Two veteran friends of mine will be on one of the ships planning to leave Athens next week to challenge the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza. The Israeli government, after attacking a previous flotilla in May 2010 and killing nine people, has said it will use violence if necessary to prevent the ships from entering what any reasonable person by now should agree are Palestinian waters.
This confrontation should not be necessary. The Israeli military occupation over Palestinian life should have been eased and sovereign rights established for Palestinians long ago. The crisis of Palestinian status has reached the level of a disaster, and like the creation of Israel itself it is more than a Jewish problem: It is a world problem.
The flotilla as an act of civil disobedience is occurring at a time Israel/Palestine peace talks are dead in the water and the fledgling coalition of Fatah and Hamas is planning in September to seek recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state from the UN General Assembly, the very same body that recognized Israel in 1947. The US doesn't want this to happen because, if the past is a guide, it will feel it has to reject the Palestinian request. Since the US is only one of many equal votes in the General Assembly -- versus the Security Council where its veto rules -- a US vote supporting Israeli intransigence will do nothing but be galling for much of the world.
At a time when people in the Middle East and North Africa are in the streets seeking new governing relationships and United States citizens of both parties are becoming fed up with foreign wars, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is acting like a dangerous, petulant child covering its eyes to make the real world go away.
Why does this matter? Why should ordinary Americans care about this? Why not just let the Israelis continue along the same belligerent path they have established over the past decades? The reason is simple: What Israel does or doesn't do affects our lives here in the United States. Our tax dollars finance their military. And, most important, tiny Israel can drag this huge nation into a major world conflagration it does not want.
According to the Israeli writer Uri Avnery , the real problem is "all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the "Jewish state.' It serves many different purposes, almost all of them malign." In a recent essay  he compared Israel, as a religious state, to The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which like Israel, was created 60 plus years ago out of a volatile ethnic conflict.
Avnery's family arrived in Israel from Europe in 1923 and soon fell into extreme poverty. He fought with the Irgun against the British, but, then, left in protest of the Irgun's anti-Arab, terrorist tactics. He was severely wounded fighting in the 1948 war and wrote a famous book about it. He served multiple terms as a member of the Knesset and was once the focus of Golda Meir who said: "I am ready to mount the barricades in order to get Avnery out of the Knesset!" Once he left the Knesset, he became a journalist and has been part of the Israeli left and peace movement for many years. While the Israeli peace movement has been effectively marginalized by the party of fear and conquest, Avnery has not abandoned the notion that Arabs and Jews can get along.
Comparing Israel and Pakistan as like religious states with atomic weapons is, of course, a harsh analogy for many to absorb. I imagine Avnery's intention is to shock as a way to shake things up and empower a reasonable, radical alternative to the current rightist, Iron Wall policies -- to avoid a terrible future for Israel and its patron, the United States of America.