I haven't posted on the Gaza flotilla mess yet because I'm kind of still processing it. There are so many different competing descriptions of what happened that I needed some time to settle on a narrative that I think makes sense. So here's my thoughts.
- There weren't weapons or rockets or anything of the sort on those boats. Those were aid boats. After all, don't you think Israel would have crowed about it to high heaven if there had been terrorist supplies on board? Israel's silence as to what they found on those vessels speaks volumes. Those were aid boats, Israel knows they screwed up in attacking them, and now they're trying some CYA maneuvers that aren't working anywhere outside here.
- As such, the video showing people on board the ships attacking Israeli commandos has to be taken with a grain of salt. This kinda reminds me of a Cory Maye-type situation here. If you had a bunch of military-looking people descending on you and a piece of rubber hose happened to be nearby, don't you just start hacking away?
- That having been said, the justified attacks on Israel's conduct in the raid have been laced with a ton of overwrought language. And yes, it reeks of anti-Semitism (ahem, Helen Thomas). Michael Chabon has the best response yet, pointing out that Israel, like every other nation, acts stupidly and irresponsibly from time to time, so it's stupid to hold them to a higher standard. I think this misses a little - if Israel wishes to be considered a Jewish state, it should conduct itself with Jewish morality, which most certainly doesn't include treating others as second-class citizens no matter what. But it also points out a lot of the hypocrisy at work here. Gazans aren't poor pathetic blameless victims. Turkey pisses and moans, but it's not like Turkey doesn't have a skeleton or two in its closet. So while we criticize Israel, let's all be careful not to try to claim moral superiority for ourselves or our nations. Hell, I'm writing this on a computer made from materials that fund child rape in the Congo and I'm going to call myself morally superior to Bibi Netanyahu? Come on. We can criticize one another's unjust actions as equals, without the tortured "I'm-better-than-you" posturing.
This event, more than anything, is actually a hopeful signal - perhaps the Palestinian independence movement has finally decided to join us here in the modern era. In the modern era, you don't win a fight against an extremely powerful enemy by using violence, even if you have legitimate gripes (and the Palestinians certainly do). All violence does is piss the other guy off and harden his resolve. It's like punching a professional cage fighter in the stomach - sure, it feels good, but the whole thing is just gonna end with your head getting stomped on.
(A blogger from the Economist disagrees, but I don't think he makes his point particularly well. If anything, he's saying that "just enough" violence is effective, but I don't think so. The use of the makeshift weaponry just gave Israel and its blind defenders in America a chance to write the protest off as the same-old-same-old work of terrorists - and strategically speaking, the posturing of the rest of the world is all but meaningless if America bunkers in with the Israelis. The decision of the passengers to pick up weapons was the lone blemish on an otherwise brilliantly conceived confrontation. They're new at this - they'll learn.)
No, battles such as the one the Palestinians are fighting are won by non-violent direct action. Some right-wing moron said that the flotilla was just an attempt to provoke an Israeli response. To that I say - no shit, Sherlock. Of course that's what the flotilla was trying to do! The whole point of non-violent direct action is to make the other guy look bad by forcing the world to see the basic inhumanity of their actions. That's done by provoking such actions in an organized and predictable fashion. The flotilla people knew they would be boarded and probably attacked by the Israelis in the same way that voting rights marchers knew that Bull Connor would turn the fire hoses on them.
The positive PR that Palestinian activists have received from this single incident has dwarfed any positive press they've gotten in the West since 1967 - combined. If they get rid of Hamas' dippy, violent charter and dedicate themselves to peaceful non-violent confrontation, they can shine a light on a lot of other injustices that they face because of their statelessness. If the flotilla crisis is a harbinger of a new Palestinian strategy of non-violence, then that is a wonderful development indeed.
One note, though. I really hope the Palestinians don't get impatient and turn back towards violence again. They have to realize they've been idiots for the past 43 years - it's going to take some time before the rest of the world trusts that they've really given up the execrable "blow shit up" strategy and starts to listen to them.