48 hours on…

by tobybee

we’re not the type of blog that brings you up-to-date information, so presumably (like me), you’ve been looking elsewhere for coverage and commentary on the attacking of the flotilla. people on facebook and twitter have been constantly providing important information, videos, and ideas. so, to begin with, here’s a small sample of things to read/watch:

first reports from protestors on the flotilla, published in the guardian here and here
a great piece by Gideon Levy in Haaretz
footage of Naomi Klein speaking at a rally in Toronto
statement by J Street
statement by the AJDS
a piece by Joan Nestle (who spoke beautifully at the rally in Melbourne last night)
Glenn Greenwald talking with Elliot Spitzer
and mondoweiss and ibn ezra on twitter, who are providing regular streams of ideas and links.

What has been interesting over this last nearly 48 hours, is watching people respond. and i’ve been surprised. when i first heard the news it didn’t occur to me that there would be people who would defend israel’s actions. it seemed clear-cut: you don’t storm a boat and kill people in international waters. simple. and i stayed up til 2am reading, trying to find information, chatting online to friends overseas. at one point in the evening it hit me that what we were talking about here was an army storming a boat; and that on a boat you have nowhere to go. and that it happened at 4.30am, in the dark. and that that must have been truly terrifying for some people on board.

as Salman Rushdie simply stated, “The initial response is that it would be much better not to start shooting people”.

and then i awoke to friends saying that when the protestors were violent towards the soldiers, the soldiers had the right to defend themselves. as though the soldiers coming onto the boats was not a prior act of violence. and there seemed to be this unshakeable belief in the footage that people were watching – that the soldiers rappelled down onto the boats and were instantly met with sticks. rather than an understanding that this was footage presented by one side, and that maybe, once we heard from the protestors (who had been prevented from speaking), we would learn a different story. and then we would have competing narratives, and it would be up to our own individual politics and ideologies to decide who we believed.

and i’ve watched as people write on facebook, suggesting that the army merely went onto the boats to check for weapons; or responding in an aggressively hyper-masculinist way, that they would have gone out and killed everyone on board if they were the israeli army, that the israeli army did exactly the right thing by responding with such force; or posting different ideas every few hours, as they vascillate, struggling with their left-leaning, humanitarian politics, and their zionism. or, another response, of being excited about the idea of being in israel in a couple of weeks, and being able to have a holiday there, and do banal, holiday things – perhaps, in the end, this is the way that lefty zionists can respond to such an event – by turning away and not really dealing with what has been done.

and, of course, i’ve watched as people share critiques and links, engage in heartbreaking, open and honest discussions, and speak in terms of sadness, anger and solidarity. and there has been a sense of a transnational community being formed, of people uniting in outrage and resilience.

people get distracted by the minutiae, trying to distract others with suggestions that the people on the boats were terrorists, that they were carrying weapons, that the blockade is a good thing, that the soldiers have some right to defend themselves in whatever way they deem appropriate, that people in the diaspora are not allowed to have an opinion. and it’s interesting talking to friends, and seeing how we turn slightly more conservative, turning to principles of international law to defend our position; or listening to people talk of israel as a terrorist state, thereby conforming to the discourse set by the conservative hegemony of “terrorist” as the biggest slander to throw at someone/something. what has happened is corrupting, I suppose.

and there’s this rush to blame the government and let the soldiers off, as though the soldiers didn’t make a decision, and make that decision over and over, to be a part of that army (because yes, people always refuse to go, and there are always soldiers who refuse to follow orders, and i’m not convinced that every soldier in the israeli army is reluctant to do their job- i think that a great many believe in it. and i condemn that). but i think that yes, we need to blame the government: for the lies that they tell, for the blockade they maintain, for the deaths they cause.

there’s so much more to say.

i’ll end with the words that Joan Nestle ended her post with: “I write from a Jewish heart, Israel is my concern, my burden, my shame–and activism in the face of the brutalities of a mad State is my Jewish heritage.”