Ted Rall

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sticks and Stones on the High Seas

June 3, 2010 by  
Filed under NBM Blog

Activists Finally Fight Back—And Win

They call themselves activists. But leftist activists rarely do anything. They march. They chant. They whine.

Then they go home, satisfied that they’ve said their piece without taking a personal risk.

Oppressive governments love such phony “activists.” Not only can they carry on as usual, they point to the toothless demonstrators as evidence that they’re not so bad. Each side legitimizes the other.

Since the ’70s, passive resistance has become a religion of sorts among American “activists.” The exceptions, such as 1999′s Battle of Seattle between Seattle riot cops and anti-WTO protesters, have been notable—not least because they mark the few times the left has won.

So when Israel dispatched a group of armed commandos to seize a flotilla of Turkish ships attempting to break its blockade of the besieged Gaza Strip, they had every reason to expect the usual pathetic pacifist response: rolling over and playing dead.

“We prepared for an operation involving light resistance,” an Israeli navy officer told The Jerusalem Post about the clash on the Mavi Marmara, the biggest ship. “We anticipated that the soldiers would get spat at and maybe slapped. We did not expect that the soldiers would be met by a mob armed with bats, knives and metal pipes.

“We thought there would be verbal and passive violence, but not to the level we encountered,” the Naval officer continued. “Everyone who came toward us wanted to kill us.”

Imagine that.

For the record, the Turkish activists (no quotes, as they’re worthy of the name) claim the Israelis opened fire first. Nilufer Cetin, wife of the Navi Marmara’s engineer, recalled: “The operation started immediately with firing. First it was warning shots, but when the Mavi Marmara wouldn’t stop these warnings turned into an attack,” she said.

IDF forces shot and killed nine passengers in the melée. Up to 60 passengers and 10 IDF soldiers were injured.

Whether the Turks defended themselves or attacked first, no one will ever know. Nevertheless, their willingness to use violence is notable. Here were lefties with guts!

This naturally came as a shock to government officials in Israel and its allies, not to mention the media outlets they control. Government thugs view violence as their exclusive purview. They’re free to bomb and torture and blockade and starve and otherwise oppress hundreds of millions of innocents. Let one of their victims fight back, however, and they’re stunned.

Officials responded to the Navi Marmara incident like any bully who finally gets the bloody nose he deserves.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the convoy of a “premeditated and outrageous provocation” and described the flotilla as an “armada of hate.”

“The provocation was as cynical as it was carefully orchestrated,” complained Ralph Peters in the right-wing New York Post.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the IDF, said: “They chose to use violence. They had stocks different kinds of sticks, of knives, of metal objects. They took two pistols from our navy SEALs. They used the entire magazines on these pistols. They wounded our soldiers.”

Interesting perspective. In the official narrative heavily-armed commandos who take over a ship on international waters are not “choosing to use violence.” Only individuals forced to resort to sticks and knives have “chosen” violence over the path of peace. As for the gunplay, the SEALS might have avoided getting shot had they not brought guns with them in the first place. Or if they’d stayed home.

It goes without saying that the friends and families of the nine who died will never get over what happened. But they can take some comfort in the fact that they died for a noble cause: ending the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, home to 1.5 million stateless Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by the resulting economic collapse. Nine lives have been lost; thousands will be saved when the blockade ends.

A U.N. fact-finding mission recently concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza should be prosecuted as a war crime at the International Criminal Court if it continues through September: “Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed,” wrote South African Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the panel.

Was violence justified against the Israelis, even in self-defense? Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is: it worked. Had the six hundred-plus Turkish activists acted like American lefties, allowing themselves to be led off like sheep to be arrested, processed and deported, the blockage of Gaza—and the resulting humanitarian crisis—would have continued without an end in sight.

Instead—because of those pipes and axes and knives—the embargo is doomed. Israel finally went too far. The activists finally went far enough.

(Ted Rall is the author of the upcoming “The Anti-American Manifesto,” to be published in September by Seven Stories Press. His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

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