September 5, 2008

Beyond Gaza

On the same day the Israeli group, Rabbis for Human Rights, sadly marked their twentieth year in operation -- admitting their task as greater and more impossible than ever -- the two ships operated by The Free Gaza Movement returned to Cyprus. Israel did not stop them on their way to Gaza, nor intercept them on their way back to Cyprus. The rationale for the blockade remains "security" and since Free Gaza brought only balloons and hearing aids (perfect props for antagonistic quips about the "hot air" of activists" and the "deafening silence" that for the most part surrounded the event) Israel allowed them to arrive and leave unhindered.

With their ships back in Cyprus, The Free Gaza Movement encourages more ships to sail. What will the next ones bring, both in terms of critical attention to the plight of Gazans and in actual cargo? Israel says it will decide how to handle each ship seeking to dock in Gaza on a case-by-case basis. The standard for intervention is the judgment that the material being brought in constitutes a threat, and that anyone being taken out constitutes an enemy. At what would actual humanitarian aid constitute a threat to the policy of collective punishment? How many sick and dying would be deemed propaganda material? If Israel sees clear to block Fulbright scholars from leaving Gaza to attend U.S. universities, the absurdist calculations of control are bound to unfurl, the blood trickle of 1.3 million people caught in the grip of Erez and Rafah.

Human rights work, therefore, is not defined by the blockade to be run, but in the small acts of pushing against the death-logic of denials, divisions, and distinctions that mark the vulnerable for death. Furthermore, in the end, such work does not meets its enemy in the unjust policy and practice to shout at.

Instead, it seems to work as the spectral haunting of something to come, emerging in injustice's exhaustion, the point at which the strangle-hold -- the bondage to security -- becomes the impossibility of holding fast to the threat.

Last week also marked the death of Abie Nathan, a leftist and twice-jailed Israeli whose work for the defeat of insane boundaries found its perfect symbols in his acts of flight and his pirate radio ship, which broadcast calls for peace and pop music floated into Israel for 21 years. He mistakenly shut it down after the Oslo Accords provided its false promises, but the very idea remains: the floating, ungrounded insistence; the waiting just beyond the horizon of the law; something insistent, always there awaiting a chance to be tapped.