Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Last Word: Friends Like These

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Jeremy Jones


Despite the report to the effect in the Sydney Morning Herald, the arrival on the Gaza shores of two boatloads of egotistical media-seekers did not bring about the “fall” of the “Gaza blockade”.

Further, the smiling face of a person who has little claim to fame beyond being the sister of the wife of a person who achieved great political heights stood in stark contrast to the sullen visages of the people in the background to the AFP photograph.

There is a possibility, however remote, that some of the passengers really did believe that strengthening Hamas, snubbing victims of terrorism and reinforcing anti-Israel extremism, and rejecting Israel’s offer to deliver the goods they claimed were so vital, would help the population of Gaza. However, such naïvete is hardly an excuse for their participation in yet another attempt by the misleadingly titled International Solidarity Movement to try to force Israel to defend its legitimate interests in a manner which would bring negative publicity.

While much of the public discussion of the journey by the motley collection of publicity seekers, veteran protesters, Hamas partisans and others was conducted on a superficial level, it is instructive to read some of the commentary by well-known pro-Hamas or anti-Israel bloggers.

One point of discussion was the cost of the exercise in strict dollar terms. As the day-trippers boasted of their self-sacrifice and personal donations while also soliciting financial support, hundreds of thousands of dollars were reportedly expended on the stunt. One blogger with a long history of pro-Palestinian activism noted that the money would have been much better expended if given to UN agencies, which she noted, are “allowed to bring in goods” to Gaza.

Other bloggers and observers noted that the Gazans waiting at the shore had been led to believe they would receive free food, but instead were bizarrely offered balloons and hearing aids.

A pro-Palestinian US activist was outraged that the passengers included Israelis, in case the mission be misunderstood as being about building better Israeli-Palestinian relations.

I have encountered countless Palestinians who, when reciting a litany of misfortune, include those “supporters” of their cause who have empowered and encouraged the sort of Palestinian leadership which had led them from one disaster to another.

Palestinians who recognised that the agendas of the PLO and Hamas were not concerned with nation-building as much as nation-destroying, were forever being frustrated by the people they turned to in the West for political and moral support, as self-declared liberals and socialists seemed infatuated with “revolution” and “liberation” over democracy or progress. These Palestinians have watched aghast as militantly leftist Europeans (and others) appear to have more affinity with the Hamas theocrats than with the political principles of freedom of thought and movement or social progress.

For the group to come as the guests and supporters of a quasi-fascist, authoritarian, theocratic organisation such as Hamas says a great deal about their own ideological bent.

As well as the moral and political cynicism of the voyagers, the timing of the episode also gave lie to any humanitarian intent.

With an average of one rocket fired from Gaza into southern Israel every three hours during the first four months of 2008, Hamas posed a current threat with the potential for doing more harm. Yet Israel, despite the lack of a complete cessation of the attacks, has negotiated a situation which has led to supplies of many types reaching Gaza in increased quantities.

More than 10,000 patients from Gaza received medical treatment in Israel during the first half of 2008, and 3,197 truckloads of goods entered Gaza from Israel in July 2008 alone.

Egypt, on the other hand, has kept its Gaza border sealed, but that was yet another fact ignored by the “Free Gaza” campaigners.

If the Free Gaza cohort cared one iota for Gazans, they would be working against, not with Hamas. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, their self-declared champions in the West care more about photo opportunities than changing lives for the better.

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