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Activists on the Ship 'Rachel Corrie' Challenge Israel's Unjust Gaza Blockade and Zionist Myths

Another ship is steaming across the Mediterranean toward Gaza,loaded with humanitarian supplies, posing another impossible dilemma for the government of Israel.

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On the other hand, if Netanyahu allows the Corrie to dock at Gaza unimpeded, he can expect a stormy reaction and very possibly rejection from Israel’s powerful political right. They’ll say that he’s weak and shameful, because he lets Israel be pushed around by the gentiles. That charge could stick and move the nation much closer to political chaos.

Either choice will make it harder for Israel to gain the one thing it needs most to escape from danger: a peace settlement with Palestine. As long as there is no settlement, Israel remains caught in a cycle of conflict and insecurity that makes the Jewish state its own worst enemy.

As the MV Rachel Corrie approaches Gaza to confront the Israeli blockade, it forces the Israeli government to confront this dilemma. Perhaps at last, under this pressure, the Israelis will see that both of the dominant Zionist myths have reached a dead end. The effort to build a nation on imagined threat and constant fear of what outsiders will say or do was doomed from the start. Fear keeps a nation paralyzed, unable to see the facts clearly and respond to them creatively.

The voyage of the MV Rachel Corrie could give Israeli leaders a chance to awake from their paralysis and remember that they have another alternative. There is a third vision of Zionism, which is also rooted in the earliest days of the movement and can open the way to a future of genuine peace and security. It’s a vision of a Jewish state that embodies the highest moral values enshrined in the Hebrew Bible: the peace that comes only from justice.

There have always been Zionists committed to this approach. And they have always set out a clear test for the Jewish state: Will it act on those highest values in its treatment of the Arabs of Palestine? Anything less than fair, equitable, and peaceable relations with the Arabs would mean a failure of Zionism.

Sadly, these Zionists were always a minority in the movement. They still are. But their voice is still heard in the mainstream of Israeli life. And they understand the power of the mainstream myths that keep Israel locked in its self-destructive ways.

Listen, for example, to the famous Israeli writer David Grossman: “How insecure, confused and panicky a country must be, to act as Israel acted! … It killed and wounded civilians as if it were a band of pirates.”

The attack on the Mavi Marmara was the “natural continuation” of the blockade of Gaza, Grossman writes. And the blockade is “the all-too-natural consequence of a clumsy and calcified policy, which again and again resorts by default to the use of massive and exaggerated force, where wisdom and sensitivity and creative thinking are called for instead. Above all, this insane operation shows how far Israel has declined. … Already there are those here who seek to spin the natural and justified sense of Israeli guilt into a strident assertion that the whole world is to blame. Our shame, however, will be harder to live with.”

Or listen to Carlo Strenger, a regular columnist for Israel’s most respected newspaper, Ha’aretz, speaking to the faction that worries most about Israel’s image in the world:

“Israel’s policy of dispossession in Jerusalem and in the settlements is reactionary and repressive and cannot be justified by any security interest. Israel will have to decide: it cannot rebrand itself as a liberal, creative and progressive country without being one. Our business sector, our artists and academics are mostly progressive, liberal and creative. But their impact on how Israel is perceived will remain negligible as long as Israel’s politicians and emissaries keep harping on victimhood and survival and as long as its policies are repressive.”

 
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