A group of international peace activists including Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans, and others will set sail imminently in two sailing vessels from Cyprus, their destination being Gaza (AP says the sailing date is Friday or Saturday though the website says the ships sailed on August 5th). Their goal is to “run” the Israeli naval blockade and deliver several tons of medical supplies to a community under siege by the Israeli military. Of course, they will eventually be turned away by Israeli ships. But that’s not the point. The point is that the world sits by while Gazans suffer under Israel’s stranglehold. Even the Israeli peace movement is strangely impotent. Israeli journalists are no longer even allowed to report from Gaza which causes the suffering there to recede from the nation’s consciousness.
As with my support for Seattle’s I-97 divestment initiative, these forms of protest might not be my personal first choice as a political organizer. But who am I to complain? The Free Gaza Movement is doing something, by God. And if the world wants to complain about a ragtag group of peaceniks sailing a ship into a firestorm, well then let them come up with something better to dramatize the tragedy of the Gaza siege. Until they do, I applaud the FGM.
The pro-Israel militant community is up in arms about the sailing. A nationalist legal group, Shurat Ha-Din, known for suing Arab banks wily-nily for allegedly financing terrorism, has taken up the cudgels against the FGM. It claims that the peace group, by attempting to break the Israeli blockade is engaging in an act that is “hostile” to Israel. As such, they claim that the group’s U.S. supporters are violating the Neutrality Act, which bars citizens from prosecuting hostile actions against a government with which the U.S. is at peace.
Shurat Ha-Din neglects to explain why sailing a boat to Gaza is an act of war against Israel since the latter withdrew its forces several years ago. As Israel has no territorial claim on Gaza and it is not part of Israel, it’s hard to understand how these boats will engage in a hostile act against it.
They also claim, possibly in an attempt to bolster the claim of hostile intent, that the ships may be carrying weapons:
Based on prior experience, serious concerns that the boats will be carrying weapons, explosives and contraband have been raised by security experts.
Wingnuts such as these never provide proof of their charges so you’ll never find out what “prior experience” led them to conclude weapons would be aboard the boats, nor will we every know which “security experts” raised “serious concerns” about peace activists providing weapons for Hamas.
The group, without any proof, claims that the Carter Center has provided funding for the project. Invoking Jimmy Carter is always good for evoking a few geshreis from the militant pro-Israel crowd. It also attempts to give the impression that the project is directly affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement:
The boats are reportedly leaving Piraeus, Greece with ISM members on board…
It’s also rather laughable that Shurat Ha-Din writes a letter to Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, notifying him of an alleged violation of a federal law in his jurisdiction. Someone should provide them a tutorial in U.S. constitutional law and explain that a state official is not responsible for, nor has jurisdiction over enforcement of federal law.
My good friend and peace ally, Shammai Leibowitz, who has defended human rights cases in Israel, has tangled with the legal brains behind this outfit, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. He writes of her:
She’s a known right-wing lawyer, and a provocateur-cum-media-darling who enjoys harassing and intimidating human rights activists, and actually makes a living off doing that. I’ve had the privilege of fighting her in court, and she’s as fire-and-brimstone as they get.
Her letter is so full of crap that it causes me to think its only purpose is to attract media attention. I believe that’s exactly what FGM needs right now, don’t you think? They would do well to publicize this, with a resounding rejoinder, of course, and saying we are proudly abiding by internaional treaties…
Shurat Ha-Din is also known for organizing Israel Missions during which participants are given the royal treatment by Israel’s intelligence apparatus:
* Briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet.
* Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
* Inside tour of the IAF unit who [sic] carries out targeted killings.
* Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
* Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
* First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points.
* Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
* Meeting Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
* Briefing by Israel’s war heros [sic] who saved the country.
* Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
Wingnut opponents like this make FGM look good by comparison. To donate in support of the Gaza journey, please visit the FGM site.