Sometime this month a flotilla of ships, small & not so small, will depart from Turkey and head for Gaza port: a freighter has already left from Ireland. One of the vessels is named ‘Rachel Corrie’, after the peace campaigner who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer.  These voyages, by the Free Gaza movement, began in 2008; but since the first successes have been met by increasing violence by Israel.  It is surprising that no lives have been lost so far.

Three overland convoys have been to Gaza, with limited success due to the efforts of Israel and Egypt to prevent aid getting through.  What is the military value of these convoys?  Cement can be used for building defences, although it is reasonable to assume that, if the women and children have any say in the matter, the building of homes, schools, and clinics would be the priority; but what can be the military use of clothes, toys, paper & pencils, and medical supplies?

The blockade is justified, by Israel & the West (USA, UK, Europe) on the grounds that Gaza is controlled by a terrorist organisation. With international encouragement Hamas  engaged in the democratic process,  and won. That’s one of the dangers of democracy. So if, and God forbid, the BNP turn out winners on Thursday can I take it as a precedent and boycott UK?  Hamas is presumed to be the problem, the obstacle to peace. So it’s surely important to ask what was the obstacle to peace before 1988 (when Hamas was formed in the aftermath of the first ‘intifada’.)

Listen to the voices within: of Avigail Abarbanal, an Israeli psychotherapist who describes his society as ‘insane’ , or Rami Elhanan, whose daughter was murdered in a suicide attack in 1997, and who believes “she was murdered because we were not wise enough to preserve her safety in …… the only correct and possible way – the way of peace and reconciliation.”  (from Palestine Chronicle).

Does the boycott damage Hamas?  Quite the opposite: in the eyes of many of the Arab & Islamic nations Hamas are heroes because they have taken on the mighty West. Any mistakes they make are blamed on the boycott. In the meantime many of the 1.5 million Gaza residents suffer in ways we can barely imagine.

So, here’s the challenge. I am praying that the convoy will get through. They will be in international waters outside Israel’s jurisdiction. Any act that endangers life is an act of piracy or State terrorism. We should be telling our government, whoever they turn out to be, to guarantee the safety of the convoy. And we should be explaining to Israel that any act of aggression must inevitably lead to sanctions, and possibly criminal charges.  It is what we have done with North Korea, with Iran; what we did with Iraq, what we are doing with Zimbabwe. If ‘sanctions don’t work’, why are we still using them in these other situations.  Is it because Israel is ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’?    more on that later…

By Dan Lieberman

A question continually asked: Why has peace in the Middle East not been attainable? Clues to the answer are shunted from biased minds but are revealed in the Lebanese and Gaza conflagrations. They come from asking another question. Why did Israel react strongly to tit-for-tat skirmishes that had occurred for years, and in its reaction destroy huge infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, and kill, maim and impoverish entire populations, while knowing that retaliation would kill and wound its own population?

Let‘s not leave it there. Despite the extensive attacks and casualties in both military actions, Israel did not succeed in its stated objectives. Israel claimed that an obligation to free its captured soldiers prompted the invasion of Lebanon. Halting intermittent rocket attacks on its soil stimulated the military action into Gaza. Despite the two battles, the captured Israeli soldiers were never freed and rockets still occasionally hit Israel soil. Reports have 1191 dead Lebanese and 4409 injured; 43 dead Israeli civilians and 33 seriously wounded during the Lebanon hostilities. In the course of the Gaza hostilities, Palestinian total deaths amounted to 1400; Israeli dead were only 13.

No Israeli objectives met by the two conflagrations except death and mayhem. Why were the attacks done? Who is responsible for the death and destruction; is it the contributors to tit-for-tat minor skirmishes, or the party that escalated the skirmishes to include vast parts of the civilian populations?

Can the political strategists, Middle East pundits and others who cling to the worn-out descriptions of Israel the victim, Israel rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel the “special relationship,” Israel the protector of the Jewish people, and Israel above all, resolve the crisis or will they only continue to endanger the world? The path to acquiring peace in the Middle East demands a realistic and revised outlook of Israel. Two Israelis separately provide the answer; each writes independently and without the knowledge of the other. They indicate why peace has not occurred:

My name is Avigail Abarbanel. I am a psychotherapist/counsellor.

I was born in Israel and have lived there for 27 years. I also served in the military. The Israel I am describing is the one I grew up in and the one where my entire family still lives.

I am trying to explain to people why Israel does what it does. I am asked by many Palestinians, ‘why?’ I want to show the world that Israel is in fact an insane country and that you can’t sit and wait for its leaders to stop what they are doing out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s never going to happen because they are so single-minded and completely fixed about what they are trying to achieve. Action must be taken to coerce Israel to stop the occupation as a start and then become a proper democratic state for everyone there and for any Palestinian refugee or descendant of refugees who would like to return.

Even if the land of Palestine was empty of inhabitants and Israel did not have to commit ethnic cleansing in order to create itself, I still think it would have been an unhealthy country. The Palestinians are suffering an ongoing genocide for the banal and horribly simple reason that Israel is seeing them and always has seen them as ‘being in the way’. There is plenty of documented evidence for this going right back to records of the Zionist movement.

I also want to say that no matter which side of Jewish-Israeli politics people belong to, they all believe that they are in danger and that the only place they can be safe is Israel. Do you happen to read Hebrew? If you do, you would find it probably very interesting to read through the Israeli newspapers, particularly the popular tabloids, which are read by the vast majority there. They are pretty disgusting but I try to read them for research purposes… It’s also worthwhile watching Israeli TV (also absolutely awful), which you can do online if you want to get a feel of their culture. Israeli culture is obsessed with fears for its own annihilation. There is no end to how much this is mentioned at every level of society. Israeli institutions and the media expend a great deal of effort looking for expressions of anti-Semitism around the world and reporting about them widely, as a way of telling themselves that Jews everywhere are still in danger of annihilation. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism, or hatred of Jews as perceived by Israeli Jews, is the raison d’être for Israel.

I think Israel is like a cult that happened to get its own country. It really is bizarre. It took a long time for me to free myself from the strange belief system I grew up with and the way I used to see the world. (25 April 2010)

My name is Rami Elhanan. I am a 54-year-old graphic designer by trade.

My family roots in Jerusalem date back seven generations. My father is an Auschwitz survivor who came to Palestine from Hungary in 1946. He fought in the 1948 war and was severely wounded. My mother, born in the Old City of Jerusalem, was the nurse who attended to him.

Thirteen years ago, on the afternoon of Thursday the fourth of September 1997, I lost my daughter, my Smadar, in a suicide attack on Ben-Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. A beautiful sweet joyous 14 year old girl, my Smadar was the granddaughter of the militants for peace, General (Ret.) Matti Peled, one of those who made the breakthrough to Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. And she was murdered because we were not wise enough to preserve her safety in Matti’s way, the only correct and possible way – the way of peace and reconciliation.

I do not need a Remembrance Day in order to remember Smadari. I remember her all the time, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 60 seconds a minute. Without a pause, without a rest, for 13 long and accursed years now, and time does not heal the wound, and the unbearable lightness of continuing to exist remains a strange and unsolved riddle…

But Israeli society very much needs Remembrance Days. From year to year, like clockwork, in the week after Passover, it is drawn into the annual ritual: from Holocaust to the Rebirth of the nation, a sea of ceremonies, sirens and songs – an entire people is swept into a whirlpool of addictive sweet sorrow, eyes tearful and shrouded; mutual embraces accompanied by “Occupation songs” and sickle and sword songs against the background of images of lives that were cut short and heart-rending stories … and it is hard to avoid the feeling that this refined concentration of bereavement, fed directly into the vein, is intended to fortify our feeling of victimhood, the justice of our path and our struggle, to remind us of our catastrophes, which God forbid we should forget for a single moment. This is the choice of our lives – to be armed and ready, strong and resolute, lest the sword fall from our grasp and our lives be cut short.

… I was a pure product of a cultural-educational and political system that brainwashed me, poisoned my consciousness and prepared me and others of my generation for sacrifice on the altar of the homeland, without any superfluous questions, in the innocent belief that if we did not do it, they would throw us – the second generation after the Holocaust – into the Mediterranean Sea. (18 April 2010)

(Rami Elehan’s entire speech can be found here.)

– Dan Lieberman is editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: alternativeinsight@earthlink.net.

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