You recently wrote an essay, “Why I’m Sailing to Gaza,” in which you tried to defend the indefensible; namely, your intention to violate international law by attempting to penetrate Israel’s legal blockade of Gaza, purportedly for the purpose of delivering aid to the suffering Gazans—although in this case the aid was only a cache of letters of solidarity and the true purpose of your voyage is a misguided, self-aggrandizing incitement designed to ultimately reflect badly on Israel.
You are a writer and know that words are important and can be powerful, but you are best known for your works of fiction and evidently have failed to come to grips with the facts, the historical realities of the Israeli/Arab conflict. Your obsession with exculpating the Arabs from any responsibility for their condition and statelessness, and your habit of singularly condemning Israel for all the defects in the region, is disingenuously framed with your fatuous comparisons between the conditions in Gaza and those experienced by blacks in the Jim Crow south. While you give some credit to two “good” Jews, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who you have to admit put themselves at risk by participating in, and dying for, the American civil rights struggle in the 1960s, you and your fellow activists regularly try to frame the Palestinian issue in the context of race, with Israel as a racist regime that humiliates, segregates, and discriminates against hapless, victimized Arabs on racial grounds, in your contorted view a system equivalent to apartheid. The “good Jews” of the civil rights era, you insinuate, have been replaced by the “bad Jews” of the brutal, colonial, occupying Israel.
You ignore, of course, the reality that citizens of Israel are not all white, that some Israelis have skin darker than yours. More importantly, Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, twenty percent of its population, enjoy more civil and human rights than they would ever enjoy were they to live in the surrounding Arab countries you fail to criticize, not to mention in Gaza itself.
The reason that Schwerner and Goodman, as well as many other like-minded, committed activists, fought segregation in the South during the civil rights era was the fact that blacks were American citizens, that there, indeed, was a system of institutionalized racism in sections of the country, and that it was morally abhorrent for a certain class of Americans to be denied their fundamental human and civil rights based on the color of their skin.
For you to try to frame the situation in Gaza and the West Bank as analogous to the segregation in 1960s America is both absurd and abhorrent. Palestinians are not citizens of Israel and Israel has no responsibility to afford them the protections and benefits it does offer Israeli citizens in a Western-style democracy with open and elections, a free press, and rule of law. But even more to the point, what you and your fellow critics of Israel habitually do is to ignore the reason that a blockade of Gaza exists in the first place, or why, similarly, the security barrier had to be built in the West Bank, and why there are checkpoints, roadblocks, and other security measures in place inside of Israel and in the territories.
The reason is not, as you would like to believe, that “white” Israelis are oppressing “colored,” perennially-victimized Palestinians and walling them out based on their race. In your Manichean world view that is a familiar, though defective, way to frame the issue. The actual reason that a blockade exists, and that the security fence had to be constructed, was that Palestinians were, and are, relentlessly intent on murdering Jews. Israel left Gaza completely in 2005 and would be totally uninvolved with it today were it not for the inconvenient fact you overlook that, since that disengagement, Hamas has seen fit to barrage southern Israeli towns with the full intention of murdering Jewish civilians as they sleep, shop, pray, or work.
So by challenging the legality of the blockade, are you and your fellow flotilla travelers proclaiming that the continuing, barbaric attempts by Hamas to kill Jews are morally acceptable, or, as you are fond of saying, just? If you stand in solidarity with Hamas, as Noam Chomsky coddles up to Hezbollah in an equally ghoulish ideological alliance, do you feel inoculated from any moral judgment of you simply because you believe that standing up for the perceived victim is always the just thing to do? What you seem unwilling, or incapable, of doing is accepting the fact that Israel’s so-called “brutal occupation” and its military incursions—now and in previous conflicts— were necessitated by Arab aggression and terrorism, and the use of force has not been a random occurrence based on the whims of a sadistic Israeli military.
“One child must never be set above another,” you wrote in justifying your participation in the flotilla, “even in casual conversation, not to mention in speeches that circle the globe.” But setting one child above another is precisely what you and your fellow pro-Palestinian activists regularly do when you enshrine the Palestinian cause and continue to seek the weakening and destruction of Israel by supporting those who would, given the chance, eliminate it. You clearly have no concern at all for the Israeli children of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashod, and other southern Israeli towns where some 10,000 Qassam rockets and mortars have rained down since 2005, launched from Gaza by Hamas with the specific intent to randomly murder Jewish children in schoolyards, synagogues, or as they sleep. And those children everywhere you profess to care about must not include children living in the town of Sderot, for example, where one third of 13 to 18 year-olds have trauma-related learning disorders. Are there letters of solidarity for them in the cargo of your humanitarian flotilla?
The reason the “good Jews” you described were willing to fight hard against segregation in America is that there were clear moral principles at stake and it was the appropriate and just thing to do. And African Americans were not launching rockets into Birmingham neighborhoods. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers were not strapping bombs to their chests and immolating themselves and innocent civilians on crowded buses in Selma. Ministers in Jackson, Mississippi churches were not giving weekly sermons exhorting congregants to despise white people, to consider them subhuman monsters, and to martyr themselves by murdering white people randomly wherever they could find them.
Your own obsession with the human rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and your comment that you seek “justice and respect” for Palestinian children alone, indicates that you and your fellow flotilla activists have already decided which children are deserving and which are not. True justice would be justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike, each with sovereign nations living “side by side in peace,” but that is not your concern at all. Your evident contempt for Israel’s right to self-determination, or even its right to protect the lives of its citizens— the purpose of the blockade you so cavalierly and recklessly intend to violate—demonstrates quite clearly that the safety and human rights of Jews are irrelevant to your world view in which the only individuals deserving of justice are those who you and other “progressives” define as victims, including your favorite Third World victim of the moment, the Palestinians.
And those Palestinian children you pretend to care for so deeply, those children “whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence” you evidently believe to be solely the fault of Israel’s, what circumstances of their lives are the direct result of the culture and ideology of the Palestinian Arabs themselves? Is any part of the Palestinians’ lives their own responsibility, or is all of their existence defined by the Jewish occupation, dispossession, and brutality, that banality of evil you apparently can see in no other state on earth than in Israel? You have obviously overlooked the pathologies of Palestinian society, crystallized and made more malevolent by the rule of Hamas itself, in which Palestinian children are inculcated, nearly from birth, with seething, blind, unrelenting, and obsessive hatred of Jews and the ‘Zionist regime,’ so that kindergartners graduate with blood-soaked hands while toting plastic AK 47s and dedicate their lives to jihad, and older children are recruited to hide explosives on their bodies to transform themselves into shahids—a new generation of kindling for radical Islam’s cult of death.
Parents of these children you care so much about, in fact, glorify death and martyrdom and seek the death of their children if they distinguish themselves by murdering Jewish civilians. Hamas also broadcasts children’s TV shows with animal characters who repeat hateful propaganda about Israel, and who encourage children to attack and kill Jews, behavior you failed to condemn as you boarded your ship, “The Audacity of Hope.” Perhaps among your letters of solidarity that you carry on your ego-laden flotilla might be letters to Palestinian parents that suggest that textbooks their children use in school that depict Jews as apes and pigs, that erase Israel from history and geography books, that demonize Israelis in particular and Jews in general as subhuman monsters who are swindlers, thieves, and murderers may not be conducive to raising a new generation of Palestinian citizens eager to, or capable of, ever living in peace with Israel, regardless of where the eventual borders are.
You also made the breathtaking statement in a recent interview that you “think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world,” and that you “think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves.” No, democracies that are attacked by enemies, either in conventional or asymmetrical warfare, are within their legal rights as sovereign nations to defend themselves and not allow their citizens to be harmed—by whatever means necessary and governed by the rules of warfare. Self-defense is not terrorism. The Hamas thugocracy of Gaza, on the other hand, that group whose aspirations and ideologies apparently you embrace, are in fact terrorists, which is precisely why they have been designated as such by U.S., Israel, the EU, Canada, and Japan. The group was founded for one purpose: not, as you like to believe in your rapturous affinity for revolutionary movements, for helping Palestinians to achieve statehood, but for the particular purpose of exterminating Jews. Their charter articulates very clearly Hamas’ belief that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it,” and that “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” That you and the other flotilla participants so proudly proclaim your solidarity for the Gazans who are ruled by this genocidal group is yet another reminder of how self-defined activists like you inhabit a morally-inverted universe where any behavior by the weak against the powerful is acceptable in your pursuit of social justice.
It is interesting, though, that you are silent, for instance, on the genocidal murder by Janjaweed Arabs and Muslims in Darfur of some 300,000 Christian and animist blacks since 2003, as well as the rape and displacement of hundreds of thousands more victims, but you singularly and regularly condemn Israel’s efforts to defend its populace from unrelenting attacks. Have you sent letters of support to innocents oppressed and slaughtered by the government in Khartoum?
No, it is only Israel that you and your like-minded “progressives” prefer to slander, demonize, and seek to weaken with your relentless attacks on its very right to survive. Attacking Israel takes no courage, and you pay no price for it in the court of world opinion. In fact, in the salons of the West and among the chattering class with whom you roam, it is something of badge of honor to despise Israel and exalt the oppressed Palestinians and you can shroud your true enmity toward Jews with a pompous moral self-righteousness. “We must do everything in our power to cease the behavior that makes children everywhere feel afraid,” you wrote in justifying your flotilla participation, and if you truly believe that, perhaps you might consider doing your part to insure that Israeli children, too, will not have to live in a world where they must “feel afraid” in their daily lives because they are surrounded by people who want to kill them simply because they are Jews.
Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, director of the Communications Management Program at Simmons College, is the author of the forthcoming book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.