Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Transparency, hyperbole, credibility and the lack of nonviolence

"At least 20 killed" "Israeli troops fired live ammunition as they attacked."

These are the kinds of claims we heard from the supporters of the Freedom Flotilla in the immediate aftermath of the clash at sea at 4 a.m. two nights ago. The many videos--even the Livestream broadcast from the flotilla itself--did not bear out these claims. It appears (though we await detailed investigative analysis) as though on at least one ship the IDF members were attacked first (photo of IDF troop lowered onto deck while passenger throws object) and that this was the only ship on which IDF members shot real bullets and wounded or murdered flotilla activists. (A television grab made on May 31, 2010 from the Turkish TV channel shows an injured human-rights activist onboard the Turkish aid boat "Mavi Marmara." Image Credit: AFP)

It does not help the cause of justice to exaggerate, nor does it promote trust to make unsubstantiated claims about the rapacity or bloodthirstiness of the 'enemy.' Instead, it makes many who seek honest information turn to corporate media for some semblance of objectivity. Is this the goal of the activist allies? Doubtful.

Nonviolence is about transparency and honesty, whereas much activism that doesn't stress nonviolence is about trickery, deception, and proving that those of us who are activists are much smarter than those goons who run the empire. Guess what? We are not smarter than them. We are not more clever. We do not trick the citizenry into believing us. Our only hope is the disarming openness and complete honesty that substantiates an image of trustworthiness and nonviolence.

Of course, the Freedom Flotilla never claimed to be nonviolent. Indeed, as Israeli media is now reporting, "Before boarding the Marmara, Ali Khaider Benginin told his family he dreamt of becoming a shahid. Turkish press reports two other slain flotilla participants expressed similar wish."

That the flotilla isn't claiming to be a nonviolent mission is a good thing, since they failed in that miserably. But they may still achieve an end to the blockade of Gaza since ending the blockade is simply the right thing to do and the world knows it. I believe they could have achieved the same general international condemnation by nonviolence, but they certainly have ratcheted up the attention by provoking a deadly response from Israeli troops who turned live ammunition on their attackers.

I believe much of the world feels, logically, that the confrontation and deaths are Israel's fault, just as a robber who comes into your home at 4 a.m. and is met by a resident wielding a baseball bat is still guilty of murder when he shoots the homeowner with the bat. Israel boarded these ships in international waters at 4 a.m. The response wasn't nonviolent, but it was probably still far more understandable and legal than was Israeli troops shooting real bullets in response. This is murder, the world will judge it that way, and nonviolence simply has no role in this episode of the long and usually violent struggle between Israel and Palestinians.

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