Israel vs Humanity
|Book: Midnight on the Mavi Marmara|
ZNet Book Page
Publisher: OR Books
Year: September 2010
The Israeli raid on the Gaza bound Freedom Flotilla in the early morning hours of May 31st, 2010 signaled a new chapter in the 40 plus years of the Israeli occupation of that isolated and small strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean. No longer could the conflict be presented in terms of Israeli - Arab, nor even Israeli - Palestinian strife. With the attack on the aid flotilla attempting to break the criminal Israeli siege of Gaza and deliver much needed humanitarian and construction aid to help the people of Gaza rebuild in the wake of the brutal Israeli military assault of 2008-09, and indeed the entire decades long occupation, the conflict has fundamentally shifted. The opposition is now between Israeli on one side and those that stand for the universal rights of humanity on the other. No longer are the victims of Israel’s occupation the Palestinians of the the West Bank and Gaza, but any in the world that struggle and demand that all peoples be subject to the same laws and justice. The attack on the aid flotilla has proved this once and for all.
The victims of Israel’s lethal assault in international waters were the very volunteers and activist who sought to help the oppressed people, leaving nine dead and all others effectively kidnapped by the IDF. While the killing of Palestinians in Gaza has become so routine, and their isolation so accepted by major corporate media and state power (with some notable exceptions), the assault on the Freedom Flotilla could not be ignored. Predictably a global wave of revulsion met the Israeli actions and their flagrant disregard for international law. The Israeli response was also predictable. Israel was only acting in self-defense, they were the true victims in the whole affair, those activist on flotilla were really Islamic terrorists and there fellow travelers, and, of course, anyone that said otherwise was either anti-semitic or a self-hating Jew.
This response has become almost reflexive from Israel and its apologists whenever it is criticized for the brutality and illegality of its actions. Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, which takes it name from the largest ship in the flotilla, sets about challenging this narrative. It is composed of many essays draw from a range of scholars, activists, and journalists, both inside and outside of Israel. Some of these essay appeared shortly after the assault and have no doubt been read on the web by many who would be interested in this book. Yet there are many interesting essays that an otherwise interested reader would likely have missed and find interesting. These include multiple accounts from participants in the Freedom Flotilla, whose stories are a needed correction to the narrative that Israel and the IDF tried to control following the raid. Also encouraging are the voices of dissent from within Israel, both Jewish and Palestinian voices.
What Midnight on the Mavi Marmara does well is place the assault in the larger context of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank for the past 43 years. Seen in this context the assault and murder of nine activists appears less as an outrageous breach of international law and human decency and more as what one would expect in a pattern of violence and degradation that goes well into the past. The book is broken up into six sections, each focusing on a different aspect of assault and the conditions that led to it. They are:
On Board the Ships
Understanding the Attack
The Blockade of Gaza
Old Friends, New Thinking
Palestine on our Minds
Each is illuminating in its own way and provides a blend of context, perspective, history, focus. Seeing as the book was put together so quickly following the assault it most likely benefits from its design as a compilation of different essays as opposed to a single account of the event. It is too soon to understand all the dynamics at play that went into the launching of the Freedom Flotilla, the brazen Israeli decision to assault it, and the fallout that resulted. This is why the subtitle of the book, The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and how it Changed the Israel/Palestine Conflict, is perhaps a bit presumptuous. In a conflict that has lasted well over 60 years and experienced many definitive moments, it is difficult to judge what event or conjuncture is going to alter the course or define the contours of subsequent developments.
Will the attack on the Freedom Flotilla signal a change in the way the world perceives Israel in its ongoing occupation of Gaza and the West Bank or will the event simply fad into the background as new developments occurs and as the never-ending “peace process” continues? It seems clear that Israel’s standing in the world has been dropping in recent years, not only among the general population of the world, but also in official state views as well. Whether this will matter or not, and whether the assault on the Freedom Flotilla will be the turning point it is claimed to have been, will depend on the continuing and increasing pressure of people everywhere to resist the occupation and show solidarity with the people of Gaza and the oppressed wherever they are.