...Beyond the wilder fringes, there used to be a consensus of aims about Israel/Palestine. Just as the desired goal in South Africa was a prosperous multiracial society, in the Holy Land it was of two secure states living side by side in harmony. But for those who have fallen into the trap of equating white South Africa with the state of Israel, the conflict in the Middle East offers many more – and more comfortable – opportunities to protest than years in the bush in the frontline states.Read the whole thing
The struggle for Palestinian rights has long since moved beyond the university campuses where the keffiyah became the fashion statement of choice for bourgeois radicals. For a generation to whom Vietnam and South Africa are either faint memories or battles only read about in history books, Palestine is the most perfect cause. Unlike in the Spanish civil war, it’s not even as though Ireland, Catholic or Protestant, could be said to have a dog in the race. There are no mutilated nuns to confuse sentiment.
For rebels looking for a cause then, Israel makes a classic enemy. Being a Jewish state makes it racist, right? Aren’t its most vociferous supporters in the United States? Don’t its leaders often seem impervious to criticism? What more is there to know? Sure, they even have the bomb, for heaven’s sake. Only the Holocaust prevents even respectable opinion in Ireland from labelling Israel a fascist state. And as causes go, it helps that Gaza seems so much more immediate and urgent than the effects of global warming, so much more winnable than the Tibetan fight for autonomy.
Even politicians can join in the act – at almost no cost to themselves. They can visit a refugee camp and feel the Palestinians’ pain by day and still have time to retreat to a beach-side five-star hotel to sip cocktails before a slap-up dinner.
For the hardcore, that’s cheating. So some of these motivated individuals – a ragtag column of faded hippies, D-list celebrities, a long-forgotten Belfast peace campaigner and a few others whom Lenin would have dubbed ‘useful idiots’ – joined 400 Turkish Islamists on a voyage to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza. They came, they said, bearing medicine and food and toys. What more harmless humanitarian mission could there be?
And, in fairness, for many of them, that’s probably what it was: a genuine, if misguided, attempt to relieve Gaza’s suffering, whoever is to blame for it. After all, no one would pretend the Strip is anything other than a fly-ridden pit of a place. Who could fail to be moved by the conditions there?
But for the Turkish activists who drove the mission, the flotilla was all part of a much bigger game. It was a subtle repudiation of Ankara’s secular Ataturkist inheritance, a premeditated provocation by a gang of wannabe martyrs bent on violent confrontation and on realigning Turkey away from the west. The pity is that they succeeded in their aims.
I ask you, do genuine peace activists chant ‘death to the Jews’? And why does the western media turn a blind eye to such scenes which are positively celebrated on Arab TV?
Those who went to fight for the Republic in Spain were driven by a thirst for freedom, by positive visions of the future, by a willingness to take serious personal risks. But not a single one of those admirable traits was present on the ship of fools sailing to Gaza.
For those who see Israel as an easy target--and a quick fix for righteous indignation--the facts will only get in the way.
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