Sabrina Tavernise and Michael Slackman of the New York Times pointed out in a recent article that "the [Free Gaza Movement] has hit on a strategy that, even when it fails in its aims, succeeds in tactical terms: The world sees Israel use military force against civilians." Free Gaza was successful several times in delivering aid to the oppressed people of Palestine. But like any good activist group, their aims didn't end there. They don't simply aim to alleviate the suffering of oppressed Palestine; they aim to expose that suffering and its causes and thereby draw out the powers that can eliminate that suffering.
The oppression has two main causes: the barbaric state of Israel, and the barbaric tactics of Hamas. Like so many so many oppressed groups, the oppression of the Palestinians is as much a product of the so-called "liberation" groups as the immediate oppressors. While both sides would like to portray this as a binary conflict with their "side" on the side of good and right and justice, it's abundantly clear that both sides use mistaken tactics - constantly.
Palestinian children have been shot for throwing rocks at Israeli police-soldiers. Hamas fired rockets that provoked an all-out war in 2008. Resistance tactics are pitiful gnats in the rhino-hide of the police state, but the buzzing of the gnat gets it swatted. But even relatively peaceful tactics, such as kneeling in front of a bulldozer in the desperate effort to cease the destruction of Palestinian homes, cleared for Israeli settlers, are met with unprecedented brutality on the part of Israel.
Here in America, I think this conflict has actually been a tremendous contributor to the festering cynicism of the last forty years. It manifests directly in erroneous statements like "those people [generally meaning Jews and Arabs] have been fighting for thousands of years." (When in fact, for most of their history, the religions of Judaism and Islam have been relatively tolerant of one another.) It's part of this whole idea that human nature is corrupt, and these two groups will never see eye-to-eye (essentially playing into the popular idea of the subjectiveness of truth) , etc. and so on.
Worst of all, among centrists, and including a lot of the center-left (liberals) there is an idea that one side or the other cannot be criticized. Because it's somehow wrong to criticized oppressed people? Some people say it is wrong to criticize the tactics of the Palestinian people that support Hamas, because they live with the daily reality of Israeli occupation. (And believe me, most Americans wouldn't put up with the bullshit of being occupied by a police state. Now, a domestic police state, on the other hand....) And others say that Israel cannot be criticized, because basically Jews have been oppressed since the beginning of history, and they suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis, and therefore any criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism.
Well I call bullshit.
The only way we're ever going to make this planet a better place to live is by use of our critical reasoning skills. That means no one is above reproach. Hamas has to be held responsible for its very dangerous stupidity, and Israel has to face the blame for its routine practice of grossly disproportionate retaliation.
Who's going to do that? Certainly not the United States, who favors Israel at every fucking turn. None of the other major world governments are going to do it, either, because every single one of them is pursuing an agenda whereby they bid for power. And the only way for them to keep and expand that power is by robbing the working class at home and abroad.
In some regard, the confrontational tactics of the Free Gaza movement seem to have worked: the international capitalist class is now criticizing the blockade, at least. The issue has arrested global attention where once ignorance prevailed. Despite the right-wing's insistence that the blockade (against an essentially non-sovereign entity) is entirely legal (seriously?), the debate calls into question - once more - the character of Israel and the fate of the Middle East.
Naturally, the oppressed of both peoples actually need to rise up and throw off their mutual oppressors. Hamas is as detrimental to the well-being of Palestine as Israel; only cooperation along class lines can abolish the motivations for the bloodshed in this region. It isn't about religion; it's about land and hegemony and wealth.
ADDENDUM: And, in other, less weighty news, Facebook is no longer cool. (Officially, I mean; it's been losing cred for a long long time.)
Bush has "visited 20 states and 8 countries; given over 65 speeches; launched the George W Bush Presidential Center; participated in 4 policy conferences through The Bush Institute; finished the first draft of his memoir, "Decision Points"; and partnered with (former) President Clinton to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund." Seriously? How has he not been arrested for war crimes by now?