The Free Gaza Flotilla

Another Gaza flotilla is forming up in the Mediterranean, and the Israeli authorities are trying every possible avenue to stop it—from pressuring the companies that insure boats to lawsuits to threats of violence against its passengers.

Why is the flotilla needed?  Hasn’t Egypt opened the Rafah border?

One of the frustrations around the issue of Palestine is how often what governments say diverges from what they do.  Israel says it has relaxed controls on goods and foodstuffs and necessities of life entering Gaza—what actually happens is that a few more brands of cookies get in but materials necessary to rebuild the four hundred homes and eighty public buildings destroyed in Israel’s military assault of 2008-9 are still kept out.  Egypt says the border is open—but trying to get in or out is still an ordeal and decisions are quite arbitrary and unpredictable as to whether a student succeeds in leaving to pursue her education or whether a sick child is able to leave to get medical care.  Read Ramzy Baroud’s account on Counterpunch:

What is the flotilla bringing that so scares the Israeli authorities?  Medical supplies, cement for rebuilding, an ambulance and a mobile hospital—the cargo is checked and rechecked and certified and the passengers are committed to nonviolence.  No, it’s not really the cargo that’s a threat, it’s something else the flotilla brings—light.  By openly challenging the blockade, the flotilla makes visible the prison walls that surround Gaza and shine the light of truth on the complicity of the United States and international community in allowing the Israeli authorities to continually violate international law by imposing a collective punishment on an entire people.

When I was a child growing up in the ‘50s, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, my family would respond to every world event by asking, “Is it good for the Jews?”

I’m now a Pagan and a priestess of the Goddess, so perhaps I’m not the best person to answer that question.  However, more and more Jews inside and outside of Israel are disavowing Israel’s policies.  Gideon Levy, a columnist for the major Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, writes of “the terrible international damage Israel inflicts upon itself as a result of its violent behavior. How simple (and just ) it would be to allow these well-intentioned people to reach their goal; in contrast, how idiotic, violent and unnecessary it would be to release the commandos once again, to go after them.”

Rabbis from Tikkun’s Michael Lerner to Rabbis for Human Rights, organizations that include Jewish Voice for Peace, J-Street, Jews for Justice for Palestine and many more, have all spoken out for the human rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis.  Many of the passengers and organizers of the flotilla are Jews.

As for me, I believe anyone whom Hitler would have killed as a Jew is still a Jew, and I was raised with some core Jewish values I still hold dear and that inform my approach to Pagan spirituality and all of my actions.

The first is that real religion is rooted in justice.  And justice is uncomfortable.  True justice is not blind—it means facing those truths we often don’t want to see.

The second is that the role of religion is not to comfort but to prod.  True prophets do not congratulate us on our righteousness but rather point out our hypocrisies and challenge us to peer through our blind spots.  They call us to account.

The third is that the divine transcends tribe and nations, that justice is for all, not ‘just us’.

The Israeli response to Gaza, the irate comments, the lawsuits, the near-hysteria in the face of the flotilla is predicated on an inability or unwillingness to see the people of Gaza and the Palestinian people as a whole as human beings, invested with human rights, beloved by God/Goddess or whatever you call the great creative spirit of the universe, and possessed of the full spectrum of human differences.  Just like any other people, they include good ones and bad ones, the compassionate and the cruel, the peaceful and the violent, the innocent and the corrupt.

More and more, Israeli policy equates ‘Palestinian’ with ‘terrorist’.  It sees acknowledges no differences, and treats anyone who speaks for the human rights of Palestinian people as if they were aiding terrorism.  But such a policy cannot bring about real security for Israel.  Not only is it morally wrong, it’s stupid.  By erasing the real diversity that exists within the Palestinian community, it locks Israel into rigid, ham-fisted policies that engender more rage and hatred and lose the respect of people of good will around the world.

A strategic policy would recognize those differences, work with them, forge alliances and shift conditions to favor peace.  A moral policy would make Israel look good by actually doing good, not by making cosmetic changes on the face of the same old policies.  Instead, Israeli authorities attempt to look good by aggressively defending the prejudices embodied in their policies, by manipulating media and screaming that all critics are enemies.  That’s not good for Israel.

By calling for justice, by shining a light on the continued abuses in Gaza, the Free Gaza Flotilla is acting prophetically.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable.  There’s no greater discomfort for people who see themselves as good than to face the pain and abuse their own actions have caused.  It hurts, it stings—our natural reaction is to yell and scream and silence the accusers.  But if we do, we lose all chance of truly deepening our humanity and living in accord with our integrity.  That’s not good for the Jews, or for anyone.

It’s long past time to end the siege of Gaza, to allow children to receive medicine, students to pursue their education, families to rebuild their homes.  That’s the path of righteousness and the path of peace.  The Gaza flotilla is courageously showing the way.  For information on how to support the flotilla, see:

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