On the evening of September 28, the editor and contributors to the latest release by Haymarket Books, "Midnight on the Mavi Marmara," gathered for a panel in honor of the book's launch.
The Mavi Marmara, a passenger ship carrying close to 600 activists and tons of aid to the Gaza strip, was brutally attacked by Israeli Defense Forces in early morning of May 31 in international waters. Nearly 50 were injured and 9 activists, including a Turkish-American citizen, were murdered.
All of the aid was confiscated by Israel. All the activists were detained and deported.
Midnight on the Mavi Marmara
Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, "Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict" is a vast collection of essays by participants of the flotilla, international activists, and scholars detailing the experience of that faithful night as well as providing context for its occurrence in the midst of the decades long occupation of Palestine and the machine that maintains it today.
The panel featured Bayoumi, journalist Max Blumenthal, professor and author Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian-American attorney Alia Malek, journalist Arun Gupta, Adam Horowitz, and Phil Weiss.
Khalidi took to the mic and spoke of growing up in the United States in the 1950s, 60s, and even in the 80s, in which the utterance of the word "Palestinian" was a very dirty word. It's comprehensible why that is. As Max Blumenthal pointed out, the Israelis may have not succeeded militarily since 1967, but they've managed to hone the ability to rally its population consistently around war and repression. A psyche, Arun Gupta argues that fortifies the stranglehold on Israeli consciousness. A veil of lies to justify dispossession, murder and economic repression.
Yet Gupta goes further. Given the political opportunity post-Mavi Marmara, the veil can begin to be lifted. The moment we're in now, we find ourselves not only uttering what was a once a dirty word, Khalidi adds, but is also adding to the mix the siege of Gaza, taking on BDS solutions, and ideas about self-determination for Palestine. Not just in the West and around the world but within Israel where things are beginning to be felt.
But there's much to accomplish. Phil Weiss, who has returned from spending several weeks living in the West Bank, says that much of the excitement being felt about what is possible internationally is not resonating with the people of Palestine. He cites Obama's speech in Egypt two years ago, where he said the "occupation must end", has rung hollow today for Palestinians.
But as Khalidi described, this is a new turning point for the struggle in Palestine and internationally. The United States has had to budge since the events of the Mavi Marmara. The unequivocal support, Khalidi argues, is becoming a burden on US foreign policy and so this creates an opportunity for a movement to drive a wedge. With the boycott, divestment campaigns, and demand for sanctions towards Israel coming from ordinary people around the world there is a foundation for a legitimate international resistance. The challenge he adds, is to create strategic and effect BDS campaign that can focus on winnable goals.
Bayoumi says the book was pieced together in a matter of weeks because it was believed by the project's backers (Haymarket Books and OR Books) that countering the Israeli propaganda machine, especially in the weeks following the flotilla, meant publishing this accurate account soon in order to provide context and hold discussions on strategies for change.
In the end the panel professed a renewed commitment to the struggle for Palestine and recommended "Midnight on the Mavi Marmara" as key tool for wrapping one's head around the conflict, what's at stake, what people are doing and what can be done. Pick up a copy.