A View From the [Israeli] Left

3 June 2010

Originally on ynetnews.com

By Udi Aloni

I am writing these words with great pain and suppressed rage. I know that few are the Jews in Israel whose heart is open to the pain of their Palestinian brothers and sisters, and yet, I refuse to give up on this brotherhood.

I myself was almost on board one of the ships that made their way to Gaza, primarily in order to help and tell the world about her suffering, but also in order to say that among us, the Jewish citizens of Israel, there are some whose sense of justice, grace and brotherhood has not become blunt even under the patriotic psychosis that has taken over the best part of us.

But I was afraid to stand on board a ship that carries food and hope to Gaza, and to find myself confronting the men of the corps which I had served loyally 30 years ago. Looking back, it is a pity I did not join. I am asked, “Surely you would not have beaten IDF soldiers?” True. I suppose that I would have tied myself to a post and screamed with fear and faith. However, the question is not at all how I would have behaved but whether one has the right to self-defense against maritime terror applied by a state.

It is not true that among the participants of the flotilla there are proponents of peace and proponents of war. Its beauty lies in the seemingly impossible coalition of contrasts of men and women, homosexuals and clergymen, Muslims and Jews, Christians and communists, anarchists and Hanin Zoabi and Dror Feiler. They all agreed to unite for an unarmed action. They all decided to act for freedom without a fight.


Who left soldiers no choice?

There were no firearms on board the ship. There were no suicide bombers. On the practical level, opposing worlds, united against the occupation and for the people of Gaza, to a struggle which was not supposed to bring death…but life.

And let no one tell you that a marine commando who is dropped from a helicopter, clad with a mask and weapon, is coming to chat with the sailors over a cup of coffee. For this purpose the missile boats are equipped with loudspeaker systems. For that purpose, one could have waited for daylight. And the right of a civilian on the high seas to defend himself is a basic right according to international law.

In the past I served in the Navy, when I still believed that it was protecting the shore of our country from acts of hostility; when I still did not believe that it would be a warder of a human holding pen for over a million people, most of them refugees within their own fatherland.

Suppose I were a warrior in the best commando unit in the world, trained to fight its most atrocious enemy. Suppose that instead of defending my country I would be dropped in the darkness of night from a combat helicopter outside the territorial waters of Israel, in order to perform a takeover of a civilian unarmed ship which carries humanitarian aid to the besieged. And suppose that those civilians on board the ship, who were either determined or frightened by the mask on my face, clouded with tear gas, decided to attack me with rods and knives. Then it is plausible that I too would open fire, thinking, “who the hell sent me to become a murderer against my will?”

For that person who sent me to drop from the sky like the angel of death left me no choice but to be a murderer or a martyr.


Nobody speaks about justice

If I were told in advance, I would probably have refused to take part in that mission, but now it is too late. The only thing left to do post factum is to point an accusing finger at the man who sent the soldiers there, Ehud Barak, and at the institution on whose behalf he is acting, the government of Israel

Once, at the sight of the massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, hundreds of thousands of Jews went out to the square. Yesterday there were only a few thousand. This is no apathy, but empathy towards the perpetrators. Everybody in Israel speaks only about public relations; no one speaks about justice anymore.

At this time the humanists can but wonder, with terror in their eyes: How is it possible that the more the Palestinian struggle shifts to non-violent means, the more Israel loses its composure and shifts to acts of terrorism, illegal imprisonments and abductions of peace activists in the dead of night?

In the face of the cowardliness of (most of) the Jewish Left, I would like to say to Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi: Since I saw you conducting yourself with courage and calm during the takeover, you have become, in my eyes and in the eyes of many others, a symbol of a Palestinian woman who fights for justice and equality. Please don’t quit your struggle till every Palestinian and Jew, every man and woman between the river and the sea is free and equal, Inshallah, Amen.