Flotilla, Flytilla and the Prospects of a ‘Civil Society’

Gilad Atzmon – gilad.co.uk July 10, 2011

It might be argued that the passing week was not very easy on the Palestinian solidarity movement:  firstly, an international peaceful flotilla aiming to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza did not manage to leave Greek ports. The Greek government had surrendered submissively to Israeli pressure and American Jewish organisations, and blocked the naval enterprise. 

Secondly, an international attempt to fly hundreds of activists from all over the world to the West Bank also partially failed, as the Israeli Government had managed to mount just enough pressure to make sure that the project fell apart before it became airborne.[1]

Though it may seem as if the Palestinian solidarity movement suffered a blow, it is actually Israel that was harshly beaten here, for Israel has managed to expose its level of hysteria: it seems that eight old yachts and a few hundred Easyjet passengers have managed to shake the entire Israeli society.  Now try to imagine the potential impact of hundred of thousands of  Palestinian refugees marching to their  homes  in Jaffa , Acre Lod , Ramle, Haifa, Beer Shiva and  Al Quds.

I guess that the picture is clearer than ever—Israel doesn’t stand a chance. Its fate is doomed. It is just a question of time. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’.

But the truth of the matter goes slightly deeper. Both the Flotilla and the Flytilla are exemplary cases of ‘civil society campaigns’— they were intended to mobilise international public support using peaceful and democratic means.

Both campaigns were not aimed to harm Israel’s security in any way; rather, they were there to draw the world’s attention to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Their immediate goal i.e. reaching Palestine,  was not fulfilled, but their mission is still a clear and significant victory because it proves once again what Israel is all about: the Jewish State is a closed society, a morbid collective driven by ‘Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder (fuelled by vivid imaginary fantasies of destruction).  Most importantly, the Israeli government’s desperate measures against the peaceful Flytilla proved to the world that the West Bank is also under siege, and Palestine is closed to visitors.

The leaders of the two ‘civil society campaigns’ had done their homework: they had planned it all for months, orchestrating and coordinating an airlift of different international groups. They had raised the funds, and they operated as you would expect ‘civil society campaigners’ to operate.

But they had failed to see one thing. They did not grasp the most obvious fact about the Jewish State and its supportive powers around the world.  As much as they wanted to put into action the most civilised peaceful strategy, they may have failed to grasp that the Jewish State is not a civilised place, and it is also totally foreign to the notion of civilisation.  Once again the Israeli Government provided its critics around the world with a clear lesson about the unique traits of the Jewish State.

Israel vs. Civilisation

The word ‘civilisation’ comes originally from the Latin word civilis, related to the Latin words civis, meaning citizen, and civitas, meaning city or city-state. 

‘Civilisation’, then, is traditionally grasped as a society that acknowledges and respects notions of  ‘civil law’ and ‘citizenship’. Israel is not such a society unfortunately. Most of the people whose homes are on Israeli-controlled land lack basic civil rights just for failing to be Jewish.

It is possible that Israel’s deficiency in that regard is rooted in orthodox Judaism’s defiance of the notions of ‘civil law’ and civilisation. For Rabbinical Judaism, it is the Halacha law that strictly sets the legal rights and duties of the Jew.[2]

Interestingly enough, early Zionism was an attempt to remedy the situation. It promised to ‘civilise Jewish life’.  It vowed to erect a Jewish society that respected principles of citizenship and secular civil law. But Zionism was doomed to fail. Already, at its moment of inception, the Jewish State preferred to ethnically cleanse the vast majority of the Palestinian population instead of exercising the theoretical possibility of ‘Jewish civilisation.’ 

The truth of the matter is that the Jewish state has battled with Halacha laws since its moment of birth. On the one hand secular Israelis, Hasbara agents and Zionists disseminate the deceptive image of a Jewish ‘democratic’, ‘civilised and open society’ but on the other hand, the religious institutions in Israel challenge that fictitious deceptive   agenda: they clearly argue that if Israel defines itself as the ‘Jewish State’, it should give Jewishness some real meaning. They are basically referring to Halacha laws

The outcome of this struggle is clear: by now, Israel has very little respect for the notion of ‘civilisation’ or ‘civil law’.  At the most, it mimics some liberal Western symptoms. The Arab MK Azmi Bishara who suggested a few years ago that Israel should become a state of all its citizens ( i.e. a civilisation ), had to run away for his life, and has lived in exile ever since. It is not a secret that Israeli Arabs (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) are second class citizens, and the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank lack any meaningful civil status. They are dwelling in open air prisons. They are subject to Israeli brutality and different forms of racially discriminative laws. Not only that, foreign labour communities in Israel are also totally marginalised, living a life of complete insecurity, with few rights.

The obvious question here then, is whether ‘civil society action’, as we have seen in recent weeks from international solidarity activists, can have any effect at all on a society that so clearly defies the notions of ‘civil law ‘and ‘civilisation’?

Jewish Diaspora and Civilisation

Israel itself is obviously just part of the problem: the Jewish State is supported by some relentless Jewish Lobbies all over the world.  These lobbies do manage to push Western governments and political institutions into some very dark corners.  In Britain, for instance, Sheikh Raed Salah, AKA the ‘Gandhi of Palestine’ has been detained for more than a week following the shameful British Government surrender to right-wing Jewish Lobby pressure.  Also, the Israeli press was proud to report recently about the incentives offered by Jewish organisations to the struggling Greek government ahead of the Flotilla.

The Israeli Government and its supporting lobbies gathered a while back that it is much cheaper to buy a Western politician than it is to buy a tank.

So, the moral for the rest of us should be clear: though Israel itself defies the notion of civilisation, the above incidents prove that its lobbies around the world still manage to interfere with our respective nations’ civilisations.

Civil Society Action Vs. The Non Civilised

Palestinian Solidarity leaders will have to draw the necessary lessons from the recent events. Civil Society Campaigns do indeed mobilise public support around the world and this is indeed very important. However, such campaigns may be just too weak to bring about a change of consciousness in Israel.

In order to defeat Israel and Zionism, we must first admit to ourselves what Israel is all about: we are combating a unique, racially oriented, expansionist tribal project that has no precedent in history, and this project exceeds beyond its natural geographical boundaries. Israel is not just a territorial quest; it is actually an ideology, and its modus operandi is driven by radical forms of racial supremacy (Jewish chosen-ness). But we should  also acknowledge that the Jewish State is not alone: it is supported institutionally by world Jewry.

If we care about Palestine, world peace and the state of our world in general, our task is to stand up openly and identify the kinds of ideology, politics and culture that serve the Jewish State and its interests, both globally and locally.  We do not necessarily have to travel to Palestine to combat the Israeli soldiers: it may be better to locate its mercenaries around us, in our media, political institutions, think tanks, academia and economy.

These people and organisations actually interfere with our civilisation, with our most sacred Western values of ethics, pluralism, harmony and tolerance.

[1] Those activists that did make it to Israel were very quickly detained and given deportation orders.

[2] It may be argued that Islam also defies the notion of Civil Law. However, unlike Judaism, Islam is a universal precept. It  clearly defined respectful measures and approaches towards ethnic and religious minorities.

Source

Gilad Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier now a writer and an award winning Jazz musician resident in London, where he lives in virtual exile

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