Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I don't support the Gaza Flotilla

by Becky Johnson

July 7 2011

Photo: Women In Black picket Israel in the Gardens in San Francisco 201

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- On July 4th, I joined a small group of anti-war activists at a busy intersection with signs, flags, and banners. Sherry Conable, Louis Lafortune, and Steve Pleich were there. There were WILPF'ers. There were Raging Grannies. And there were the

Women In Black. As someone who dedicated my life to world peace at age 14, normally I would be donning black garb, wearing a hat with a black veil, and standing somberly with the WIB against those who would turn our children into cannon fodder, but I'm not. For WIB has been imbued with what can only be called anti-semitism and a rabid hatred of Israel.

And on that street corner, several Santa Cruz area residents showed up with signs supporting the Gaza Flotilla, currently chained in a Greek harbor under "house" arrest. I do not support the Flotilla.

A similar flotilla last year ended in violent tragedy when the Israeli government intercepted and boarded the Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, only to be met by a mob of 100 men armed with guns, clubs, knives, slingshots and chains. Some peace activists! Nine persons perished in this action.

If I had planned an action and nine people died, the last thing I'd do is plan a similar action, but, that is exactly what the Free Gaza Movement, organizer Paul Larudee, and Greta Berlin did.

I don't support the Flotilla because the State of Israel has a right to protect itself from the Hamas government of Gaza which is in a state of war against Israel, is planning future attacks against Israeli citizens, and uses weapons smuggled into Gaza directly against innocent civilians.

"If you oppose foreign aid to Israel, why don't you also oppose foreign aid to Egypt?" I asked. No one even knew that Egypt GETS foreign aid!

A member of the U.S. Boat to Gaza campaign was handing out flyers urging people to contact Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, Kim Richter of Overseas American Citizens Services, and the Greek Desk of the U.S. State Dept. to urge the release of Captain Klusmire of 'The Audacity of Hope' currently chained to the dock in a Greek harbor.

A hairy, bearded young man in a tie-dye shirt held a "Free the Gaza Flotilla!" sign.

And me without my "Free Gaza from Hamas!" sign. What could I do? I decided to ask a few questions of these "experts" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What about Hamas? I demanded. "They threw their rival Palestinians off of a roof!"
The young man wasn't really sure who "Hamas" was and he had never heard of one political faction throwing members of another faction off the roof of a building.

"Imagine if one of the Israeli political parties threw members of another party off of a roof? Your people would be shouting from the hilltops about the brutality! Yet when Hamas throws Fatah off a roof, you don't even hear about it."

"You don't support the Flotilla?" an older woman gasped, and eyed me down. "Why not?"

"The last time they did this nine people died. It's a bad action. People shouldn't die because of an anti-war protest. I hold Paul Larudee personally responsible for those deaths."

"The whole action is a provocation. They are provoking the Israeli military to intercede. It's one big photo-op. I call it the 'Ship of Fools.' The woman, obviously heavily invested in the evil of the Israeli government, protested. "But we're just peaceful activists bringing humanitarian aid."

"Those Turkish participants weren't peaceful. They attacked the IDF with clubs and knives."

"I saw the video but I couldn't tell what was happening," the young man ventured.

Photo: A Gaza vegetable market displays its wares, in direct contrast to claims of "starvation."

"And, there is no starvation in Gaza. And there's no 'Seige of Gaza' either. The Egyptian border's been open for months.

"It's had some closures," the woman insisted.

"What about the 'Karine A?' I asked. The young man drew a blank but the older woman winced.
"Google it. It's spelled K-A-R-I-N-E and letter "A". DON'T take my word for it. While Yassir Arafat was supposedly negotiating a peace treaty, he was smuggling in arms on a ship called the "Karine A." That's why there's a sea blockade. Because the Palestinians smuggle in munitions and instantly turn around and use them against Israeli civilians.

"But what about the 22 days of bombing in 2009? Isn't that collective punishment?"he insisted.
"What about the 10,000 rockets shot over the fence in Gaza into behind-the-green-line sovereign Israel at innocent civilians? Isn't THAT collective punishment?" I countered.

"And Gaza isn't 'Occupied'. Israel ceded it to the Palestinian Authority in 2005. You DO remember that don't you? When Israel uprooted 10,000 JEWS and gave the land permanently to the Palestinians. Oh, and they burned down 24 synagogues in ONE DAY too!"

At this, the woman harumphed and walked away.

Photo: A Gaza shul is burned by a mob of Palestinians celebrating the retreating Jewish people of Gaza in September 2005.

But the young man persisted. "But they are OCCUPYING another peoples' land," he insisted.
"How do you figure? Israel took over the land in the 1967 war. You remember, the Six-Day War?"

The man vaguely nodded, but I couldn't be sure he knew what I was talking about. "Well, in 1967, Israel took over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula in what the UN determined to be a defensive war. They COULD have just annexed it directly, but they thought that later on, when cooler heads prevailed, the land would become the Islamic State of Palestine. THAT is how Israel came to OCCUPY the land. They maintained military authority over it, but they didn't annex it."

It looked like a light bulb went on in the young man's head, so I continued.

"Israel then built schools, hospitals, brought electricity to the West Bank, built sewer systems and 6 Universities for the Palestinians. No one has built more housing for the Palestinians than the Israelis themselves." The young man eyed me with great skepticism.

"But the settlements," he protested, "They're illegal."

"How do you figure? Before the land belonged to Israel, it belonged to Great Britain."

"Great Britain!" he protested. "What the hell does Britain have to do with Palestine?"
"Well, they OWNED it. It's history man!

"As long as the settlements don't displace any Palestinian population, they are not illegal. And they were all built on vacant land." I didn't even get to tell him that before Israel conquered the region in 1967 that Egypt had illegally occupied Gaza and that Jordan had illegally occupied the West Bank. But he'd already suffered information overload.

In the end, I parted amicably with the young man. Not so much the older, WIB'er.
It's lonely being right sometimes.

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