Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

28. People of conscience.

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Under heavy pressure from Israel, the government of Cyprus announced a few months ago that it would not allow any further humanitarian aid boats to embark to Gaza from its ports.

A couple of weeks ago, under heavy pressure from the US, the government of Turkey prevailed on the Turkish NGO Humanitarian Relief Organization to block the Mavi Marmara from sailing to Gaza.  This is the ship on which nine Turkish peace and human rights activists were murdered by Israeli commandoes in the first Freedom Flotilla a year ago.  After months of preparation, the official reason given for blocking the voyage is highly suspect: the ship still needs repairs.

Today in Athens, journalist Joseph Dana reported that a ‘private complaint’ had been filed by an anonymous party against one or more boats in the flotilla, declaring it or them not ’sea worthy,’ which would require further detailed inspection.  The harbor master in the port where the boat is docked has declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat is not permitted to leave.  Dana and lawyers associated with the flotilla are investigating.

At the same time, the US regime has gone even further than its Canadian counterpart in abdicating legal responsibility to protect its own citizens.  The State Department has actually threatened US citizens with “fines or incarceration” if they try to approach Gaza.  US officials also give implicit permission for Israel to “defend itself” — against non-violent Americans.

It is not Israel that’s threatened by the flotilla, it’s imperial power.

Today I watched a stunning documentary, The Nakba (part 1, and part 2).  It explores the forces that created the state of Israel, and the colonization of Palestine.  Though I consider myself reasonably well informed on the vital military, political and financial support that British and US governments have provided for the Zionist project, this meticulously researched documentary kept shocking me with one revelation after another about how the arrangement actually evolved.

From the beginning, Zionist leaders understood that Jews could only have a state of their own if they went directly to the top, in secret, and made an offer the imperial powers couldn’t refuse.

In the Our Way to Fight chapter on boycott, divestment and sanctions I wrote: “From the late nineteenth century to the present, the Zionist movement and the state it created have made themselves indispensable to western imperial power.  Never again would Jews be on the wrong side, the losing side of history.  In 1898, Zionist founder Theodor Herzl wrote in Der Judenstaat/The Jews’ State: ‘To Europe we would represent a part of the barrier against Asia; we would serve as the outpost of civilization against barbarism.’  Here was the offer that no self-respecting white supremacist empire could refuse.

“The same symbiotic arrangement is spectacularly evident today: the Obama regime drops all demands on Israel to stop the settlements, while handing over the next installment of US military aid; US and British authorities collaborate in blocking the Goldstone report on war crimes in the Gaza assault (having been reminded by Israeli officials that they too could face similar charges on Iraq and Afghanistan); the US and Europe impose sanctions to force Iran to quit developing nuclear power, while they continue to grant carte blanche to the Middle East’s only actual nuclear weapons holder, Israel.”  And now the US government threatens its own citizens on behalf of a foreign regime.

This is imperial power at work, top-down, a toxic brew of arrogance, deceit and brute force.  It is deeply, even mortally threatened by human endeavours like the Freedom Flotilla, in which people of conscience defy the status quo, think for themselves, and act with courage and compassion in the interests of humanity.

Preparing to embark on the Tahrir from a port in Greece, Robert Lovelace sent this update today:

“Well Friends, Saturday has come and gone here.  Today we worked through the last of the non-violence training.  Tomorrow we begin logistical preparations.  There is still not a final date for sailing but we are encouraged by the French boat leaving from France this morning.

“There are still threats and political coercion coming from Israel.  The official word from Israel is that the blockade will hold and the Israeli Defence Forces are training and on standby for an assault on Freedom Flotilla II.  We seem to be under regular surveillance here but spirits are strong and we are prepared to meet any boarding with peaceful resistance. Our delegates are a real cross section of men and women, young and old, from all walks of life.  We struggle away in five languages with respect for one another, laugh a lot, speak honestly and build on the “stay human” principles.

“The good news today was that the Danish Foreign Minister reversed his hard line and said that he hoped that “both sides would do the right thing”. If only Harper would recognize publicly that the blockade of Gaza is illegal or state that Israel will be held accountable for piracy, well I guess that is hoping too much.  Perhaps just to say that he was pleased to know that Canadian activists are working for peace and justice would be something.

“What is really important is that people of conscience, people in every part of Canada are supporting the Flotilla and day by day those numbers are growing.  People continue to tell me that they feel it is their obligation to get involved in the Peace process and that breaking the blockade of Gaza is the first step.  It is difficult for Palestinians to negotiate when they are held in the world’s largest concentration camp and the prison is only a remnant of their homeland.  It is much like Canada keeping Aboriginal people on reserves and refusing to recognize inherent indigenous relationships to the land.  We don’t have to wait for governments to get around to it.  It is something that we can do on our own if we work together for what we know is right.

More news tomorrow.  Take care, take notice, take action.

Bob Lovelace.”

Israeli journalist Amira Hass is also due to sail this week with the Canadian boat to Gaza.  Hear a fine interview with her on CBC Radio.

For an eloquent civil rights perspective, listen to writer Alice Walker explaining from Athens yesterday why she will be going to Gaza aboard the Audacity of Hope.

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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