The Gaza flotilla: More political than humanitarian

Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations “on new ways to … Continued

Q: In a statement Monday, Vice President Biden said the U.S. is consulting with other nations “on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza.” What are the religious and moral considerations in determining those “new ways,” especially in light of Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla from Turkey bound for Gaza.

Watching events unfold in the Middle East, I lose the hyphen in Hindu-American here and comment only as an American. I do not represent the Hindu American Foundation here, but represent the views of one stunned by the existential challenges in the Middle East. The conflict involves only 10 million people–perhaps half the population of just the city of Mumbai–but it is a microcosm of interminable conflicts in so many theaters throughout the world.

I will watch our Vice President head into the Middle East once again to seek “new ways” to change the dynamics in the Holy Land, but the latest “new” will likely be another iteration of the previously new and now discarded. For events there seem to find a way to change while really staying the same.

The core realities are now well known to us all. Israel exists and Hamas wants it to not. Israel does not currently have a negotiating partner as Fatah stands emasculated and unhinged Hamas agents dream to do to Israelis in Jerusalem what they did to Fatah in Gaza. Hamas sends rockets lighting up the Israeli sky, while Israel tries desperately to keep that deadly fuel out of the hands of those that prefer mayhem over accords. Israelis have brought security for now with a wall, but pure numbers will not allow any wall to reverse the insidious demography arrayed against that nation.

But in an era where heroes are in short supply–there are no Begins, no Sadats, no Rabins, not even the deeply flawed Arafat who reversed decades of nihilistic ideology in recognizing Israel’s right to exist–peace seems more elusive. And those doomed flotillas heading for Gaza fall far short of heroic.

The flotillas insist on direct access to land controlled by the same Hamas thugs that are committed to destroying Israel and have purposefully launched thousands of rockets at Israel. These seaborne do-gooders could easily unload their supplies in Israel and have them transported to Gaza if their concerns were only humanitarian. But theirs were political, and they chose to protest, provoke and, yes, in a few cases, covet the perverse martyrdom of the extremist.

Hypocrisy is an appellation that could stick to any player in the Middle East. But rank hypocrisy is manifestly at play when these “free Gaza” activists are glaringly mute when civil war reigned supreme in Gaza as Fatah members and their families were rounded up, imprisoned, expelled or killed. Or when Neda became a symbol as she lay bleeding in Tehran shot by a desperate and criminal regime, and are still mute as Ahmadinejad still sits firmly entrenched in power. A flotilla traversing the Persian Gulf and entering the Straits of Hormuz would have soared the spirits of brave protesters on the streets then.

The Middle East has seen enough desperate theatrics and perilous games of rhetorical one-upmanship without the pretensions of would-be naval sailors. We all mourn for another generation in Gaza that feels stifled and hopeless in its now barren strip of land, trapped by Egypt, Israel and the sea because their hate-filled Hamas leaders’ love for their people is no match for their love for death. But flotillas now only inflame a situation that needs no more sparks that could doom any future peace initiatives to a growing graveyard of good intentions somewhere between Annapolis and Camp David.

Family feuds are always the most passionate and polarizing, but also terminable when reason prevails. Peace will come to the descendants of Abraham once their leaders again treat the land they share as if it really were holy.

Views expressed here are the personal views of Dr. Aseem Shukla, and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Minnesota or Hindu American Foundation.

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  • cianwn

    Dr. Shukla says, “Hamas sends rockets lighting up the Israeli sky, while Israel tries desperately to keep that deadly fuel out of the hands of those that prefer mayhem over accords. Israelis have brought security for now with a wall, but pure numbers will not allow any wall to reverse the insidious demography arrayed against that nation.”Insidious demography? Really? But it’s somehow not insidious when millions of foreigners come from overseas to run your people off their land, live in their houses, and uproot your olive groves? When people who have never lived in Palestine a day in their lives have a conception that someone else’s country belongs to them, along with the support of European colonial powers? Of course, none of that is insidious.Or how about the continuing policy of incentivizing the most radical religious nutcases in your country to go and live in settlements outside your borders? To provide those same ideologically driven radicals army protection while they harass young Palestinian kids on their way to school? Or how about when they destroy farms and groves, or try to keep Palestinian families who have farmed the same plot of land for generations from being able to gather their harvest? Would you call that insidious?

  • rentianxiang

    It is refreshing to see someone writing a column that speaks the truth. Everyone knows that the flotilla was political and it was intended as a provocation, just as we know that the activists attacked the soldiers first. Bravo Professor Shukla.

  • haveaheart

    “These seaborne do-gooders could easily unload their supplies in Israel and have them transported to Gaza if their concerns were only humanitarian.”Sure, they could “easily” do this. But they’re not willing to risk the likelihood that Israel would impound the supplies and refuse to have them delivered. If that is a “political” as opposed to “humanitarian” concern, then so be it. “We all mourn for another generation in Gaza that feels stifled and hopeless in its now barren strip of land…”We may mourn for them, but we sure aren’t willing to help them. They’ve been living in conditions not unlike (and probably worse than) those of the Warsaw Ghetto for 40+ years now. They feel more than merely “stifled”; their hopelessness is reflected in the increasing support in the Middle East for certain brands of terrorism.This does not excuse the use of violent terrorist actions, nor does it mitigate the damage that these actions have caused.But any idiot should be able to put 2 and 2 together and realize that brutal oppression over several decades is going to erupt into seismic violent protest eventually.That is what Israel and its allies are now reaping.

  • shaheed-yahudi

    F I F A – W O R L D – C U P – S. A. – 2 0 1 0:

  • gundavda

    It is hard for me to accept the notion that the Gaza flotilla was “political” in any way. This idea implies that Turkey as an entity somehow organized the flotilla rather than the NGOs implicated. It would make no sense if that were the case; Turkey’s foreign policy is stemmed from a desire to join the European Union, a desire that dates back to the 1960s. Accession negotiations began in 2005, and Turkey has taken on many burdens of membership including securing positive relations with Israel. Why would Turkey jeopardize this? Why would Israel jeopardize relations with its most capable Muslim ally? The human rights activists were not carrying rockets for Hamas to “light up the Israeli sky” (which is quite the exaggeration) but playground equipment, medicine, milk powder and the like. If you were truly speaking from an American point of view, you would abhor the apartheid-esque manner in which Israel has sealed off and repressed its Muslim neighbors. If you were really thinking as an “American,” you would be outraged at the death of Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old American citizen. If soldiers from any other country besides Israel had shot an American citizen at point blank range 5 times you would be posting a condemnation on this blog.

  • gundavda

    It is hard for me to accept the notion that the Gaza flotilla was “political” in any way. This idea implies that Turkey as an entity somehow organized the flotilla rather than the NGOs implicated. It would make no sense if that were the case; Turkey’s foreign policy is stemmed from a desire to join the European Union, a desire that dates back to the 1960s. Accession negotiations began in 2005, and Turkey has taken on many burdens of membership including securing positive relations with Israel. Why would Turkey jeopardize this? Why would Israel jeopardize relations with its most capable Muslim ally? The human rights activists were not carrying rockets for Hamas to “light up the Israeli sky” (which is quite the exaggeration) but playground equipment, medicine, milk powder and the like. If you were truly speaking from an American point of view, you would empathize with the apartheid-esque manner in which Israel has sealed off and repressed its Muslim neighbors. If you were really thinking as an “American,” you would be outraged at the death of Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old American citizen.