What the flotilla organizers understood was that whatever the outcome, each challenge to the siege could in fact never fail. Ships could succeed by reaching Gaza, or succeed without reaching Gaza by exposing Israel to the eyes of the world as a bone-headed bully.
The only solution to Israel’s problem was and remains the one that it refuses to entertain: backing itself out of a dead-end policy that by any metric one wants to use, has been a demonstrable failure — a policy which hasn’t weakened Hamas; hasn’t turned Gaza’s population against its rulers; hasn’t made Israel safer; and above all has brought Israel’s global image to an all-time low while callously inflicting yet more suffering on the Palestinian people.
The Gaza siege indeed seems on a track of its own-despite its patent inability to create any benefit for Israel. The most important original purpose of the blockade–besides those ostensible ones listed by Woodward–was to isolate Gaza while the Israelis hammered out some kind of permanent apartheid agreement with the West Bank. But lacking the political will to do that, for many reasons including the rise of brainless mainstream right-wing authoritarianism in the form of Netanyahu and Lieberman, they’re simply isolating Gaza because…well, because it makes their constituents happy, and because the political costs of lifting the blockade may be too costly. The siege is political, it serves no purpose. Like US segregation, or apartheid of South Africa, or even the Mubarak regime, it is now simply entrenched. Had it a different government, Israel could have rendered the West Bank a client bantustan years ago, leaving Gaza an impoverished republic–a Haiti for its industries, or a nice pretext-target to remain a militarized state. But as always, politics get in the way of perfectly evil plans. The longer such regimes last with no political benefit, the more absurdly useless and vile they appear; the less they are tolerated by both their backers and the silent majority who acquiesce to the crimes. They easily fall victim to anything that reflects their own inhumanity back at them. Israel has only one solution to being pantsed by a few dozen middle aged ladies riding a boat sardonically named after the President’s political memoir:they must “free” Gaza.
Any victory of the flotilla movement, however, only leads us back to the truth of what a “free” Gaza means. Gaza has already been “free”–as free as it will ever be while Israel controls the so-called peace process. When we remove the most heinous and loudest inhumanities, what we have left is a human management system that’s perfectly compatible with the broad strokes of globalization and neo-imperialism. If Iraq can be said to have a functioning democracy, then a blind and limbless Palestinian Authority State–or set of states–can also be said to exist as such. No such democracy will emerge, for the same reason that Iraq is one in name only. The big uglies go down quite easy when its time–occupation, Jim Crow, Apartheid, etcetera. The same injustices can then be inscribed into “just” settlements that remove the unpleasant carapace of a system, without affecting the slug beneath. The answer isn’t to stop railing against the particular injustices. I don’t claim to have the perfect system of dissent or mobilization. But there is something to be said for understanding the solutions that will be proposed when we “win”. History has a lot to say on that front.