Breaking the Gaza Blockade

Nonviolence: The best defense



More and more, activists expecting to confront armed state actors – including intelligence officers, the military, and police – should be mindful of the skepticism and propaganda against them that is put forth by the national security apparatus. This is especially true for activists and humanitarian workers engaging in nonviolent action in the Middle East, namely, Israel.

As the Freedom Flotilla 2 nears Gaza with hopes to break the four-year Israeli siege and blockade of the Palestinian Strip, a hushed anxiety is building while the Free Gaza Movement (and others) waits to see what will happen when the ships meet the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) off the Gazan coast. Last year, the Freedom Flotilla was intercepted by Israeli special forces who boarded the Mavi Marmara flying the Turkish flag. Nine activists were killed in a struggle to prevent the boarding of their ship by the IDF. Although there are competing claims to the circumstances of Flotilla activists’ deaths, the killings were unequivocally condemned by the UN Human Rights Convention:

The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.

What remains clear is that the risk of Israeli intervention and violence toward humanitarian and human rights activists continues to remain high. As Kathy Kelly reported previously on Waging Nonviolence regarding her participation on the U.S. ship The Audacity of Hope, a public and principled commitment to nonviolence is not a guarantee that all will be well;

There is some risk involved in this flotilla. The Israeli government threatens to board each ship in the flotilla with snipers and attack dogs. A year ago the Israeli Navy fired on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, from the air, then documented its passengers’ panicked response as their justification for executing nine activists, including one young U.S. citizen, Furkhan Dogan, shot several times in the back and head at close range. It then refused to cooperate with an international investigation.

Of particular concern for the Flotilla should be the conflation of nonviolent resistance with terrorism. A recent report from The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) suggests that IDF be prepared to defend itself against nonviolent activists. It is somewhat disconcerting to read ITIC’s interpretation of nonviolence and nonviolent tactics to be just a savvy public relations move by activists to embarrass the IDF and coax them into violent struggle: “The use of nonviolent tactics is planned for the upcoming flotilla to the Gaza Strip. In effect, it is liable to be translated into hard violence directed against the IDF.”

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via Waging Nonviolence.

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