YellowSailBoatLogo.pngThe Gaza Flotilla fiasco doesn’t bode well for democratic reform on several fronts:
* Within Israel, it will create tensions between the military top brass who are now being blamed for a bad job, and the political elite who authorised it.
* The sense of victimhood that is pervasive in the Israel and international Jewish media will only further push many people further to the right (and fewer to the left), and the secular, progressive left will have an even harder task in convincing the population that the current political set up is a disaster.
* On the part of Hamas in Gaza and its supporters in the West, a hard-line agenda will also be given a spur and intolerant Islamic nationalism, rather than democratic secularism will appeal to more people, continuing the split with the PLO in the West Bank.

* The fantasy of the destructive narcissistic dream of Zion in an empty land to which no one else has any claim will continue to play out and Israelis will assume and demand, though the ‘Lobby’ that nothing really change.
* The nature of the Israel assault also compromises the pacifist orientation of the Free Gaza Movement and by implication, many who support the Palestinian cause (‘We agree to adhere to the principles of non-violence and non-violent resistance in word and deed at all times’) Notwithstanding the terrible circumstances of what happened, the connections with extremists who reacted strongly when faced with Israeli soldiers will make it an political easy target, diverting attention from the real problem–the siege and the occupation.
I’m also concerned, reading through the Free Gaza charter, that particular language used to present the Palestinian right of return represents the most hard line and uncompromising position for one of the most critical issues to be dealt with. I don’t know why they have chosen this position.
I see this as completely unrealistic and impossible to achieve, despite the anger and fury over loss of homes during the Naqba, the 6-day war or even later (the FGM words are: We recognize the right of all Palestinian refugees and exiles and their heirs to return to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories; to recover their properties, and to receive compensation for damage, dispossession and unlawful use of such property. This is an individual and not a collective right, and cannot be negotiated except by the individual). [for more information on the origins of this position, here.
It is also a position that makes it hard to bring along both Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the problem together. It is a pipe dream just to wish Israel away.
By way of comparison, the UN General Assembly 194 of 1948 resolved that: “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
Thus, the position adopted by FGM appears to be qualitatively quite different from the position for example, of the Australians for Palestine Mission Statement “Australians for Palestine upholds the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return home. This right is enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. No agreement, negotiations or parties which purport to trade away the right of return or any other inalienable rights can have any legal basis and cannot bind or compel the Palestinian people to accept them. The right of return is as much an integral part of the Palestinians’ right of self-determination as it is of individual and collective human rights.”
The position taken by FGM is also from what I understand, very different to the more pragmatic positions (despite the rhetoric) taken by the PLO. Perhaps this is the view taken by Hamas, but I have not been able to source this.
As another example, the Irish Palestinian Solidarity campaign fully supports the right of return as specified in the UN Resolution 194 (1948) and add that “this right of return does not absolve host governments from their responsibility to treat Palestinian refugees within their borders in accordance with established humanitarian norms. Thus, Palestinian refugees should be afforded full human and civic rights in whatever country they are located.”
I am therefore unclear as to how much the FGM represents international ‘radical’ thinking on this very difficult issue, and whether the Gaza Flotilla mess is going to lead to the formal adoption of such a hard line by other supporters of Palestinian rights.
It may well be that the attitude of many people involved in the movement is Palestine First, and forget about Israel’s worries or the ideological tendencies of Hamas as a religious movement. Of course, the real world is not as simple as that. Whether or not there are one, two, or three states, there will have to be negotiation, compensation and a legal framework for instituting it (as the Adalah organization in Israel has suggested in its non-ethnic democratic constitution for Israel). Having people involved supporting Palestine who are aware of nuances within the Palestinian movement and working torwards more tolerant positions by key players is a role in which they could play an important part.