SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sticks and Stones on the High Seas

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


Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author

Ted Rall
Ted Rall
Setting himself apart from the herd with a unique drawing style and a take-no-prisoners approach, Ted Rall began editorial cartooning in the 1980s with a handful of alternative weekly newspapers whose editors saw his photocopied work hanging from lampposts in New York City. In 1991 San Francisco Chronicle Features began syndicating Rall’s three-times-a-week editorial cartoons syndication with newspapers including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Des Moines Register and Philadelphia Daily News.

Universal Press Syndicate picked up Rall’s cartoons in 1996. Today the man often called “the most controversial cartoonist in America” appears in more than 100 newspapers throughout the United States, ranging from the Washington Post to the Village Voice.

His trademark “Generalissimo El Busho” is an iconic caricature of President Bush. It has drawn criticism from conservatives. He was called “treasonous” by the right-wing Weekly Standard and “anti-American” by the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page. The Right Wing News website named him 2003’s “Most Annoying Liberal” and was named number 15 in Bernard Goldberg’s book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. He has received numerous death threats.

Rall has also won awards, including the 1995 and 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for Outstanding Coverage of the Problems of the Disadvantaged. In 1996 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Rall also draws non-political strips for MAD magazine and cartoon journalism for EurasiaNet, a news website about the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

"Editorial cartooning is an intrinsically negative medium,” Rall says, “but I’m an optimistic person. My hope is that, by calling attention to hypocrisy in our government and the inward focus of American culture in an amusing way, things will change for the better.”

Four collections of Rall’s cartoons have been published: Waking Up In America, All The Rules Have Changed, Search and Destroy, and America Gone Wild, as well as three award-winning graphic novels, My War With Brian, Real Americans Admit: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done! and 2024, a parody of Orwell’s 1984. He edited an influential three-volume anthology of edgy alternative weekly political cartoons, Attitude. He wrote the bestselling 1998 “generational manifesto” Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.

Rall covered the war in Afghanistan in cartoon form, where his harrowing experience—3 of the 44 journalists with whom he traveled were killed—led to the critically acclaimed book To Afghanistan and Back. He released two books of prose during 2004, Wake Up, You’re Liberal: How We Can Take America Back From the Right and Generalissimo El Busho.

Rall’s most recent book is Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, a detailed analysis of the region in prose and cartoons.

See his books from NBM!

Be the first to comment on "SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sticks and Stones on the High Seas"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.