Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gaza Aid Flotilla: Media tries to define good vs. bad activists

Consider the following two excerpts. See a related IS post here. My further comments at the bottom.

When did resistance become a dirty word?
PulseMedia, June 6, 2010

"It’s time we stopped playing this game. To recognise Israel’s ‘right’ to exist in security is to deny Palestine’s right to exist in security. No state which occupies other states’ territories has a right to security. Did Hitler’s Germany have a right to security once it had invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland? And apartheid states don’t have a right to exist at all. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about this, just as there was nothing anti-white or anti-Afrikaaner in arguing that apartheid South Africa didn’t have a right to exist. A state established by massive ethnic cleansing and perpetuated by occupation and repeated massacres is not a normal state like any other. Israel will earn its right to exist when it allows the refugees to return home and when Jews, Muslims and Christians enjoy equal rights."

"As for the brave passengers on the MV Rachel Corrie, I wish they had not said, “we will not resist.” I wish they had said, “We are unarmed and we have no desire to come to blows with Israeli soldiers. However, if we are hijacked by armed men in international waters or near the shore of Gaza – over which we do not recognise Israeli jurisdiction – we will resist as best we are able.” Unwittingly, the activists handed Israel ammunition for its propaganda – ‘when civilised, peaceful activists arrive we deal with them peacefully. When mad Islamist Turks attack us with sticks when we board their ship, we have no choice but to shoot them many times at close range in the back of the head.’

The passengers on the Mavi Marmara should be congratulated for resisting piracy and the illegal, barbaric siege. We should never be ashamed of resistance – in occupied Europe, in South Africa, in Iraq, in Vietnam, in Palestine, in Lebanon, or on the Mediterranean sea. Resistance is beautiful. Resistance proves the existence of the human spirit amid a vast sea of inhumanity."

I had a similar first reaction at the brave people on the Rachel Corrie (who were in fact involved in an act of 'resistance' but who chose their rhetoric unwisely. See here). But I also think that the wrong play of rhetoric was more a result of media twist, which de-emphasized the context of Israeli aggression and shifted the focus on the use of aggressive ("bad") vs. non-aggressive ("good") forms of resistance. It is a distraction to get into that debate in this case. I was very disappointed when I read the following story on Dawn. Pathetic, wherever they copied that story from. Pathetic, that they did not bother to read the underlying framing of Good vs. Bad Activists. Notice also the use of the verb "board" which dilutes the nature of Israeli aggression; it was an act of PIRACY and violation of international laws, to say the least, considering that the ships were in international waters.

Israeli forces board Gaza-bound aid vessel
Dawn, June 5, 2010

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces seized a Gaza-bound aid vessel without meeting resistance on Saturday, preventing it from breaking an Israeli maritime blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory days after a similar effort turned bloody.

The military said its forces boarded the 1,200-ton Rachel Corrie cargo ship from the sea, not helicopters.

The takeover stood in marked contrast to a violent confrontation at sea earlier this week when Israeli commandos blocked a Turkish aid vessel trying to break the blockade. At the time, Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters and a clash with passengers left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich says Saturday's takeover took only a few minutes and that the vessel was being taken to Israel's Ashdod port.

The Irish ship - named for an American college student who was crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza - was carrying hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.

The standoff has raised international pressure on Israel to lift the three-year-old blockade that has plunged the territory's 1.5 million residents deeper into poverty.

Activists on board the boat, including Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan, had said they wouldn't resist if Israeli soldiers tried to take over their vessel.

This latest attempt to breach the blockade differs significantly from the flotilla the Israeli troops intercepted on Monday, killing eight Turks and a Turkish-American after being set upon by a group of activists.

Nearly 700 activists had joined that operation, most of them aboard the lead boat from Turkey that was the scene of the violence.

That boat, the Mavi Marmara, was sponsored by an Islamic aid group from Turkey, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief. Israel outlawed the group, known by its Turkish acronym IHH, in 2008 because of alleged ties to Hamas. The group is not on the US State Department list of terror organizations, however.

By contrast, the Rachel Corrie was carrying just 11 passengers from Ireland and Malaysia, whose effort was mainly sponsored by the Free Gaza movement, a Cyprus-based group that has renounced violence. Nine crew were also on board.

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