The Gaza Flotilla: Fear of Unscripted Non-Violent Action
Israel and its international operatives are working overtime to stop the 10-ship Gaza flotilla from leaving Athens. The Audacity Of Hope, with 40 Americans on board, tried to leave the harbor Friday only to be chased down and threatened by an armed Greek Coast Guard boat and forced to return to a dock. Trumped-up charges may be brought against the captain of the boat. Greece is now prohibiting all boats from leaving. Another boat had a propeller shaft cut and a third was equally disabled by some kind of sabotage. Others have suddenly been plagued with questions about their insurance or their seaworthiness. Israel has openly threatened to bar news organizations with reporters onboard a flotilla boat from entering Israel for ten years. The US government has made vague threats that it might charge US citizens in the flotilla with something.
No one has ever accused the Israelis of not being clever in the international dark arts, and this affair proves they are good at making things not happen. To fill out the scene, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested she’s just fine with the Israeli government boarding and, if necessary, violently stopping the ships from reaching port in Gaza. That is, if they get out of the port of Athens. As one wag on board a flotilla boat put it, "The Gaza blockade is now in Athens."
Ms. Clinton says she does not believe the flotilla “is a necessary or useful effort to assist the people of Gaza.” This is sadly not the first time a western power has parentally decided what is good, or not good, for people in that part of the world. In fact, it’s that kind of parental, we-know-best decision-making that led to 30 years of US support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Ms. Clinton also declared that the flotilla plan would be provocative for “entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”
Besides being an obvious statement – the point of the flotilla is to be provocative -- her statement amounts to a diplomatic blunt instrument, since the specific question being addressed by the non-violent flotilla’s civil disobedience is exactly who should control the waters off the coast of Gaza. The whole motivation for the flotilla is to make it clear the Israelis do not “have the right to defend themselves” against peaceful ships entering Palestinian waters. In fact, one can argue the idea of “self-defense” on the part of Israel in this context is provocative in its own right.