Monday, October 25, 2010


Years ago, I pleaded with my Congressional representative to take a stand regarding the suffering of the Palestinians. I shared with him what I had seen on a recent visit into Gaza and the West Bank. I talked about people being shut up in refugee camps, the lack of food, water, medical care and education. “Life there is unfair, and its harshness is supported by our government.”
He thought for a while. “I am as concerned for the suffering of the Palestinians as anyone,” he responded. “But I am not going to do or say anything that will get me labeled, ‘anti-Semitic.’”
After a little more pleading, I said something like: “I am beginning to understand politicians. You are not moved by right or wrong, by justice or even your religious professions. The only thing that will get a response from you is the fear of being embarrassed. So, what if I got about 300 people out of my congregation to come down here and picked your office with signs saying that you support the torture of children?”
He registered a little surprise and said, “You wouldn’t do that.”
I came back with, “I would if I could.”

I think that what is true for politicians may also be true for Israel and her supporters. For years, the American Jewish community has uplifted Israel as a shining “miracle” of democracy and freedom, an inspiration to the world. Support for Israel has been a hundred percent with no consideration for right or wrong, justice, or Jewish ethics. However, two things are happening which seem to be an embarrassment for Zionist supporters, especially in America and especially among young Jews.

First - Research done by the new Jewish historians almost universally declares that the glorious story of Israel’s founding is more fiction than fact. The real history of 1948-1949 unveils a lop-sided blood bath of ethnic cleansing. Leon Uris lied.

Second - The attack on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of nine humanitarian aid volunteers, including an American, shocked much of the world. Before the flotilla, it was the 23 day massacre of the population of Gaza, shut in and bombarded, which killed 1390 people, according to B’tsalem. Before that the 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, dropping four million cluster bombs, killing more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, the 2003 murder of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, the 1983 massacre of unarmed refugees in Sabra and Shatila, the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon, and the 1967 Six Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Uninterrupted throughout this history is the occupation with settlements, checkpoints, mass imprisonments, the stealing of land and water and the construction of an apartheid wall. Add all this up, and these are just the most outstanding crimes that cause Israel embarrassment.

Reacting to last winter’s invasion of Gaza and the midnight raid by commandos on the unarmed passengers of the Freedom Flotilla:

--Students at Cornell University lined pathways with 1300 black flags commemorating the dead in Gaza.[1]
--Turkish parliament voted unanimously to “revisit the political, military and economic relations with Israel.
-- Nicaragua suspended its diplomatic relations with Israel.
--Norway reconfirmed its arms ban on Israel and called on all other states to follow Norway’s position which excludes trading arms with Israel.
--Swedish dockworkers decided to blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel.
--The South African trade union federation, COSATU, called for greater support for the international boycott, divestment, and sanction campaign against Israel, urging all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any good from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.
--In the United Kingdom the largest trade union, UNITE, unanimously voted to boycott all Israeli companies.
-- In Oakland, California, union members and community activist set a historical precedent by blocking the offloading of an Israeli ship for 24 hours. And
-- The student body of Evergreen State College voted with a 79 percent majority to divest from companies that profit from the occupation.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions will not bring Israel down. The destruction of Israel is not the goal But what DBS will do is embarrass Israel and its supporters,

According to Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein, professor at City University of New York:

The increased and brutal frequency of war in this volatile region has shifted international opinion. One poll registering the fallout from the Gaza attack of 2008-09 in the United States found that Americans voters calling themselves supporters of Israel plummeted from 69 percent before the attack to 49 percent in June 2009, while voters believing that the United States should support Israel dropped from 69 percent to 44 percent.[3]

Jewish pollster, Steven Cohen in a 2005 survey found that, “the attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years.”

The survey found 26 percent who said that they were “very” emotionally attached to Israel, compared with 31 percent who said so in a similar survey conducted in 2002. Some two-thirds, 64 percent, said they follow the news about Israel closely, down from 74 percent in 2002, while 39 percent said they talk about Israel frequently with Jewish friends, down from 53 percent in 2002. …48 percent said “Israel matters a lot” compared with 58 percent in 2002. Just 57 percent affirmed that “caring about Israel” is a very important part of my being Jewish,” compared with 73 percent in a similar survey in 1989.[4]

Hopefully, with enough embarrassment, Israel will lose more of its American Jewish support, which might be the best hope Palestinians have for some relief. At least a little embarrassment might be a good influence on our politicians.

Thomas Are
October 25, 2010

[1] “Poll Show Dip in American Voters Supporting Israel” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (June 16, 2009, Cited by Norman Finkelstein, Ever Fewer Hosannas, published in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, p. 262
[2] Omar Barghouti, Our South Africa Moment, Cited in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, p. 276-278.
[3] Op cit, Finkelstein, p. 256.
[4] From the same article cited by Norman Finkelstein, p. 258-93

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mavi Marmara

As you might imagine, from time to time I get responses to my blogs. Some of them express disagreement.

On June 21st, I received: “Do not single out Israel for your criticism -- should we be surprised that the world focused on 9 deaths on the Gaza flotilla (despite the fact, yes, fact, that there were people on that flotilla who were hoping to be martyrs) and almost nothing was said about the actual genocide in Kyrgystan?”

I single out Israel because my government supports Israel’s actions by giving billions of dollars every year which are used to steal land and water, imprison, humiliate and even kill the people of Palestine.

On June 16th, I received a video link showing Israeli soldiers unloading caches of arms: “A tip of the hat to Fred Leder for this Israeli Flix video. This video shows that during the unloading of the M/S. Mavi Marmara Turkish vessel in the Israeli port of Ashdod, behind the bags of flour were boxes of heavy weapons and ammunition: mortars, artillery shells, bazookas, without counting a trunk where more than one million euros was found intended for Hamas. This video should be widely distributed as evidence of why the IDF Naval commandos were dispatched to intercept the six vessels including the M/S Mavi Marmara. Clearly the Turkish AKP Islamist government is complicit in permitting this military cargo to be loaded on the 'peaceful' Free Gaza Flotilla. Please distribute this video widely. If you had any doubt about what was on the flotilla, here is the video. The French explains that the arms on display were hidden behind sacks of grain. Why these criminals were released is beyond me.”

The email invited me to react to such obvious footage. I responded that if this were an authentic filming, the Israeli government and Fox News would have been all over it. Why has no responsible news agency exposed this to the world, especially since the Turkish government inspected the ship and its cargo before allowing it to proceed to Gaza? The ships had been inspected at all ports for weapons and none were ever found.[1] This video was a deliberate hoax designed to justify an act of overpowering aggression in violation of international laws.

An email on June 3rd tops them all. “I believe that the ship should have been sunk to rid the world of all those terrorists and their supporters. I am sorry that you have such tunnel vision and I worry about your safety.”

He calls them the terrorists. The 700 participants on the Mavi Marmara represented over thirty countries. They were doctors, human rights activists, professors, a U.S. diplomat, a Nobel Peace laureate, in addition to clergy and journalist from around the world. What exposes this charge is that anyone who seeks relief for the suffering Palestinians can be automatically labeled a terrorist. The real question is how he can so casually assign heinous motives to such distinguished volunteers? Is a terrorist anyone who feels empathy for their beleaguered fellow human beings? After forty years of occupation, 90 percent of the people in Gaza have no clean water to drink, and two-thirds of the population live without adequate food, medical care, sanitation systems, electricity and fuel.

Chris Hedges, whom some look upon as the twenty-first century Amos, writes;

Name us as human beings who believe that when one of us suffers all of us suffer, that we never have to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us all, the tears of the mother in Gaza are our tears, that the wails of the bloodied children in Al Shifa Hospital are the wails of our own children.
Let me close tonight with one last name. Let me name those who send these tanks and fighter jets to bomb the concrete hovels in Gaza with families crouching, helpless, inside, let me name those who deny children the right to a childhood and the sick the right to care, those who torture, those who carry out assassination in hotel rooms in Dubai and on the streets of Gaza City, Those who deny the hungry food, the oppressed justice and foul the truth with official propaganda and state lies. Let me call them, not by their honorific titles and positions of power, but by the name they have earned for themselves by draining the blood of the innocent into the sands of Gaza,. Let me name them for who they are: terrorist.

Of course, the Israeli government said that it would have gladly delivered the supplies by land if they had been asked to do so. However, such an offer belies that fact that what was being delivered by the flotilla was precisely those emergency supplies that Israel had denied entrance into Gaza for years. These “terrorists” carried no weapons, but were armed with X-ray machines, wheelchairs, crutches and medical equipment, seesaws and sliding boards. These were ordinary people, full of compassion, seeking to help ordinary people, deliberately denied the basic necessities of life.

Israel claims that they were only defending themselves. Then why did they confiscate all recording equipment, cameras and lap tops? Why jam the ships satellite communications systems to prevent contact between journalist and the outside world?[3] Why refuse to cooperate with any unbiased international investigation and keep all passenger isolated until Israel’s spin filled the airways unchallenged? Ben Saul, co-director of the Sydney Center for International Law, who is published by the Oxford University Press, said, “One cannot illegally attack a ship and then claim self-defense.”[4]

Why attack a ship in the darkness of night after it had reversed its course and was steaming as fast as it could away from Gaza?[5] Why did the commandoes drop percussion bombs onto the deck and fire weapons before attacking the ship? The humanitarian workers defended themselves with whatever they had such as their own bare hands, sling shots, and water hoses. According to The Guardian, nine people, including a nineteen year old American born high school student, were shot no less than a total of thirty times. Even after the passengers had “surrendered,” the Israelis refused to offer medical assistance to the wounded. Why?

So, from time to time I get responses to my blogs and I am grateful for them, even those that express disagreement.

Thomas Are
October 17, 2010

[1] Moustafa Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, (Haymaker Books, Chicago, 2010,) p. 2
[2] Chris Hedges, The Tears of Gaza Must be Our Tears, Hedges made these remarks August 5, 2010 in New York City at a fund-raiser for sponsoring a U.S. boat to break the blockade of Gaza. Cited in Other Voices, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2010, p. OV-6.
[3] Lara Lee, What Happened to us is Happening in Gaza, Cited in Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, p. 30. Filmmaker, Lara Lee said, “I decided to join the Freedom Flotilla after going to Gaza a few months before and seeing firsthand the devastation there. After hearing the pleas of the people living in Gaza to have the blockade lifted, I felt I must do something.”
[4] Moustafa Bayoumi, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, p.6.
[5] Ibid., p.3.