‘Free Gaza’ Flotilla Fallout
New York City
You know, it’s funny. Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are all engaged in this blockade (which I strongly oppose). But if you read The Nation‘s June 21 editorial, "Free Gaza," you’d have to assume that they are all doing this because it’s fun or because they are big meanies or, at best, for no reason at all. There is no notion that any sane person in Israel or Egypt or the West Bank would ever have a problem with anything Hamas has ever done or have any reason for concern if it ruled the country on its borders and had the power to kill whomever it liked by whatever means it liked. You’d never know, either, that it is a regressive, totalitarian, anti-Semitic political movement opposed to liberalism in all its forms, particularly as it relates to women. This editorial, like most Nation editorials, assumes Israel is 100 percent at fault in this conflict and that whoever opposes it is 100 percent correct. It is the mirror image of the right-wing Zionist viewpoint it attacks. As such, it can have no relevance to the views of anyone who takes the complications of the conflict seriously in hopes of finding a solution that might one day be acceptable to the country The Nation consistently demonizes.
I disagree with every statement and position in your rabid condemnation of the blockade and biased support for the Arabs of Gaza. The gross failure to recognize that the raining of 10,000 rockets onto Israeli homes by Hamas for years and the express assertion of absolute enmity for Israel by Hamas and its commitment to the destruction of Israel certainly entitled Israel to blockade all weapons, just as the importation of rockets into Cuba warranted the US boycott of Cuba. You fail entirely to acknowledge that humanitarian supplies were permitted to enter Gaza, and this brands your diatribe as absolutistic, unreasoned hatred.
MILES J. LOURIE
New York City
It is too bad that the spill of human blood does not elicit the same response as the spill of oil. With oil, there is no question that it must be stopped. With blood, we find reasons it should continue. Only those capable of feeling the pain of others know that blood is thicker than oil. Those are the people who were part of the flotilla, who tried to stop the gushing well of pain in Gaza. These are the people the IDF labels "terrorists."
One point has been lost in conversations about the flotilla: Israel continues as a violent and oppressive regime partly because American Jews turn a blind eye to the inhumane acts perpetrated by the Israeli government. Jews who vote Democratic and champion progressive causes are too often the same Jews who support the actions of the State of Israel, implicitly and explicitly, by refusing to acknowledge its failures. If we want a Jerusalem not riddled with mortar shells, we Jews need to acknowledge that we have been oppressors. It is not 1948, and we can no longer use the terrible acts committed against us, or even the grave threats of extremists, to justify the terrible acts of violence we commit.
The Editors Reply
The point of the "Free Gaza" editorial was not to analyze Hamas but to explain why the Israeli military’s violent attack on a humanitarian flotilla in international waters, and the blockade of Gaza that attack was enforcing, are so damaging not only to basic Palestinian rights but to long-term Israeli and US interests. Israel has certainly allowed humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza, as Lourie claims, but never in even remotely sufficient quantities. According to an Amnesty International report earlier this year, which echoes reports by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "by restricting the food, medical supplies, educational equipment, and building materials allowed into Gaza, the Israeli authorities are collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, the majority of whom are children."
The Nation has never been a supporter of Hamas; as Alterman must surely know, three years ago in a lead editorial we said, "We cannot accept Hamas’s ideology, and we reject the idea that ‘Islam is the solution’ to political problems (the common formulation of Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated movements). But the United States and Israel must finally acknowledge that Hamas is a popular movement with deep roots in Palestinian society, and for that reason should be engaged rather than ignored."
In 2006 Hamas won elections that were universally acknowledged to be free and fair. For the United States and Israel to attempt to sabotage those elections and isolate Hamas—which they have done from the moment the results were announced—because they didn’t like the outcome is not only the height of hypocrisy but deeply damaging to the prospects for a resolution of the conflict. As we pointed out three years ago, "arbitrary exclusion of a major, democratically elected Palestinian constituency in favor of malleable figures with little popular backing is doomed to fail."
Furthermore, although Hamas is in many ways deeply reactionary and has carried out appalling acts of terrorism, it is a complex and evolving party and movement, with moderate and hardline factions. Its leaders have stated repeatedly that they will accept a two-state solution; most recently, top leader Khaled Meshal did so in an interview with Charlie Rose. Engaging Hamas, and testing its claim to accept a two-state solution, which the Palestinian people overwhelmingly support, is the best way to reinforce the movement’s moderate tendencies.
The tragedy aboard the Mavi Marmara was a wake-up call—a call not only for America and Israel to end the inhumane Gaza blockade but to end the counterproductive isolation of the Palestinians’ democratically elected leaders. Only then will we be able to work toward a just and lasting resolution of the conflict.
Money & Polling: The Root of All Evil
As a longtime Nation fan I prefer writing love letters about what a critical role you play, but I have strong concerns about your "Ten Things You Can Do to Win Political Campaigns" [June 21]. It is a mistake to lead your list with "Raise money" and follow with "Poll smartly." Money often goes into awful and inept TV ads and lousy mailers, which make no difference in electing good candidates. More and more data show that far more important than another bad TV ad (which viewers mute, TiVo or forget) is active engagement. The use of social media or a phone call or e-mail to a neighbor, friend or relative has far more impact than ads.
We absolutely must work outside the money machine framework. We will never achieve committed candidates and meaningful progressive change if we are chained to the yoke of money and polls. I’m pleased you called attention to fairelectionsnow.org. We at BNF are pleased to work for fair elections and to help fix the system.
Brave New Foundation