An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers
trying to break through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
By Hagit Borer, LA Times June 26, 2011
Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece
on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel's blockade. It
will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying
hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those
I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a
very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood
was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of
hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved
sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the
other side of it was "them."
And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops
were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9,
as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the
barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my
Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later
a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors'
name: Paratroopers Way.
A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and
the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me
until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in
the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually,
the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place
where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted
"Muhammad is dead" and "May your villages burn."
It is a different Jerusalem now. It is not their Jerusalem, for it has been
taken from them. Every day the Palestinians of Jerusalem are further
strangled by more incursions, by more "housing developments" to cut them off
from other Palestinians. In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood built by Jordan in
the 1950s to house refugees, Palestinian families recently have been evicted
from their homes at gunpoint based on court-sanctioned documents purporting
to show Jewish land ownership in the area dating back some 100 years. But no
Palestinian proof of ownership within West Jerusalem has ever prevailed in
Israeli courts. Talbieh, Katamon, Baca, until 1948 affluent Palestinian
neighborhoods, are today almost exclusively Jewish, with no legal recourse
for the Palestinians who recently raised families and lived their lives
In his speech on Jerusalem Day, Yitzhak Pindrus, the deputy mayor of
Jerusalem, assured a cheering crowd of the ongoing commitment to expanding
the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, as Sheik Jarrah has been
This is not my Jerusalem. The tens of thousands of jeering youths that
swarmed through its streets on Jerusalem Day have taken the city from me as
well. That they speak my native tongue is almost impossible for me to
believe, for there is nothing about them or about the society that gave
birth to them that I recognize.
Did we know in 1967, in 1948, that it would come to this? Some did. Some
knew even then that a society built on conquest and dispossession would have
to dehumanize the conquered in order to continue to dispossess and oppress
them. A 1948 letter to the New York Times signed by Albert Einstein and
Hannah Arendt, among others, foretells much of the future. Martin Buber did
not spare David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, his
perspective on the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948-49.
But too many others, including members of the U.S. Congress who recently
cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are determined to not hold the
Israeli government responsible or the Israeli-Jewish society culpable.
Let us note that some Israeli Jews do stand up and protest. There are
soldiers who refuse to serve, journalists who highlight injustice, and human
rights organizations, activist groups, information centers. In a sense, all
of us seeking justice have been on a virtual boat to Gaza all these decades.
We have been trying to break through the Israeli blockade, in its many
incarnations. We wish to say to the Palestinians that, yes, there are people
in Israel who know that any viable future for the Middle East must be based
on a just peace — not the forced imposition spelled out by Netanyahu to
Congress — or else we are all doomed. We want it known that the soldier is
not the only face of Israeli Jews. There are those who say to the government
of Israel, "You do not represent us." We say to the people of the United
States in general and to American Jews in particular that yes, you do have
an alternative. You can support peace. A true peace.
Hagit Borer moved from Israel to the United States to study in 1977. She
became an American citizen in 1992 and is currently a professor of
linguistics at USC.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
Further background to the Gaza flotilla's immenent sailing:
Monday, June 27, 2011
U.S. BOAT TO GAZA RESPONDS TO REPORTS THAT ISRAELI "LAWFARE" GROUP FILED
COMPLAINT DELAYING DEPARTURE OF BOAT
PASSENGERS ON THE AUDACITY OF HOPE NOW CONFIDENT GREEK AUTHORITIES WILL
ALLOW U.S. BOAT TO SAIL
Athens - Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, said
news reports that an Israeli "lawfare" group, Shurat HaDin, is behind the
complaint delaying the departure of the U.S. boat from Greece substantiate
the Americans' assertions that the complaint is frivolous. The passengers
expressed confidence that Greek authorities will now quickly dispense with
the complaint and allow The Audacity of Hope to sail.
On Sunday, June 26, the Jerusalem Post reported: "Sources in the Shurat
HaDin (Israel Law Center) on Sunday took responsibility for lodging an
anonymous civil complaint against the American-flagged ship, The Audacity of
Hope, which is a part of the flotilla expected to sail towards Gaza later
this week, Army Radio reported." The Israeli group is known for making
frivolous legal complaints against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
"We reiterate that the boat we are leasing for this journey, after its
refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor
and successfully completed its sea trials," said Ann Wright, an organizer
and passenger on the U.S. boat. "There is no reason for any further delays
on this matter, we are ready to sail."
1) Gaza flotilla organizers: Israel is pressuring Greece to halt ships' departure
27 June 2011
By Barak Ravid and The Associated Press
American activist Ann Wright told a news conference that Israel is mounting a"tremendous diplomatic offensive" to prevent the flotilla from setting sail.
Organizers urged the Greek government in a statement not to "become complicit in Israel's illegal actions by succumbing to this pressure."
Organizer Vangelis Pissias said the flotilla is ready to leave in a few days, but gave no specific departure date.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet on Monday instructed the Israel Defense Forces to be firm in preventing the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip while operating with maximal restraint to avoid causing injuries.
The senior government ministers also instructed the Foreign Ministry to continue its diplomatic efforts to prevent the flotilla from setting sail to Gaza.
Monday marked the second day of discussions by senior ministers on the planned Gaza flotilla. On Sunday, Netanyahu told the inner cabinet that Israel would not allow any ships to breach its maritime blockade of Gaza.
Security officials and Foreign Ministry representatives informed the cabinet on Sunday that Israel has no information indicating that terrorists or anyone affiliated with a terror group is planning to take part in the flotilla, said a government source. Nonetheless, there may be clashes between Israeli forces and some Arab activists aboard the ships.
"The critical mass of participants will include human rights activists from European Union countries, Canada and the United States," said a senior security official.
Some 10 ships are planning to set sail on Tuesday in an attempt to breach Israel's blockade of the Strip. The government and army are hoping the ships will stop on their own, possibly early Thursday, and that the Israel Navy will not have to board them, a move that would not be well received in the world.
Some 500 people are expected to be aboard the flotilla, which will include six or seven ships currently docked in Greece.
Assuming the ships do sail from Greece, they will meet up with two or three that have already set sail from Spain and France, and continue toward the Gaza coast.
The announcement two weeks ago from the Turkish group IHH that the Mavi Marmara ship will not take part in the flotilla has changed the security establishment's views regarding the anticipated resistance. IHH members violently resisted the naval takeover of the Mavi Marmara in the flotilla of May 2010, and nine of them were killed in the clashes. In addition, since the Mavi Marmara won't be part of this flotilla, only smaller ships will be involved, increasing the likelihood that Israel will not have to board them to force them to turn back.
Cabinet ministers were told on Sunday that after IHH announced that the Mavi Marmara would not be in the flotilla, there was less reason for concern about possible violent confrontations.
Government and defense sources said the fact that most, if not all, the flotilla participants will be European peace activists presumably not interested in violence will present a "more difficult public diplomacy challenge," and Israel wants to avoid clashes with the activists.
In contrast to the decision last year to deploy naval commandos onboard the ships when they ignored Israeli warnings not to continue to Gaza - this year Israel will try other methods to stop the ships and direct them toward Egypt's El Arish port.
The navy has, however, trained for scenarios involving violent resistance and forcible takeover of the ships, but this is considered a last resort. In such a case, the ships and passengers will be brought to a special security area at Ashdod Port.
"The IDF is preparing for all possible scenarios," the army spokesman said.
Flotilla organizers have been informed that if they dock first at Ashdod, Israel will bring the humanitarian aid directly to Gaza, a government source in Jerusalem said.
Israel has also talked in recent days with the interim government in Egypt, which has agreed to allow the ships to unload goods in El Arish, from where they would be sent to Gaza.
Israel warns foreign journalists: Joining Gaza flotilla is illegal
26 June 2011
By Haaretz – 26 June 2011
Letter from head of Israel’s Government Press Office warns that taking part in convoy of boats sailing to Gaza could result in being barred from Israel for 10 years
Israel’s Government Press Office issued a letter Sunday to foreign journalists, warning them that participating in the upcoming flotilla sailing to Gaza is illegal under Israeli law, and could result in anyone who joins the convoy being barred from Israel for up to 10 years.
The letter, signed by GPO director Oren Helman, states that the flotilla “is a dangerous provocation that is being organized by western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas.”
Helman asks editors to inform journalists that the Israel Defense Forces have been ordered to stop the convoy of ships from reaching Gaza, given that “The flotilla intends to knowingly violate the blockade that has been declared legally and is in accordance with all treaties and international law.”
Furthermore, the letter says, “participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”
Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass will be joining the flotilla <http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/fear-and-no-clean-clothing-amira-hass-preparing-to-sail-for-gaza-1.369611> , along with several dozen other journalists and several hundred activists from some 20 countries. Also joining the flotilla will be American writer Alice Walker, despite an American advisory that doing so could be a violation of U.S. law.
In May 2010, the Israel Navy boarded six boats that comprised a similar aiming to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Strip; nine activists on board were killed during the ensuing violence.