Midnight on the Flotilla

The shock much of the world felt upon first hearing the news of the May 31, 2010 Israeli attack on the aid to Gaza flotilla has diminished since those first days.  The daily degradation and despair felt by many of Gaza’s residents hasn’t.  While UN officials debate with Israeli leaders over the parameters of a supposedly independent inquiry, the situation remains static in the prison that is Gaza.  Like previous inquiries into Tel Aviv’s more egregious excesses in its quest to destroy the idea of Palestine (Jenin, Lebanon 1982 and 2006, the bombardment of Gaza in 2007-2008, etc.), the longer the inquiry takes to begin, the less likely it will make a difference, because either the evidence will be missing or the PR campaign by Israel and its sycophants in the world’s media will have rendered any truths uncovered irrelevant.

This is why the release of  Midnight on the Mavi Marmara by the new publishing endeavor known as O/R Books is so important.  The book itself is a collection of essays, reports and articles by participants in the aid mission and well-known commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Edited by writer and educator Moustaf Bayoumi (who also writes the introduction), this text discusses the flotilla , the Israeli attack, the world reaction and the attack’s relation to the blockade of Gaza.  The writers include internationally known authors, activists, politicians, and everyday folks motivated to take action to end Tel Aviv’s immoral and illegal punishment of the Palestinian people.

Several of the writers who were passengers on the flotilla relate their experience of the Israeli raid.  No matter how many times one reads the details, it is difficult not to be enraged (and amazed) at Israel’s arrogant assumptions and brutal acts.  Some of these writers state that, yes, they defended themselves and their fellow passengers with physical force after the Israelis attacked their ship.  None of the writers who were on the ships opposes the defense undertaken by those who did what they could to prevent the Israelis from killing more people.  In fact, all of those who mention this aspect of the incident believe that the actions of these individuals saved lives.

It is an established fact that this and other efforts to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza would not have been necessary if it were not for Tel Aviv’s intransigence and the silence of most of the rest of the world’s governments.  In a comparison to the struggles to end legal apartheid in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, US author Alice Walker reminds the reader that it was individuals acting as one and together that confronted the that immoral system when governments either did nothing or told the opponents of racial segregation that they should “go through proper channels” to accomplish their goals.  Indeed, when the US abolitionists demanded an end to slavery, they too were told to wait, to compromise because after all, one must be sensitive to those who might lose their property and their power.  If there is a message in this book, it is that the time for waiting is over.  The time for the bogus peace process to work and the patience demanded by those in power is past.  Those who have made it their mission to challenge the US-Israeli oppression of the Palestinians deserve the support of all those that oppose occupation, oppression and discrimination.

How to do this, then?  The best vehicle to challenge with the hope of ending not only the blockade of Gaza but also the process of the dehumanization of the Palestinians is to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement begun by a coalition of Palestinian activist organizations in 2005.  Like the international movement against racial apartheid in South Africa, the BDS proponents hope to force the government of Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian lands.  Not only do several of the writers appearing in this text support the movement, they champion it as perhaps the best means to effect the changes supporters of Palestine and opponents of Israel’s occupation have.

Midnight on the Mavi Marmara is a testament to the members of the flotilla that was attacked by Israel.  It is also a look at the nature of Israel’s treatment of Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinians that reside their.  Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it is a call to action.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.