We write these words on Wednesday, as some 10 ships are poised to set sail for Gaza. Their 500 passengers’ stated aim is to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled strip, bringing humanitarian aid. But of course, except for the true innocents among them, their aims are not in the least innocent. They are gathered, like a hive of bees, to sting – to sting Israel into a violent response, with the world as witness.
And the world would certainly witness it – if the flotilla does in fact set sail and if Israel fumbles. After all, as commentator Phyllis Chesler notes on frontpagemag.com, “Journalists from The Nation, CNN, NPR, CBS, The New York Times, Democracy Now, and the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an are ’embedded’ within the flotilla. ‘Embedded’? Isn’t that the word used to describe journalists who accompany troops in active battle?”
You could say they have “the Spider-man syndrome,” like theater-goers who came to the troubled play hoping to see an actor fall from the heights.
It’s noteworthy that both J Street and Americans for Peace Now, liberal organizations against the Gaza blockade, are concerned about the flotilla. In fact, in a posting Wednesday on its website, www.jstreet.org, J Street calls it – in language that many mainstream groups have used – “a deliberate provocation.”
The posting reads, in part: “We strongly urge those organizing and participating in the flotilla to reconsider. We are deeply concerned that a new attempt to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza could spark violence and result in further entrenchment by both sides, derailing efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at this critical timeâ€¦.
“[T]his new flotilla â€¦ has the potential to escalate the conflict and needlessly put the lives of both Israeli soldiers and civilian activists at risk.”
The posting even goes so far as to acknowledge that “Israel has legitimate security concerns about goods that enter Gazaâ€¦.
“We join the many voices around the world strongly urging those considering participation in a new flotilla to refrain from doing so and urging Israel to exercise caution in responding to this deliberate provocationâ€¦. Should the flotilla sail, we urge all parties to take measures to avoid violence and pursue actions that demonstrate maximum restraint.”
Let’s hope that those on the coyly named Audacity of Hope, as well as other ships in the flotilla, heed the advice of a fellow (non-)traveler.