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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Audacity of Hype and the flotilla

Alice Walker has written eloquently and compassionately about why she is on board the Audacity of Hope, one of the flotilla of boats seeking to sail from Greece to GazaHoward Jacobson has written with equal eloquence about why he thinks that Alice Walker is mistaken. Imagine for a moment that you believed that aid was urgently needed in a a disputed conflict zone. Imagine if a country next to that conflict zone said that it was checking all aid before it entered the conflict zone, to ensure that it does not include any weapons. Imagine if the Greek Government said that it would check the aid shipments concerned before themselves delivering the aid to Gaza, with Israel accepting this Greek offer. If you were on board the flotilla, and what you cared about was delivering the aid to the Palestinian people of Gaza, surely you'd accept this Greek offer?

But no, the flotilla's organisers have turned it down - even though this is a great way to get the aid to the people who apparently need it, the organisers have said "no". This proves, surely, that they are more interested in making a political point than they are in delivering aid to Gaza? But then, that should come as little surprise to anyone who saw the BBC's Panorama programme on last year's flotilla, which I urge you to watch nowHowever bad things undoubtedly are in Gaza, people there are not starving; AP quotes one Palestinian there as saying: "You probably won't find hungry people, but the feeling of injustice and frustration is pervasive in all homes," and I don't disagree with any part of that sentiment.

I urge you also to read the short statement on Gaza from the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the EU, the US and Russia), which "strongly urges all those wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings". Israel has indeed always allowed these flotillas to deliver goods to Gaza's Palestinians via the Israeli port of Ashdod, and what's wrong with that? If your motivation is to get the goods to the people who need them, then why would you care how the goods are delivered? Politics, politics, politics - that's obviously all it is. I can see no other explanation.

UPDATE on Tuesday 5 July 2011: Christopher Hitchens has written brilliantly on this and raises many important questions; I strongly urge you to read his piece here.


  1. There are implications in the media, and I appreciate they often get things wrong, that Greece and Israel's growing alliance could be detrimental to relations with Gaza, and this is one cited reason for abandoning the flotilla, and any future plans of such a flotilla.

    I am also confused as to why Israeli activists would be seeking to prevent a flotilla arriving, other than the potential of hidden weapons, something that is not inferred in the UK press.

    I am trying to appreciate a balanced view and would be pleased to hear your thoughts.

  2. Thank you. I have just read the Guardian piece to which you link. I urge you to also read this piece:

    If it's possible to deliver goods to the people of Gaza through normal, proper channels, without sending a flotilla, then why bother sending a flotilla - unless one's aim, in sending the flotilla, is to be provocative and so score a political point?

    As a Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman said to the Guardian: "It is time to step up so that we can show everyone that at a critical turn of affairs for the Middle East, which is currently in the midst of tensions, there will not be developments that will exacerbate the climate further" - the flotilla would have been precisely such a development.

    You refer to the UK press; here is an interesting analysis of some UK press coverage of this:

    I accept that it is not so much hidden weapons that might be carried on this flotilla, as much as dual-use material that can be used both for civilian purposes and to make weapons or bunkers. If Hamas was firing missiles at the place where you lived, would you not want your country's government to prevent Hamas from acquiring the material to make those missiles? shows that the risk of actual weapons smuggling is also real.

    Here is a briefing on this flotilla issue from BICOM, a pro-Israeli group that strives to be balanced and dispassionate:

  3. Dear Matthew, BICOM is neither balanced nor impartial.

    Now let's get to the point. If an entire population was in an open air 'prison' as your leader David Cameron said of Gaza then those who seek to highlight this are within their rights to do so. If Israel was a true democracy then it would tolerate peaceful dissent. Instead Israel shoots to kill.
    It doesn't matter how much food there is in Gaza the point is that the people in Gaza cannot leave and they are subject to daily attack from air, sea and land resulting in thousands of deaths over the years. (You forget to mention this)

    Israel is armed to the teeth courtesy of the US taxpayer and Gaza is one of the poorest places on earth. Gaza is unarmed and defenceless against daily attacks from Israel. It is the only place on earth that is under total siege.

    The people on the flotilla are just as much a political idea as a humanitarian one. They have once more highlighted the insane cruelty that is inflicted on the occupied Palestinians. For that their mission is a success.

  4. Thank you. David Cameron is the Prime Minister of my country, but is not my leader, as he leads the Conservative Party, and I am a Liberal Democrat (the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are currently serving in a Coalition Government together).

    I agree that people are within their rights to highlight the situation in Gaza, or the situation anywhere else.

    If a country is lawfully maintaining a blockade at sea to prevent arms smuggling, then seeking to break that blockade is hardly "peaceful dissent".

    As for "shooting to kill", have you watched the BBC Panorama programme to which I linked from the post above?

    It most certainly does matter how much food there is in Gaza, as the people who live there are entitled to have enough food.

    I agree that the people of Gaza face too many restrictions and should be freer to leave.

    The reason that I do not mention that the people of Gaza are "subject to daily attack from air, sea and land resulting in thousands of deaths over the years" is because that is not true. People are not being killed there on a "daily" basis, as you allege.

    The 2008-2009 Gaza War was sparked by the actions of Hamas, which continues to brutally oppress the Palestinian people living under its rule in Gaza, as Amnesty and others testify.

    In that war, Hamas had a human shield policy that led to the deaths of many civilians and has been condemned as war crime. Look at this: and

    This is what Hamas says about that war:

    You've surely also read this piece?