Hitchens has some questions for the flotilla idiots....
Good questions, too...
However, given the luxury of time, might it not be possible to ask the "activists" onboard just a few questions? (Activist is a good neutral word, isn't it, with largely positive connotations? Even flotilla, with its reassuring diminuendo, has a "small is beautiful" sound to it.) Most of the speculation so far has been to do with methods and intentions, allowing for many avowals about peaceful tactics and so forth, but this is soft-centered coverage. I would like to know a little more about the political ambitions and implications of the enterprise.
It seems safe and fair to say that the flotilla and its leadership work in reasonably close harmony with Hamas, which constitutes the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The political leadership of this organization is headquartered mainly in Gaza itself. But its military coordination is run out of Damascus, where the regime of Bashar Assad is currently at war with increasingly large sections of the long-oppressed Syrian population. Refugee camps, some with urgent humanitarian requirements, are making their appearance on the border between Syria and Turkey (the government of the latter being somewhat sympathetic to the purposes of the flotilla). In these circumstances, isn't it legitimate to strike up a conversation with the "activists" and ask them where they come out on the uprising against hereditary Baathism in Syria?
Then again, Syria's other proxy party in the region is Hezbollah, which operates a state-within-a-state and maintains a private army on the territory of Lebanon. Senior associates of this group have recently been named in a U.N. indictment concerning the broad-daylight murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. Hezbollah's leadership and propaganda organs, while refusing all cooperation with the United Nations, are currently expressing undying solidarity with the Assad regime, which relies additionally on heavy support from the dictatorship in Iran. Again, the Hamas leadership seems compromised at best by its association with this local Tehran-Damascus axis. Surely there must be some spokesman for the blockade-runners who is able to give us his thinking on this question, too? At a time of widespread democratic and pluralist revolution in the region, Hamas imposes its own version of theocracy on Gaza and seems otherwise aligned with the forces that stand athwart the hope of continued and deeper change. Who wants to volunteer time to make this outfit look more presentable? Half the published articles on Gaza contain a standard reference to its resemblance to a vast open-air prison (and when I last saw it under Israeli occupation, it certainly did deserve this metaphor). The problem is that, given its ideology and its allies, Hamas qualifies rather too well in the capacity of guard and warder.
Only a few weeks ago, the Hamas regime in Gaza became the only governing authority in the world—by my count—to express outrage and sympathy at the death of Osama Bin Laden. As the wavelets lap in the Greek harbors, and the sunshine beats down, doesn't any journalist want to know whether the "activists" have discussed this element in their partners' world outlook? Does Alice Walker seriously have no comment?
Hamas is listed by various governments and international organizations as a terrorist group. I don't mind conceding that that particular word has been used in arbitrary ways in the past. But what concerns me much more is the official programmatic adoption, by Hamas, of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This disgusting fabrication is a key foundational document of 20th-century racism and totalitarianism, indelibly linked to the Hitler regime in theory and practice. It seems extraordinary to me that any "activist" claiming allegiance to human rights could cooperate at any level with the propagation of such evil material. But I have never seen any of them invited to comment on this matter, either.