Questions From a 'Naive' Peace Activist to an Israeli Naval Officer
Saturday 25 June 2011
Not surprisingly, Israeli officials cited by the Times were putting out mixed messages.
On the one hand, a top naval official told foreign journalists
On the other hand, the Times reports that
Moreover, the Israeli naval officer who briefed foreign journalists conceded that he did not believe that the coming flotilla would contain arms. The same naval officer further conceded that some [sic] of those on board the ships were peace activists, according to the Times' account.
But the naval officer asserted that these peace activists were naïve because "extremists will set the tone" if Israeli commandos board the ships. He also asserted that
I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend this press conference. I would like to ask some follow-up questions of my distinguished friend in the Israeli navy, who thinks me naïve.
If you concede that we are peace activists who are not carrying weapons, what exactly is the urgency to confront us with force? Why not just let us proceed to
If you are concerned that "extremists will set the tone" if Israeli commandos board the ships, isn't it wholly within your power to prevent this outcome, by not ordering that Israeli commandos board the ships?
Furthermore, if you concede that we are peace activists, doesn't that mean that you concede that we are not "extremists"? Peace activists aren't "extremists," are we?
If you concede that we are not "extremists," and you are concerned that "extremists will set the tone," doesn't that argue against blocking our communications, or arresting us and holding us incommunicado, or confiscating our communications equipment, as happened to passengers on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last year? Because if you silence us, you prevent us from speaking on our own behalf, thereby facilitating the outcome that you say you wish to avoid. Again, avoiding the outcome that "extremists will set the tone" is wholly within your power.
When I first visited Ramallah in 1986, I heard a story from Palestinians there that is quite relevant to the present impasse. As you will recall, at that time, the display of the Palestinian flag was forbidden in the
One day, there was a new Israeli military commander for the Ramallah area. I am sorry that I don't know the details of this commander's background. But here's how I imagine him
Well, what do you think happened? What happened was this
Eventually, that military commander was rotated out, and another commander was rotated in, and the new commander was not so enlightened, and "things went back to normal." The Palestinian flag was hoisted, soldiers came, rocks were thrown, demonstrators were shot.
This story illustrates, I think, that Israeli military officers have the opportunity to use good judgment and common sense in evaluating which actions they should take to "promote Israeli security." Taking extreme actions in response to demands for Palestinian freedom does not make
The logic of taking extreme actions in response to protest is seductive
But to think that this logic will work in the present situation is, dare I say it, naïve. It is far too late for that.
What was the result of the Israeli military attack on last year's flotilla? Did peace activists say, "oh dear, now that we see that the Israeli military is very tough, we had better not send any more flotillas"?
No, that was not the result. The result was that peace activists said, "We should send an even larger flotilla of ships, with boats from more countries, including our American boat, the Audacity of Hope."
After the attack on last year's flotilla and the resulting international outcry not just against the attack on the flotilla, but also against the blockade of Gaza, the Israeli government announced that the blockade on Gaza would be eased, and since then, more goods have been let in to Gaza. Exports from Gaza remain largely blocked; restrictions on Gazans' travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem for work, study, and medical care remain; imports of construction materials remain largely blocked; restrictions on Gaza's farming and fishing remain. Unemployment in
But consider those restrictions on
If those restrictions were in fact necessary for Israeli security, then Israeli government officials endangered Israeli security by removing them, simply because the world was complaining. Will any Israeli official stand up and claim this?
If those restrictions were not necessary for Israeli security, then for years Israeli government maintained restrictions on Gaza's civilian population which were not justified by security concerns, simply because they wanted to punish the population and could get away with doing so, because international protest was not sufficient to overturn these restrictions.
If these restrictions were not necessary for
I urge my friend the Israeli naval officer to get on the right side of history, and to use his influence not only to oppose an Israeli military attack on the
Robert Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy and president of Truthout's board of directors.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs