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My co-passengers and I of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have now gone from "High-Seas Hippies," according to the right-wing Washington Times, to participants in a flotilla full of "fools, knaves, hypocrites, bigots, and supporters of terrorism," says Alan Dershowitz in his usual measured prose.
Poor Alan, he seems upset at our audacity not only to hope for humane treatment of the 1.6 million Gazans, who currently live under a cruel blockade, but to force the issue. To stop our boat before it could leave Greek waters, Israel's Likud government gave itself a self-inflicted black eye and again brought the oppression of Gazans to worldwide attention.
This time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government did not even have to kill people to add to Israel's growing "delegitimization" before the civilized world. Facing growing international condemnation, Netanyahu and his allies have reason to worry.
In recognition of our modest accomplishments, we U.S. boaters have now made it onto Dershowitz's "Dishonor Roll!" At first reading of his intended insults, my laughter was uncontrollable. I've been called a lot of things before, but I cannot remember being labeled a "knave."
Anyone know what a knave is? Does it have something to do with what Damon Runyon used to call "the Harvards," among whom Dershowitz has long toiled as a law professor?
Dershowitz also lashes out at the American Jews on board, including 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, with the shopworn epithet for Jews who dare to criticize Israel's government as "self-hating."
I suppose if I had criticized some of the ugly extremism in Ireland a few decades back, I would be a "self-hating Irishman."
But the bottom line is this: Dershowitz's Likud friends and their neocon chums in the Obama administration realize they have suffered a stinging -- and unnecessary -- PR defeat. They could easily have let our peaceful boat carrying passengers, media and letters of goodwill reach the isolated people of Gaza.
What we boaters appear to have accomplished is to provoke the mighty diplomats of Israel and the United States into a full-court press that brought renewed attention to the plight of the Gazans.
Instead, Greek authorities, already tied up in knots over their national financial crisis, had their arms twisted to thwart a group of humanitarians and peace activists -- including poet Alice Walker, retired Army Col. Ann Wright and Code Pink's Medea Benjamin -- from sailing a boat to Gaza.
By putting the issue of Israel's blockade front and center, we also managed to force discomforted U.S. State Department spokespersons to dissemble about the legality of Israel's illegal blockade. They ducked declaring something so clearly illegal legal, knowing that otherwise they would have invited international ridicule.
But caution. The injured-animal syndrome among the Likudniks poses distinct dangers for the people of the Middle East -- the more so, as we watch President Barack Obama continue to let Netanyahu walk all over him.
Official Washington's appeasement of the Likud Lobby seems to encourage Israeli leaders to believe that not only the U.S. Congress but also America's lusting-for-a-second-term President will condone just about any action Tel Aviv might undertake. That makes the situation very volatile.
In my view, there is more danger, in present circumstances, that the extreme right in Israel will flail out in a very misguided way than there has been in several years. The Netanyahu regime is in a very defensive, reactive posture.
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