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The Flotilla Fascination

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Photo by AFPBy Cal Perry

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sometimes uniquely simple for such a subject that causes people to dedicate their lives to the study of it.

Precipitating events can sometimes highlight the distance between the two countries in the most blatant and simple ways. Never before has this been so true since the media, and many around the world, turned their attention to tiny ports in Greece and Turkey.

Hundreds of press, activists and what seems to be a strange group of ... international groupies have captured the attention of government officials and mass media alike. A strange combination of people who appear to be following in what they hope will be some major moral stand: like that of the Civil Rights movement in the United States to those who simply want their voices to be heard for any cost.

The "Gaza siege" has become more than a tiny piece of bad and dangerous real-estate ... what to many in the press see as a tiny target for Israeli rockets, death from above is for others: a misconstrued version of the facts.

Arabic websites and papers read words like "unfazed" coupled with "sabotage," while in Israel the headlines reflect the view that the Gaza flotilla is a sad media and tactical joke.

It's hard to argue with either side – one stands on personal morals; the other looks 'pragmatically' at a situation it frames as a bizarre international circus.

The evening prime time news channels in Israel bring "Get around" music by the Beach boys over music of surfers, even a man on a horse with children playing around the beautiful animal, the sun setting behind. Hebrew subtitles cover Palestinian reaction to newly donated surfboards. Fresh in through Israel anchors on the evening news question the entire situation ... "Look at the pictures " ... "Judge for yourself," they say.

"Unfortunately Israel has trouble finding buyers for the story," says one Israeli analyst as the story continues into its seventh minute.

Fully admitting the situation now is far better in Gaza (an interesting way of saying the situation used to be miserable), showing pictures of economic stagnation years ago ... then dissolving to video – what amounts to today's version of a beach MTV music video.

Avi Issachoroff reacting to my queries about blatant and sometimes stark comments by the Israeli government (the foreign minister compared the situation to the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" while Ehud Barak, a staple for decades in Israeli politics, spoke of flat screen televisions and other luxuries being enjoyed by the population of Gaza) agreed the world does not see Gaza like Israel, but believes Israel is spending too much time making it the joke many believe it has developed into.

"What on earth are we talking about - Israeli government is spending too much time on things like pirates, other issues instead of talking about the fact that there is no real siege?"

Bad boats, poor leadership and international diplomacy have scuttled, so far, any serious attempt to break what is an iron grip on the Gaza strip by the Israeli navy. It has even flipped organisers off their game.

Alice Walker - who helped to lead African Americans into recent American history, rubbing elbows with the nations finest minds - has even resorted to simple platitudes and victories. This is a woman that has defined her time in America for herself. Wearing it as a badge of honour, she along with millions is proud to be reading some of her continuously banned writing.

A leader of an entire movement, perhaps a generation, she seemed to take her trip of only a few thousand metres as a symbolic conquest, telling the media the people of Gaza will see that they tried.

Goals as flexible as the strange accusations thrown at Israel. Organisers have accused the country of damaging the ships while still in port. Telling the media that fishermenn with no equipment have been hanging out ... clearly operatives, Israel they say will stoop to nothing to ensure that a few boats do not appear in the Mediterranean headed for the tiny strip of beach.

A beach that has had as its guest an Israeli solider for more than five years. A captive of Hamas: they view it as a military victory – a Prisoner of War - a son who has divided a nation. A beach that hosted the far too recent brutal murder of one of the world's most renowned human rights activists ... Italian Vittroio Arrigoni. A place that saw weeks of non-stop bombardment not that long ago … now more mired in identity than the very boats trying to save them.

 


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