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What do ‘Flotilla Folk’ do?




    When news emerged that a "Freedom Flotilla" was tied up in Greece for weeks and unable to carry out its plan to breach Israel's blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, a song from Camelot came to mind. Queen Guinevere asks, "What do the simple folk do... when they are blue?" and King Arthur tries to explain.

You have to ask the same question about the Flotilla Folk. Who are they, what do they do and why do they do it? Almost 1,500 of them from around the world planned to fly to Greece, board ships and sail across the Mediterranean to the Gaza Strip in July.

The Flotilla Folk say they are just ordinary folk committed to human rights. But how do ordinary folk have time for the complicated preparations necessary for such an adventure, and for spending weeks in Greece and Gaza? Don't they have jobs? Or do they get their summers off? And how do ordinary folk have the funds to buy ships, fly to Greece, and spend weeks in hotels waiting to launch the latest publicity stunt they have concocted to smear Israel?

How do they pay for their expensive human rights hobby? Apparently they don't have to do much preparing. Established radical groups affiliated with Hamas take care of all the details, like the Union of Good (UoG), a coalition of European charities affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The ISM has praised Palestinian suicide bombing as "noble," spent the last 10 years training international volunteers to sabotage Israel's security, and received official invitations from Hamas to come to Gaza.

These groups raise the money through their various affiliated "charities," which sometimes generate funds through mainstream businesses. Or they raise money by misinforming well-meaning people about their purposes, as the US delegation to Gaza did by having the audacity to name its boat after President Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope.

But why would Flotilla Folk spend their vacations trying to violate Israel's legal naval blockade of Gaza in order to visit and embrace Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the territory? Flotilla Folk leaders like UoG and ISM support Hamas and its battle against Israel's existence. Others, like Medea Benjamin, Col. Ann Wright and Hedy Epstein have turned activism against Israel into full-time careers. Some Flotilla Folk are well-meaning people who simply accept, uncritically, the distorted facts used to demonize the country. Still others were once on the front lines of the battle for civil rights and against Apartheid.

BUT WHAT do such idealistic folk do when the problems they once fought have been resolved? Many, like Alice Walker, try to recapture those idealistic, heady times and camaraderie by seeing the same injustices even where they don't exist, and ignoring them where they do exist. They gullibly accept the misinformation propagated by the UoG and ISM, and superimpose the lens of the civil rights or anti-Apartheid movements on the Arab-Israeli conflict. They are entirely unaware that the multicultural Jewish state is among the most progressive in the world and has sought peace with its Arab neighbors since it was reestablished in 1948.

Many are journalists just looking for another great story about Israeli brutality. It always sells.

But Flotilla Folk want to be human rights heroes without really putting themselves in harm's way. So they don't go to help the victims of the brutal regimes in Syria, Iran, the Congo or Darfur.

Instead, they choose to fight Israel because they know it strictly follows Western humanitarian standards and the rule of law. They get to pretend they are brave warriors, when in fact, they are only play-acting on a safe stage.

Whatever they do in their private lives and whatever lens they use, Flotilla Folk share a basic philosophy. They believe that the way to bring peace to the Middle East is through acts of civil disobedience that will get media attention, not through encouraging negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

They aren't like ordinary people. They think it is okay to ignore terrorism against Israelis, to overlook the 8,000 rockets Hamas has fired from Gaza into Israeli communities over the past five years, turning everyday life into a lethal game of Russian roulette. They think it is okay to ignore the fact that Hamas is an Iranian proxy, and that Hamas's founding document calls for the murder of Jews, the "obliteration" of Israel and its replacement with a fundamentalist theocracy that opposes all the freedoms and social justice values for which the Flotilla Folk claim to stand. And they think it's okay to embrace Hamas, even though its founding document cites the anti-Semitic Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion "a racist tract that was once called a 'warrant for the genocide'" of Jews.

They think it is okay to ignore terrorism from the West Bank even the murder of the Fogel family, including a three-month-old infant, and the fact that the murderers showed no remorse for their savage act. And they act as though it is okay to ignore the hate-filled incitement that saturates Palestinian society and creates people like the Fogels' murderers.

The Flotilla Folk are not like other people. They use repressive methods and manipulate information. Dutch journalists who had been part of the flotilla abandoned it in disgust after seeing these methods used. The one small boat that did finally attempt to sail to Gaza didn't have any humanitarian goods on board only Israel-haters. These flotilla folk spread hate, not hope. They support repressive forces in the Middle East, like Hamas, not the moderates seeking peaceful coexistence. They abuse and pervert human rights values instead of upholding them. They are enemies, not friends, of Palestinians and Israelis, and of the brave demonstrators in Syria, Iran and elsewhere, whom they ignore.

Fortunately international leaders, especially those in Greece, exposed the hypocrisy of the Flotilla Folk and their false pretenses, and stopped them. But Flotilla Folk don't give up. With their zealotry, they will try to devise other media ops to destroy Israel's international image. It is time to denounce these destructive campaigns and get serious about promoting peace. Anyone who truly yearns to see Israelis and Palestinians living in peaceful coexistence should stop indulging in disingenuous stunts and urge Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

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