Saturday, May 21, 2011

The 2010 Flotilla - thoughts

For some reason, the events surrounding the flotilla of 2010 had a hold of me that few events had previously, no matter how otherwise crucial or horrid.  The overwhelming desire to cheer them on, the deep regret that I was not there.  Even before the confrontation with the IDF, as the ships were still making their way, I was checking the news agencies every five minutes.  And indeed, I was the first to break the news to the lists I am on.  I even managed to log on to Turkish TV broadcasts in my efforts to try and absorb every bit of information that was available, on that first day, and the 10 that followed it.

Much has been said about those events and I cannot really hope to add much.  What I could talk about, however, is the way in which it confronted me, yet once again and this time in a particularly sharp relief, with the different, hugely skewed way in which the Jewish Israeli society - and its supporters - view themselves and the conflict. The knowledge is not new, of course.  It informed an enormous relief I felt when I first left Israel in 1977, to find out I am not a freak, after all. 

The flotilla, however... had the circumstances not been so tragic, it would have been the material of comedy - the soldiers of an invading elite commando, of an army that claims itself of the best in the world, weeping tears of betrayal and terror, having encoutered sticks and stones.  Indeed, an entire society behind these soldiers, truly - and hysterically - believing that those sticks and stones represent a an ingenious devilish threat to its existence.  Multitudes of people, intelligent, sophisticated people, watching blurry video clips with assorted red circles and inflammatory captions announcing to them what they should be seeing, and who instantaneously convert that to a deep conviction about some 'truth' about a sinister plot.  Few, so few, who entertain the possibility that the passengers on these ships are exactly who they say they are - human right activists who are incensed by imprisonment of the Gazan population.  Few, so few, who wonder how much danger can come from several hunderd passengers, many well over 45 years of age, seeing, as one clearly does, that they are coming with no weapons short of wooden sticks and the bars they are ripping off the sides of their own boat...

Few, so few, who even care to find out how, exactly, people live in Gaza...

But there is a threat.  And the threat will be augmented the more ships go, and the more artists and scholars cancel their performances in Israel.  The threat, already in evidence, is that the Jewish Israeli society will, finally, need to confront that other perspective.  The one that does not hold that Palestinian children are terrorists, or that Israeli armed commandos are defenseless children.  The one according to which Israel has now prevailed, ruthlessly, over oppressed civilian population for 63 years.  The one according to which the Israeli Jewish population, insofar as it has either supported this oppression or turned a blind eye to it, is not 'nice'. 

No, it will not defeat the Israeli army.  It might, however, shake the Israeli Jewish society from within in ways that will force it to change.


  1. Again, good luck!

    I don't really see how you expect these actions to affect a change in Israeli Jewish society. Since the collapse of Oslo in 2000, the mainstream is increasingly returning to view the Palestinians as a genocidal threat, and any measure taken against them (like the blockade of Gaza) as necessary means to contain that threat. I don't see how the BDS movement or the flotillas to Gaza will change that. There are already a number of well established ways to explain away pro-Palestinian activists: some are naive, swayed by Palestinian propaganda (like the artists who cancel performances), some are self hating Jews (like yours truly), some are Jew haters who support the supposed Palestinian aim of genocide (like the Turkish passengers on the Marmara). This view is internally consistent and logical. If you can show me how the activities you mention can make a dent in it, I might consider joining you :)

  2. I agree on the diagnosis, needless to say, but I am not so sure about the prognosis. I distinctly hear the increasingly shrill and hysterical protestations rise in inverse proportion to the actual danger at hand, marking serious cracks in the armor in urgent need of concealing. I see AIPAC and Israel coming off the taboo list of topics in the US, and the New York Times publishing (mild) rebukes as the hysteria grows. I see the proliferation of anti-democratic measures and the cracking on the left in Israel as clear indicators that a society that was secure in its convictions is no longer...

    Not all Israeli Jews care about being perceived as Sophisticated, and Cultured, and Nice. It just so happens that those who do, and those who are now beginning, I believe, to suffer from major cognitive dissonance, constitute precisely the face of Israel that the West, that American Jews, want to see. They also happen to constitute whatever there is to Israel that people such as myself, and maybe you, miss a great deal. Once they are gone, either physically or politically, from the heart of the concensus, the army may, of course, go on. The place will have turned itself, however, into yet one more fundamentalist warrier sect in a region where they abund.

    You SHOULD join us! It makes more difference than you think!