing about the flotilla. How can it not be addressed?

Benjamin writes (of Libya):
Within 24 hours of the announcement, more than 110 U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired into Libya, including the capital Tripoli, reportedly killing dozens of innocent civilians -- as missiles, even the "smart" kind, are wont to do.
As they do when fired from Gaza into Israel, yes? That is what Israel's blockade of Gaza is intended to achieve - the prevention of supply of arms to Gaza so as to prevent indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel. And those are certainly not "smart-missiles". Granted, they are less of a military threat than advanced American missiles, but that also makes them far more indiscriminate. Doesn't it matter, Mr/Ms Benjamin?

Benmjamin's article is called "Instead of Bombing Dictators, Stop Selling Them Bombs". Fair enough, I am very sympathetic. But at the same time, what about Iran supplying opponents of Israel? And what about some recognition that Israel is entitled (and obligated) to prevent such supplies? What about some recognition that this is what the blockade is ostensibly supposed to prevent, and which the flotilla's seek to break? Whether the flotillas carry baby-food or missiles, the Israelis cannot know beforehand and regardless, the flotillas undermine the legitimate right of Israel to prevent military supplies reaching its enemies - many of whom are committed to the complete destruction of Israel. Isn't this relevant?

It seems to me to be posturing taking letters to Gaza, seeking to break a legitimate military blockade against a mortal foe of Israel. What about letters to Yemen? The Tamils? The PKK? The whole thing is clearly a provocation imo - the winners are the enemies of Israel. Gaza doesn't need your letters delivered by hand.

Benjamin again:
In 2009 alone, European governments -- including Britain and France -- sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons, including fighter jets, guns and bombs. And before it started calling for regime change, the Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008.
Sure, but Israel is trying to prevent Hamas obtaining missiles and military supplies - that is the reason for the blockade. What else could it be? Israel wants to treat Gaza like shit just for the hell of it? Sure....

And how much is Iran contributing to Gaza, Hamas, the struggle against Israel? Why not mention that too? And why not recognise the flotilla is being used as part of all that? Any weakening of the blockade makes military supplies to Gaza more possible - in which case what of Benjamin's role then?

Israel says
the activists can unload their cargo either at its Ashdod port or in Egypt, where it could be checked before being delivered by truck to the Gaza Strip.
Why don't the activists accept that if what they really want is to make deliveries, not a provocation? I don't get it. I think it was outrageous the Mavi Marmara carried children and elderly people and still refused to obey repeated Israeli entreaties to stop. Whether the blockade is legal or not, carrying children into such a situation is despicable - it's effectively using children as human shields and putting them in mortal danger, whatever the rights and wrongs of the wider situation. Nobody in the flotilla ever considered that? Have they again taken children along? I hope not.

In his article from the present flotilla, benjamin writes:
Although the Israelis know that our boats will not carry arms and we, the passengers, are committed to nonviolence, they have nonetheless vowed to stop us with a dizzying array of force –water cannons, commandos, border police, snipers, and attack dogs from the military’s canine unit.
The Israelis simply cannot know who or what is aboard. Furthermore, according to the Israelis the blockade must be complete to be legal - they cannot allow some to pass whilst preventing others. Anyway, faced with such opposition, the flotialla is stupid (even if brave) to sail into such a situation. Any casualties will be the responsibility of the flotilla, nobody else's.

Benjamin writes that
Meanwhile, for dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, U.S. support continues to this day.
Then why aren't you sailing there too, Benjamin?
The U.S. government need not drop a single bomb in the Middle East to help liberate oppressed people. All it need do is stop selling bombs to their oppressors.
And Iran might do that too, maybe? Seemingly not.

ETA Medea Benjamin is founder of CodePink. Lots of things she says I support. She's Jewish too, FWIW.

I don't agree with the specifics of her views on Israel/Palestine though. For example she says:
Instead of calling for talks with the democratically elected government of Hamas, Kerry said: "Hamas has already won one election-we cannot allow them to win another." He ended his speech shouting several times in Hebrew, "Am Yisrael Chai-Israel lives!"
She surely knows the Hamas charter,
The Hamas Charter (or Covenant), issued in 1988, outlined the organization's position on many issues at the time, identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who "fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors." The charter states "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel. The Charter also asserts that through shrewd manipulation of imperial countries and secret societies, Zionists were behind a wide range of events and disasters going as far back in history as the French Revolution.
Doesn't that make any difference? Yes, Hamas like to claim the charter is no longer operative or some such. But it's asking a lot to believe it, isn't it? Can one legitimately place the security of Israel at risk based on such claims? I wouldn't. We're supposed to believe that all governments lie, etc, but not Hamas? Why believe it? The charter wants Palestine to take the place of ALL of Israel. It holds the World Jewish Conspiracy rubbish to be historic fact. They promote the Protocols. All this isn't going to disappear simply because Hamas say it is 'no longer operative'. What reason is there to believe such long-held views have been so quickly dispensed with? I don't believe it, I see no reason why the Israeli state should. Yet, at least.


Talisman said...
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Talisman said...
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the_last_name_left said...

I don't know what the solution is. And I understand many people will likely see the flotilla quite differently to how I do. I can only mumble platitudes, I guess - and say the solution is political. The yanks on the flotilla should be heading to their state reps, Washington, congress, whatever?

It's deeply provocative imo, and is only a gesture. Delivering mail? I hope they have no children on board, and if they do, I hope they follow instruction when they meet Israeli military.

I don't find complaints about the poverty of Gaza etc to be compelling, as there is shortage of greater poverty elsewhere even in the Islamic world - Yemen for instance, according to World Health Organisation.

If it's poverty, what is the mail for? And why do they go to Gaza and not.....anywhere else that's objectively worse? Why not? Well, fair enough, but....I just see it as a stunt. A dangerous one.

It's logically wrong to blame Israel for Gaza's poverty imo. It's certainly wrong to compare Gaza to western luxury, or even to Israel. We shouldn't expect it to be at the same levels of development. The argument about poverty seems to elide the fact that there's worse poverty elsewhere for which Israel has no responsibility - the argument leads us to blame Israel, which isn't necessarily the case at all. So I don't find it very convincing an argument.

At the Star-Advertiser I posted about an aid shipment that was sent by French activists to Sri Lanka, where the situation was arguably much worse for Tamils than Gazans.

The ship was prevented from delivering, Sri Lankan military involved, the government - blah blah blah - but scarcely anybody noticed. So, I'm cynical about these efforts. I too often get the sense that Gazans are considered more important than other people, by dint of being anti-Israeli. They're also a major part of anti-imperialist positions, which I find a bit odd, as the only reason Israel/Palestine is of interest to the world is because of its position in geo-politics and the junction/interface of various world imperialisms.

I find it ironic that anti-imperialist agenda is therefore set by imperialism. The concentration on I/P seems a result of this - it's a perversion of anti-imperialism, caused by imperialism.

I also think it's dangerous to accept the I/P conflict as the singular most important issue in M.E. Is it? I think one can only imagine so if one adopts an imperialist mindset - or imagining so inevitably foists an imperialist mindset upon one, perhaps.

I don't know that we should just accept it.

Anyway.....just thinking aloud.

I'm happy to hear different perspectives - you're allowed to totally disagree.


the_last_name_left said...

should read "as there is *no* shortage of poverty....."


the_last_name_left said...

Oh - busy few days. Not the least of which was buying a new MIDI keyboard. I've been busy trying to learn chords and playing some of my favourite songs. Splendid fun.

What did you want to tell me about? [you can always just publish it anyway, I certainly vill be back!]

Talisman said...

What I was going to tell you about is that I thought I enlisted to allies. As it turns out, no one seems to care much.

As for the flotilla, the US doesn't support Yemen or Sri Lanka to the extent that we support Israel. That is one reason why we might focus on what happens there...we fund it.

But in the past, I would have argued more vigorously. Now I know at least SOME of the people speaking out (not saying the flotilla people in particular) are vicious anti-Semites.

It's hard to get perspective.

The Palestinians in Gaza are a population under occupation, and that makes them Israel's responsibility under international law. Israel gets some kudos for being a Western-style democracy, so it can't also be held only to the standards of Syria or Yemen.

I have some personal reasons to care deeply about the Palestinians, which I mention in the interest of disclosure. I try to be balanced, but I can't claim complete neutrality.

Many people have gotten frustrated because there was the peace process in the early to mid 1990s, then the Saudi peace plan and the Geneva Accord. Then there were the Palestine papers on Wikileaks, showing really huge concessions on the part of the Palestinians.

It makes a lot of people ask, "What do we need to offer Israel to get peace?" It feels like nothing will work.