Of Cowardice, Dignity, and Solidarity

I personally know over 80 of those kidnapped on the freedom
flotilla. It angers us not having any information from all survivors.
The only footage received after the vicious attack is brief and released
by the Israeli authorities who have otherwise put a complete news

I personally know over 80 of those kidnapped on the freedom
flotilla. It angers us not having any information from all survivors.
The only footage received after the vicious attack is brief and released
by the Israeli authorities who have otherwise put a complete news
blackout. If Israel has nothing to hide, why not allow the kidnapped to
talk to the media or at least to lawyers and to their country
representatives? In one video, we see three or four recognizable
friends escorted by the Israeli pirates; my mind imagines justice
prevailing and those Israeli criminals being led in handcuffs to
International criminal courts.

Our anger increased when Israeli forces
attacked unarmed demonstrators near Qalandia yesterday injuring a
friend. 22-year-old Emily Henochowicz lost her left eye after being hit
with an Israeli gas canister. We met Emily in several events here in
Palestine (see story and photos here). She is a visual artist who was documenting popular resistance (her art blog is here, Facebook page here). A visual
artist losing an eye is beyond words.

Each one of the hundreds abducted is a hero for joining the flotilla.
Patriarch Hilarion Capuchhi who was jailed in Israel for many years and
lived in Italy was one of the abductees. Sheikh Raed Salah, a
Palestinian from the areas occupied in 1948 who is head of a branch of
the Islamic movement. Hedy Epstein, a 86 year old Jewish women who lost
her family in Nazi concentration camps and subsequently came to
Palesttine and was shocked to see people claiming to represent Jews
mimic some Nazi crimes (and for this the Israelis strip-searched and
humiliated this elderly woman). There was Nobel peace laureate Mairead
Corrigan-Maguire. There is Joe Meadors, a survivor of the Israeli attack
on the USS Liberty (on a US ship in International waters that killed
many good Americans in June 1967 but that political considerations
buried this Israeli crime -- see survivor webpage https://www.usslibertyveterans.org/
). For Israel to repeat its atrocity against US citizens as the US
commemorates Memorial Day is unconscionable (see also https://www.freepalestinemovement.org
). For the Obama administration to continue to shield Israel from
International law makes us angry.

Those of us angry enough to get out and demonstrate here in the West
Bank have a problem. In Bethlehem, over 50 members of the "Palestinian
Preventive Security" (as they are called) and police blocked our path to
get to the apartheid wall area. We are told we can demonstrate as long
as we do not bother those we are demonstrating against! Over the past
few years, Palestinian authority heavily armed forces blocking roads had
an amazing psychological impact on Palestinians and Internationals. No
popular resistance can survive this. Popular resistance by definition
involves increasing the cost to the occupiers and acts of civil
resistance including disruptions. Popular resistance is not to be
reduced to standing at the sidewalk carrying a flag or a sign. They
involve daring and risky actions like the ones taken by the thousands of
us who mobilized for the freedom flotilla.

Elite 'leaders' in Ramallah and in other Arab cities gave the rhetoric
that they support the popular resistance as exemplified by the freedom
flotilla. But words are cheap and words spoken in public are not the
same as behind closed doors and in corridors of power. Even the
rhetoric is not consistent. A key Palestinian leader once stated that
such humanitarian boats to Gaza are stunts with no real impact. The
Palestinian leadership that promised us no negotiations until there is a
settlement freeze has engaged in negotiations while we see continued
settlement activities all around us both in East Jerusalem and in other
Parts of the West Bank. Instead of closing Israeli embassies in Arab
countries, they were heavily protected by Arab security forces from
demonstrators. Thus, it is not totally surprising that there was a
larger demonstration yesterday in Sweden (7,000 people) than in Ramallah
or Amman. But will this attack on the freedom flotilla be the straw
that breaks the camel's back? Will it mobilize actions or deter future

In looking at the geopolitical picture today, one can see trends that
give us despair and those that give us hope. The political leadership
in the fragmented Arab countries and Palestinian authority have
convinced themselves that they have no option but to endlessly try to
talk to politicians from Tel Aviv and Washington (the latter also
Israeli occupied territory) hoping for some 'gestures'. The Israeli
thieves who stole a whole country can flaunt international law
repeatedly and get away with it. We had a bloody 62 years stretching
from over 33 massacres in 1948, to slaughter of 'infiltrators'
(villagers trying to return home after the ethnic cleansing) in the
1950s, to massacres across borders (1956, 1970s, 1982, 2006), to the
slaughter in Gaza last year. Will Israel be held accountable? Will
Netenyahu, Barack, Livini and Olmert be brought before International
courts to pay for the massacres? Even according to a report from the
Zionist Judge Goldstone, the massacre in Gaza violated international

The larger atrocity this year is not the attack on these ships in
International waters and the kidnap of 750 peace activists. The larger
atrocity is the ongoing murderous siege/blockade on Gaza and the
methodical destruction of life for Palestinians in the occupied
territories. After the slaughter of 1400 in Gaza and thousands of homes
destroyed, there was intensification of the siege that prevented
rebuilding and other humanitarian supplies from reaching Gaza. Not able
to do so, some money destined for Gaza rebuilding was siphoned off for
elite Palestinians who claim to work for the people. Slowly Arab
Jerusalem is erased off the map. Villages around the city are squeezed
(some like Al-Walaja and Wadi Rahhal are targeted for complete ethnic
cleansing). What prevents its resolution base on justice to achieve a
durable peace is not only the Zionist war machine but the countries that
enable this. Turkey recalled its ambassador while Egypt and Jordan
kept theirs in Tel Aviv and Egypt shamelessly collaborates in blocking
Gaza at the order of Israel and the US administration.

For the sake of balance, the counter argument presented is that opening
the borders before reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will
strengthen Hamas and deepen the division between the Fatah dominated
West Bank and the Hamas dominated Gaza. To answer this I can only say
that collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians is wrong and
unacceptable on all grounds: moral, ethical, and legal. It constitutes a
war crime and a crime against humanity. But even on strictly
utilitarian grounds for those who do not like Hamas ideology, what is
happening is only strengthening Hamas (which also profits from the
tunnel trade with the support of Egyptian elites in Sinai). But Hamas
and Hizballah and Turkey and others seem far more responsive to the
anger felt in the streets at the endless capitulation to murder and
ethnic cleansing. We may disagree with their ideologies but I know many
of my own family members who are Christian who cheer at the speech of
Hassan Nasrallah (Hizballah leader).

Fatah and Hamas need to let go of
the trap set for them in Oslo and both dissolve their 'governments' (the
quotes are deserved) and go back to being resistance movements. And
that which does so first will be more respected among the Palestinian
people. There can never be a government under occupation that is not
tied in the service of the occupiers (unlike resistance movements, if
they step out of line, they have fixed addresses). I wonder also what
would happen if secular or non-democratic leaders like Hosni Mubarak or
King Abdullah would get the courage to take positions based on
principles and not (mis)calculations of US and Israeli imperial powers
as omnipotent. My thought is that the US is finished as a superpower
(thanks to it being bled dry by the Israel lobby dragging it into
endless wars). I know most politicians like to feel 100% safe (mostly
for their position of power) and are afraid of any change. But I wish
they would realize that daring politicians make the history books and
those who hang around trying to protect their seats will be
forgotten. Cowardice is never a virtue.

Palestine brings the best in people who have dignity and self respect
and brings the worst in others who have tribalism and greed coursing
through their veins. There was more dignity in any minute of the short
life by Rachel Corrie who stood in front of the Bulldozer in Rafah and
lost her life than is represented in lifetimes of by kings, prime
ministers, and presidents. There was more dignity in the bloody T-shirt
of Basem Abu Rahma when he was shot and killed with a gas canister in
Bil'in than among all the palaces of rulers who gather in an Arab
summit. And the dignity of one drop of blood shed in the Mediterranean
is more than exhibited at the UN Security Council last night. Citizens
of Greece and Turkey joined together in the freedom flotilla ships and
in the Israeli detention centers. Zionists were out saying there is no
humanitarian crisis in Gaza and politicians behind closed doors are
trying to limit the damage to their reputation instead of asking
themselves questions about their direction in life!

If humanity survives the next 100 years it will have been because of
those who act with dignity/self respect instead of cowardice and
self-interest. Lessons in dignity from those like Rachel, Basem and the
freedom flotilla will be required study in the new people's history
books, which I am sure will be very different than those we have in
schools today. It is thus fitting that one of the freedom ships now
kidnapped by the pirate navy was named 'the Rachel Corrie'. As I wrote
in a number of articles, I am optimistic despite the challenges. Why:
because of Basem, Rachel (the person and the Ship), the thousands of
martyrs who sacrificed their lives for freedom and justice, tens of
thousands injured, the millions around the world in solidarity, and most
of all those Palestinians and other Arabs who have not sold their souls
and who maintain the faith in the justice of this cause. In the
demonstrations yesterday, a child in Gaza was carrying a sign that says
'we demand freedom' and a child in Cairo that says 'children in Egypt
and in Gaza want the siege lifted'. That is our future -- not elderly
politicians meeting to do media damage control with empty words. Even as
we mourn the martyrs, humanity won another victory yesterday.

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