What do chocolate, cookies, A4 paper, potato chips, cumin, toys, jelly, nuts, dried fruit, nutmeg, and goats have in common?
It's a tricky one. If you're a moderate, they have absolutely nothing in common. But if you are a hard-line Israeli politician, they are all potentially dangerous goods that could threaten Israel's security. Well, it seems that that side of the political spectrum has won the argument, as all the above are items that the Israeli government has prohibited from entering Gaza.
It's understandable. I mean, you can inflict a lot of damage on your oppressors with a chocolate biscuit. And those paper cuts, boy, they can really hurt.
But I don't want to over-dramatize the situation, because it's not all doom and gloom down in Gaza. Many items are allowed in: mops, sponges for washing, egg cartons, glass cleaner, hair combs, plastic chicken cages, and lentils, amongst a list you can see for yourself at www.gisha.org.
So, what exactly are the 1.5 million Gazan people complaining about? What could possibly have been on the Freedom Flotilla that Israeli commandos attacked early Sunday morning in international waters, in yet another assault that has appalled our global community?
By most accounts, on the flotilla were 10,000 tons of, not guns, but vital humanitarian aid. The people of Gaza desperately need it to survive the 1,000 days of illegal blockade which has crippled Gaza and reduced it to a barely functioning, open-air prison. I'm talking about aid like cement to rebuild homes, which have lain in rubble and ruin since the monstrous attacks on Gaza last year; school supplies so that children can dare to hope and live up to their potential; medical equipment, like water purification tablets and wheelchairs, so that the sick and elderly don't suffer and perish needlessly.
The attack stunned the world because of its blatant and absurd disregard for anything resembling international law, human rights, and diplomatic norms. Although, I was stunned at the glaring outrageousness of the attack, I am not surprised by it. Sunday's event cannot be viewed in isolation; it is just another upshot of a dogma long fermenting on Israel's political landscape.
It is a doctrine that lives for itself and off others. It survives by tapping into the subliminal and cognizant levels. It implants into public consciousness a set of tenets that see Israeli's very existence as eternally under threat, to be defended through any means (preferably through use of force to show the enemy who's boss). It is best served through the adoption of an 'us against the world' mentality.
By its very nature, hard-line ideology is self-serving and self-perpetuating, its primary goal is to survive -- and that precludes everything. If to exist it must redefine what is acceptable, redraw the lines of international law, and re-imagine what weapons are appropriate -- so be it. Assigning themselves authority and immunity, Israel's leaders feel licensed to do whatever they like and not expect an international outcry.
But this hardened path is fraught with dangers for all of us. These radical policies debar Palestinian value and, by extension, human value. Harsh measures then become more palatable. Inflicting violence upon an innocent majority to punish the guilty few now seems necessary. Every day the blockade continues is another day our humanity remains under siege.
The effect is a people trapped between a rock and a hard line policy. The product is desperation, and the reaction is more hard line policies that attempt to defend previous hard-line policies! After all, did this outrageous attack take place to preserve Israel's security or to sustain the blockade itself? Such is the self-serving nature of uncompromising ideologies, and the spiral becomes hard to break.
And what I find most frustrating is how Israel defends its actions. By attacking criticism as part of an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda war. Israel, yet again, fails to understand that the problem is policy, not PR.
Now and always, hard-line policy and those who embrace it are vessels for darker forces that are at once self-cannibalizing and combustible. No good can come of them. They are unsustainable because their sense of righteousness denies human worth. Apart from other hard-liners on all sides who now have been gifted the fuel to invigorate their fanaticism and circulate it far and wide, everyone else loses out:
The people of Gaza lose out: 80% of them live below the poverty line. The children of Gaza lose out: one third of their schools destroyed during the attack on Gaza last year, still haven't been rebuilt. The newborns of Gaza lose out: 95% of Gaza's nitrate-full water, fails the World Health Organization's standards leaving thousands of babies at risk of poisoning.
The people of Israel lose out: rejected by a third of the countries in the United Nations, shunned by much of the global community whose foundation is human value, ordinary Israelis find themselves persona non grata outside their 'borders'. Living defensively isn't a way of life; people only thrive on secure foundations. Is the Israeli government really prepared to condemn its own people to the shaky foundations of rule-by-fear, and its consequences? So Israel's leadership needs to ask itself some tough questions. "Is our long term strategy to rule by fear? Is our long term outlook for the Israeli people one of constant defense? Are these horizons of hopelessness what we want for our people?"
And moderates around the world lose out: people like me, who dared to believe that the road to peace doesn't have to be a lonely and desolate one. That a two-state solution is not the figment of a naïve idealist's imagination. And those whose ethical responsibility it is now to deal with the science of reality, to form a coalition of humans that question and confront the assumptions of those on their far right, and to reaffirm the ethos of moderation.
After all, isn't moderation where most of the living is done?
Well, speaking as a moderate, I fear if the tides don't turn in our region, moderation will be amongst the most painful casualties of continued aggression and hard line policies. As someone who lived through the late King Hussein's fight for peace, until his very last breath, and watches his son, my husband, King Abdullah, continue that fight, it actually breaks my heart to see us moving further and further away from peace.
Peace. People. Moderation. I would have thought that those were too heavy a price to pay for sustaining a hardened stance.
So, when flotillas came to break the blockade, they came to help the people of Gaza. But, just as important, they came to break the blockade on the Israeli mind.