By Richard Lightbown
Checking the coverage of the assault on the ‘Dignité al Karama’ in the Jerusalem Post yesterday I was attracted to another article entitled ‘Another Flotilla Stand-off. The Audacity of Hate’. The link led me to a piece that was thin on factual content but rich on malicious abuse of the flotilla organizers. There was nothing unsurprising that such a rant should appear in this particular newspaper, except that the author this time was the Palestinian award-winning columnist and activist Ray Hanania. May God protect me from my friends?
Hanania must have had better days when he wrote his award-winning pieces because in this article he has clearly lost the plot. He writes repeatedly of Palestinian activists when all the Free Gaza voyages have been international initiatives organized by people of many nations. He claims the intervention of the Greek government is proof that there is no increasing support for the flotilla from other nations, apparently unaware that the Greek government (against the wishes of the majority of its people) is looking for a bailout from the IMF, which is largely financed by American money. He calls the activists “dishonest” (and their agenda “extremist”) for saying they want to help the people of Gaza. Instead he claims they are exploiting Palestinian suffering as a political tool while rejecting Israel’s right to exist. (He does not bother to say which Zionist blog he found this on. It certainly does not appear on the Free Gaza Movement’s site, nor will he find a genuine quote from a member of the Movement to back up this libel.)
Elsewhere the article states that “the only thing [the flotilla vessels] have broken is peace”, as though the author is one of the few people on this planet to be unaware that the Israel-Palestine peace process is no longer extant. Peace also requires that people have human rights and are allowed to live in dignity. Israeli government policies are responsible for nearly one person in five in the Gaza Strip living in abject poverty and facing even worse hardship as UNRWA tries to cope with a financial crisis caused by a shortfall in donor funding. Gaza’s Ministry of Health has announced that the medical service is in a state of crisis. (Personal testimony on the conscious damage caused by the siege was given directly to the Turkel Commission by members of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and appeared in that Commission’s protocols but not in their report.) Gisha reports that all exports from Gaza have been prevented since 26 June, inflicting further damage on Gaza’s devastated economy. Palestinians in Gaza face a dire future and yet one of their own people living in the comfort of the U.S. tells his Israeli readership that those risking their lives to expose and stop this crime against humanity are “exploiting Palestinian suffering as a political tool”, that they “make […] phony arguments to make Israel look bad” and “the purpose of the flotillas is to express their own selfish hatred of Israel”.
The Mission is indeed about the rights of the Palestinian people. In making four successful voyages to Gaza in 2008 the 50-tonne MV ‘Dignity’ took in medical aid and high protein baby milk formula; parliamentarians touring Gaza facilities and a British surgeon returning to work in the Gazan hospitals, all of whom had been denied entry at the land crossings; two British professors assessing the impact of the siege on education; envoys from a Qatari charity seeking to establish future partnerships between Qatar and Gaza, along with various journalists and human rights workers. On returning the vessel brought out eleven students who had places at universities abroad but had been denied exit by the siege and an elderly couple of whom the husband had suffered a stroke in 2007 but had been refused passage for treatment by both Israel and Egypt.
Had this gallant motor cruiser not been attacked and nearly sunk by Israeli gunboats at night, out of sight of land, in winds force 4 to 5 with a three metre sea, it would doubtless still be seeking to serve the human rights of common people of Gaza. Yet from these humanitarian actions the Jerusalem Post correspondent has deduced “…these activists oppose the peace process and the creation of two states. They reject the secular government in Palestine, and have fought against it politically. They support Hamas, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state.”
Mr Hanania’s solution to this threat to the Jewish state is for Greece to confiscate the supplies (under which article of international law he does not state) and deliver them to Gaza by the existing routes. That some of the supplies from last year’s flotilla are reported to have been dumped in a landfill site in the Negev may have escaped him. If he knows whether the thousands of tons of building materials on the ‘Rachel Corrie’ ever reached Gaza I would be very keen to know his sources. Because I have no knowledge of this having happened, despite sending enquiring emails to UNSCO, the UN agency entrusted with overseeing their arrival in Gaza. Perhaps he can also explain why brigands in one of the most immoral armies in the world stole many thousands of pounds in cash that was destined for charitable causes in Gaza. The fate of the 2005 Crossings Agreement between Israel and Palestine would suggest that trusting the word of an Israeli government to deliver goods to Gaza is the height of naivety, as most Palestinian activists are probably aware.
The article ends by saying “Most Palestinians and Israelis want a genuine peace. But we’re tired of the repeated failures of leaders who continue to sail on a political flotilla that can be more appropriately called the ‘Audacity of Hate’”. When writing this the author should have been aware that Benjamin Netanyahu had expressed similar sentiments just over a year previously when he had said of the ‘Rachel Corrie’, “this is not a love boat but a hate boat”. But as Cool Hand Luke said so succinctly to a fellow convict who was explaining why the vicious prison system was correct in punishing a new inmate for collapsing from heat exhaustion: “Those poor bosses need all the help they can get”.
– Richard Lightbown is a researcher and writer. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.