SECTARIANISM FROM ABROAD IS DESTROYING THE FREE GAZA MOVEMENT

unite for victory

The siege on Gaza can and will be broken. International participation in the movement to deliver essential goods to the Strip have, so far, been successful despite harassment from Israeli forces and attacks on the ships bringing in those goods.   

One would expect the Israelis to do everything in their power to stop these activities…. that’s one of the things they do best.    One would not expect the movement to be sabotaged from within, but apparently this is what is happening.

The Left has always had divisions within its ranks. There are the Communists, the Maoists, the Trotskyites, the Socialists, etc.,etc. The Hope Convoy encountered many difficulties when attempting to cross over into Gaza from Egypt. This was not only the fault of the Egyptian officials, but was mainly the fault of a handful of British ‘Lefties’ that antagonised them.   

The people of Gaza welcome and need all the support they can get from abroad. The last thing they need is to see the so called convoys self destruct because of sectarianism. This is not the place or time to unravel your partisan flag, this is the time to work in a united way to bring victory to the cause of Palestine and end the siege on Gaza.   

Norman Finkelstein explains below why he will not be a part of a movement being destroyed by sectarianism.   

“Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition”

Norman Finkelstein

 

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law. I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march.

During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months. Because it drags in contentious issues that — however precious to different constituencies — are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration. In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction.

I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza. In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal.

Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties. However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events.

It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

Source

11 Comments

  1. Woody said,

    September 6, 2009 at 16:16

    This sounds like BS to be honest. He’s not even defending his position or outlining what the disagreement is. If he truly had an issue with the internal political differences, a true activist would argue for their position or argue for a front that would still accomplish these goals. I don’t even see Norm offering an alternative.

    Given that Gazans are still suffering every day, his reaction is all in all pretty petty and pathetic, much like the political usefulness of his action before this campaign. When I heard him talk about a mass protest confronting the wall, I thought he was out of his league – a book writer trying to do organizing? He’s exactly what he appears to be – just an academic with a career in writing about the conflict.

  2. Ladidah said,

    September 6, 2009 at 23:16

    The “sectarianism” he is denouncing is a demand by Palestinian organizers Omar Barghouthi (of the Palestinian Boycott campaign) and Haidar Eid (of Gaza) that Palestinian fundamental rights, including the right of return, be recognized, and respect paid to the work and organizing of Palestinian organizers.

    Read the statement of context here:
    http://gazafreedommarch.com/article.php?id=5081

    Finkelstein is not SAYING what his problem is. His problem is a demand BY PALESTINIANS that their own rights and contributions be recognized, that was supported by the majority of the leadership of the march. And rather than accept that, he resigned. That is the sad commentary here.

    Palestinian fundamental rights are not divisive, and Palestinians are not sectarian for calling for them to be respected.

  3. Ladybat said,

    September 7, 2009 at 03:39

    This is not JUST ABOUT PUTTING A BAND AID ON GAZA! Bringing food to the people in Gaza. How long will that food feed them? WE EITHER STAND UP FOR ALL OF PALESTINE AND IT’S PEOPLE TO END THIS HORRIBLE OCCUPATION OF THEIR HOMELAND OR WE DO NOT!

    Gaza does not only need food. GAZA NEEDS TO BE FREE! SO GAZA CAN FEED HERSELF! All Palestinians need to be free so they can feed themselves. IF that sounds “partisan” then so the heck what! Is it that we only lend a hand when a people are dyeing in front of our eyes? Just throw them a bone? I DON’T KNOW about the rest of you people out there who consider yourselves to be supporters of Palestine but as for me that means…… RESTORING PALESTINE BACK TO HER NATIVE PEOPLE AND RETURNING THEM TO THEIR PRIVATE PROPERTIES AND HOMELAND JUST LIKE THE UN RESOLUTIONS SAY IS SUPPOSE TO HAPPEN! If the UN cannot enforce its own laws then who will ENFORCE them?

    Does that make me a part of some political party rather than a part of this “peaceful food bringing mission”? So what if it does? The members of the Free Gaza movement have risked their lives to do what they have done so far. Palestine thanks them for every bit of it. But Palestine needs more than just a few boat loads of food. GAZA NEEDS TO BE FREE! PALESTINE NEEDS TO BE FREE! Either we are on the side of that and ON BOARD WITH THAT or we are not.

    This past week we have seen Uri Avenery cop out and now I see Mr. Finkelstein has done the same. When it comes down to it we see who is really about justice and peace and who is not.

    No justice no peace
    To resist is to exist
    EVEN IF IT TAKES A THOUSAND YEARS!

  4. September 7, 2009 at 14:42

    Well, I was not going to comment on this but upon second thought I will. There are multiple things about this that trouble me greatly. The first is how this was/is being handled.

    I’m not taking sides here on any issues Finkelstein has problems with, as I do not know what they are, nor do I know what the movements issues are on their side of this situation. What I will discuss is how Mr. Finkelstein has dealt with it, which I believe is very wrong. I think Mr. Finkelstein has made a mistake, and in that mistake has placed his pride and ego above that of Gaza. Here’s why:

    Whatever Issues he and the movement have between them, should be dealt with privately so as to not bring more un-needed criticism from those we battle everyday regarding Palestine. The fact that Mr. Finkelstein has chosen to take this very public is sad, and it does nothing for Palestine. If he has problems with a movement he joins, which he does not run, but is only a member, then he has the right to leave the organization if it does not measure up to what his personal ideals are.

    However, as someone not familiar with either side, I can say this: after one read of his post on his site, I can clearly see this is more about his “hurt feelings” than Gaza.

    Perhaps he thought by his joining and bringing in others he called on to join, that the movement would automatically let him set the agenda, due to his international celebrity status. I really don’t know, but what I can say is that this should never have been made a public issue, IMHO.

    By taking the fight public, and again, publicly directing statements to those he brought into the movement, is shameful. I assume he has email, could he not have emailed them? But this is not really about having his friends leave the movement; it’s really about publicly casting a shadow over the entire movement so as to keep others from joining it as well by waging an online public campaign. Which I say again does not help Palestine. What was written on his blog is really addressed to all his readers, and I’m sure all of them did not join the group on his behest. Again, does he not have email?

    No matter if this movement has problems; it most likely does as that is what happens when groups with differing opinions merge into a group. But you don’t air them publically, you think about the greater cause for Palestine and simply move on to another organization you feel comfortable with. If one does not agree with the direction of an organization one joined, then just simply leave, it’s really that simple.

    By choosing to leave as he has done, this will not only cast doubt upon this organization itself, but all others as well and to a greater extent the entire Palestinian Cause and movement. We have enough problems with Israel censoring and bashing Palestinian organizations and why he felt the need to give Israel more ammunition is beyond me. Which is why I belive this is his ego or hurt feelings talking. That is wrong IMHO and, more importantly he has played into the hands of Israel and all those who view Palestinian Organizations and Movements as somehow “suspect”

    He should have just left with his bruised ego and kept silent for the good of Palestine, however, he chose another option and made it about himself and not Palestine.

    I hope he will re-think this and choose to go silently for Palestine and remove that post as it only benefits our enemies, again IMHO

  5. Ness said,

    September 7, 2009 at 20:17

    You are wrong, commenters.
    This march isn’t about political demands it is ABOUT LIFTING THE SIEGE!
    Haven’t you READ the statement in the link one of you posted?

    To hell with those demands! The people of Gaza need food, water and shelter NOW! By introducing politically touchy issues, you have alienated at least half the people who would have shown up if YOU had kept your moronic ego-tripping stupid mouth shut damnit!

    Don’t you know (true) academics and famous persons/celebrities do not WANT to take a political stand? That they need to stay impartial and aloof to remain credible?

    Do you think one march can solve all of Palestine’s problems?
    Well, it can’t, but it could have broken the siege, and the world would have paid attention indeed…
    As it is now, this march will be just another *leftie*/pro-hamas demonstration, because that is how the press will explain it, and thats how the world will perceive it.
    It will NOT be newsworthy, and it will NOT be safe.
    And, worst of all, it will NOT help the people in gaza at all…

    Not Finkelstein but YOU have ripped off one of the legs the march was standing on, by insisting on adding demands that are sure to diminish the amount of heavy weights and people sympathetic to the cause (humanitarian) but not to these demands (political).

    Thanks a lot – i have cancelled my trip, and so will my group.

  6. Ladybat said,

    September 7, 2009 at 21:26

    Mr. Ness. You never really wanted to help Gaza in the first place. I think the Irish4palestine commenter made more sense than you did.
    What a load of garbage. You feel that “Well, sure, we need to take food to the people of Gaza, after all they need to eat. But real freedom, now thats another story, we cant get involved in that. ”

    If THE PEOPLE OF GAZA ARE NOT FREE THEN HOW WILL THEY EVER BE ABLE TO FEED THEMSELVES??? WERE YOU PLANNING A BOAT TRIP OVER THERE EVERY YEAR FOR ANOTHER 70 YEARS? BECAUSE THATS HOW LONG THEY HAVE BEEN WAITING AND FIGHTING FOR THEIR FREEDOM ALREADY!!!

    So don’t go Mr Ness. Gaza will still find a way to eat with out you or your friends!

  7. Ladidah said,

    September 7, 2009 at 23:34

    I’m sorry, but don’t Palestinians get to decide or have a voice in determining what it is they need now?

    Ness, I am asking in all seriousness. Did you actually read what the Statement of Context says? It’s on the Gaza Freedom March website here:
    http://gazafreedommarch.com/article.php?id=5081

    It is a very, very broad statement. What is it in this statement that you object to, or that any celebrity/person/organization has objected to?

    I really don’t understand. The only person I’ve seen back away from the march is NF himself. This statement is about as broad as it gets while recognizing Palestinians’ basic rights.

  8. September 8, 2009 at 06:45

    Here are the lyrics of the song “The Times They Are A-Changing”, written by Bob Dylan (Zimmerman), who is Jewish. I WONDER what HE thinks about the Jewish state of Israel?

    I’m sure he didn’t write this song with the Zionist Jews and their racist state in mind, however this song which he wrote back in 1963, seems to me to be VERY appropriate with regards to the Jewish state of Israel and its supporters, especially the BOGUS Jewish “progressive peace activists”— these particular lines of the song are written just for them:

    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand

    AND

    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls

    AND

    The order is
    Rapidly fadin’.
    And the first one now
    Will later be last

    And this line is for the long-suffering (over 61 years now!!!!) Palestinian people and all their supporters around the world!!!:

    For the loser now
    Will be later to win

    Read on for all the lyrics from top to finish…
    The Times They Are A-Changin’

    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone.
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’
    Or you’ll sink like a stone

    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon
    For the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who
    That it’s namin’.
    For the loser now
    Will be later to win

    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls

    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand

    For the times they are a-changin’.

    The line it is drawn
    The curse it is cast
    The slow one now
    Will later be fast
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is
    Rapidly fadin’.
    And the first one now
    Will later be last

    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

    I would bet that Bob Dylan wrote these lyrics with regards to the civil rights movement, about equal rights for blacks and whites, that was raging back in 1963 in the USA. But how come Jewish Bob Dylan never wrote a song about the rights of Palestinians who have been trampled on since even a couple of decades BEFORE the Jewish state of Israel was immorally created by stealing Arab land while murdering and terrorizing the indigenous Palestinian people there? Don’t tell me he didn’t know what was going on… Especially later in 1967 during the Six Day War! How come all the Jewish civil rights leaders and peaceniks NEVER talked about the Jewish state of Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and stealing Arab land? They must have know, being so “connected” to “Israel”. Those Zionist Jews are really experts at distracting the attention of the American public from the racist, terrorist, land-stealing Jewish state of Israel, eh? WELL WELL WELL, Palestine’s time has come for justice! Israel must be subject to the same treatment that apartheid South Africa was treated to, as well as the same pressure that supporters of segregation were treated to in the US: and they must likewise transform into a REAL democracy with completely equal rights for all, including for the Palestinian refugees who MUST be allowed their INALIENABLE RIGHT TO RETURN as EQUALS and REPARATIONS. OH YES!!
    OH YES, WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
    WE ARE CHANGE.
    I’m glad there really ARE some true Jewish progressives out there such as Gilad Atzmon, Barbara Lubin, Rosanne Barr, to mention just a few, of many. Hopefully there will be more who come forth and help bring JUSTICE and EQUAL RIGHTS and LIBERTY to the Palestinian people. This is in the best interests of the entire world.

    FREE FREE PALESTINE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Ladybat said,

    September 8, 2009 at 15:57

    Very well written Wendy. The words to that song hit the mark. And don’t forget the organization “Jews against Zionism”. They are also Jews who really do understand exactly what it is going to take for peace to happen. Some Jews claim they are “progressive” and feel Palestinians should have “rights” too. But when it comes down to it these so called “Progressives” still do not want to do what should and must be done. They still do not want to let go of what they TOOK FROM THE PEOPLE OF PALESTINE. Which is what this conflict is about and WHAT IT WILL ALWAYS BE ABOUT! You still want a homeland for the Jews only. A place where Jews will always “feel safe”. Well that is fine. BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE THAT HOMELAND AWAY FROM ANOTHER PEOPLE JUST TO MAKE YOURSELVES FEEL SAFER! BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER FEEL SAFE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TAKEN SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU AND THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE TAKEN IT FROM WILL NEVER STOP TRYING TO GET IT BACK! The Palestinian refugees need to come back to their private properties and homes just like the UN resolutions say is suppose to happen. Nothing short of this will bring peace. Not now and not ever. No matter how many signs and t-shirts you wear with peace signs on them. Those will not bring peace. Words will not bring peace. Only the return of the native peoples personal private properties will bring peace. And you cannot hold a gun to their heads and force them to sell their properties to you either. The UN resolutions say the Palestinians have the right to CHOOSE COMPENSATION or RETURN TO THEIR HOMES. It does not say they have to take compensation even if they do not want it! And even if you Jews hold a gun to the Palestinian head and try to force them to sell you their lands. WHO IS GOING TO BUY THIS LAND FOR YOU? WHO WILL PUT UP THE FUNDS TO BUY THE LAND OF PALESTINE FOR THE VICTIMS OF HITLER? AND WHY SHOULD ANY NATION HAVE TO DO THAT FOR YOU? Why should any nation hold a gun to the Palestinian head and force them to sell their lands to them so they can then GIVE YOU, THE VICTIMS OF HITLER, THE LAND OF PALESTINE? Palestinians did not serve Hitler. Why should Palestinians have to give up their private properties to the great grand children of the victims of Hitler?

    Americans are loosing their own homes so how can they afford to buy Palestine for you, the great grand children of the victims of Hitler? Americans will not want to do that. Americans have already had enough of Israel. If you dare ask America to buy Palestine for you, to help you hold a gun to the Palestinian head and force him to sell his land to you, I think you will find the American friendship you have always enjoyed broken for good.

  10. James said,

    September 10, 2009 at 08:59

    Norman Finkelstein is a giant of precision scholarship. Many people hate his views, but as best I know, he’s 100% correct in every one of the 100s of 1000s of words he’s published in books and articles and the millions of words he’s spoken in lectures and public speeches.

    So the stupidity of what’s happened beggars belief. Rather than protect the integrity of the FreeGaza project (and stand by all the people who’ve loaned it money and goods and boats they can ill afford) two Palestinians have been allowed to tear it apart with this insane demand to move the goal-posts.

    There’s a saying “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” – and this time, it’s true.

    Here’s the statement with which two Palestinians demolished the Free Gaza Movement – note that they’re so bereft of Western support they’ve not even got anyone to check their spelling!

    http://gaza08.blogspot.com/2009/09/gaza-freedom-macrh-is-now-zionist-free.html

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009 – Gaza Freedom Macrh is now Zionist free

    After much pressure on the Gaza Freedom March organizing committee, they altered their statement to acknowledge BDS, israeli military occupation & palestinian civil resistance not apparent in their previous statement a note: the organizing committee in addition to barghouti & eid are receiving many aggressive emails from zionists due to this 6 out of 14 members of the organizing committee voted against the change of statment of context that did NOT previously include the most basic of rights of the Palestinians one of them was norman finkelstein, who resigned from the organizing committee

  11. Marty said,

    September 11, 2009 at 17:14

    I always wonder if commenting on strings like this is a valuable use of our very overtaxed time, but there is a tenor to some of the postings that make me feel I have to add something to the conversation.

    First, I personally support the Gaza Freedom March and am a leader, both nationally and locally, of a Jewish organization that has endorsed it. I say this up front so that no one thinks I am somehow writing in opposition to the march, its goals or the overall struggle of Palestinians.

    What worries me is the way in which some of the commenters here have talked about not only “Zionists” but “Jews,” “the Jewish Community,” and, especially “progressive Jews,” “so-called progressive Jews” and Jews in the Peace movement. As one who was brought up in a Zionist environment I can speak to the issue of what we knew and didn’t know about the history, founding and development of Israel. There is no question that most of us of in my generation of Jews were filled with many myths about that history. And it is important for people to understand that we did not reject Palestinians or *their* story, we did not – to our great loss – even know that there was one. And there is no question that the Holocaust has been misused by many to “justify” what has happened to Palestinians.

    I am not asking anyone to ignore or excuse those truths – but as one who went through a decades-long process to realize what was really happening I believe we undermine our own cause if we don’t understand the realities and, through that understanding, help move people who can become valuable allies. There is a century-long history that is filled with incredibly deep emotional issues that cannot be overlooked. Yes, the Holocaust has been misused, but it *did* happen with excruciatingly profound consequences and implications. Yes, the commonly accepted [certainly among Jews and to a great extent others] history was to a large extent untrue. But it is difficult for most people to understand the reality of how successful many in the Israeli and institutional American Jewish communities were in implanting this one-sided perception of this state that was to be the re-birth of Jewishness and Judaism in the 20th century. That’s why so many Jews who are “liberal” and “progressive” on so many issues [e.g., Bob Zimmerman Dylan!] are, like many, passive supporters of Israel if not virulently supportive of the worst racist policies of Israel.

    When we make blanket statements denigrating “Jews,” “progressive Jews,” etc. we overlook a number of things. Those who have, correctly, argued that the Palestinian struggle – including armed struggle – can only be understood in the context of their experience need to understand that the beliefs, responses and feelings of Jews [American as well as Israeli] emanates in the context of *their* experience. And suggest this not only because I think it is the *right* thing to do, but because ultimately it is in our interest – the interest of the Palestinian struggle – to understand *all* the realities and, therefor, be able to do something about them rather than simply decry them.

    I have come from a Zionist background, through a time living in Israel, and a long career as a Jewish educator to working full time in this struggle. I came to where I am not through some great revelation but through a long struggle with [what I believe to be] the best tradition of Jewish values and social justice, nurtured by the patient understanding of people – Jewish, Christian and Muslim; Palestinian, American and israeli – who did not reject me as a stereotype of what “Jews” are but helped me to understand the realties. I would like to think that their understanding has led to a net gain for our cause and can only hope that we struggle on with a continued boldness that does not exclude compassion.

    Offered in solidarity


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