The news that Cynthia McKinney would be on the Free Gaza movement’s latest trip to Gaza made me very nervous, since both Free Gaza and Cynthia McKinney’s immediate circle have a history of pretty explicit anti-Semitism. Indeed, email updates from Free Gaza over the past few days have contained multiple references to “The Zionist State,” again reducing Zionism – a complicated and multifaceted political philosophy – to nothing but an especially bloodthirsty form of racism. Today Free Gaza distributed a letter from McKinney herself, which contains two references to warnings her father gave her about traveling to Israel. The references raised huge red flags for me, considering his past assertion that “Jews have bought everybody. Jews. J-E-W-S,” and I’m finding it very difficult to read them as anything other than implicit support for his views on the Jewish people. People like to claim there’s no such thing as guilt by association, but when you’re as lackadaisical about distancing yourself from bigotry as she’s been, it says a lot about your own feelings.
After thinking about it, I decided to post her dispatch from the trip – during which the ship was rammed three times and forced to dock at Lebanon – as much to start a discussion as to disseminate information on what the Israeli navy is doing. If you spot anti-Semitic sentiment that I’ve missed, please do call it out.
By the way, here’s Salon’s take on it. Alex Koppelman writes:
[The inclusion of McKinney on the trip] puzzles me; the way I see it, there are a limited number of answers to the question I posed. Maybe the organizers genuinely think those incidents don’t represent McKinney’s feelings about Jews, and maybe they’re naive enough to believe that having her on board (no pun intended) works out in a cost-benefit analysis. Or maybe they’re principled enough to stick by her and to take the PR hit, even though they should surely know she won’t bring much in the way of money or support. But there’s still that nagging voice at the back of my mind saying that the explanation is not quite so innocent, and that bothers me. Certainly it should bother those who genuinely wish to see peace — a fair peace, for all sides — in the region, as her presence in the movement can only serve to harm that cause.
As I’ve made clear from day one of this blog’s existence, I stand with the people of Gaza (which does not mean that I stand with Hamas). But there’s no nagging voice at the back of my mind. I think the organizers knew exactly what they were doing.
In any case, here’s the update I received today:
December 30, 2008: Oh What a Day! by Cynthia McKinney
I’m so glad that my father told me to buy a special notebook and to write everything down because that’s exactly what I did.
When we left from Cyprus, one reporter asked me “are you afraid?” And I had to respond that Malcolm X wasn’t afraid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t afraid. But little did I know that just a few hours later, I would be recollecting my life and mentally preparing myself for death.
When we left Cyprus, the Mediterranean was beautiful. I remember the time when it might have been beautiful to look at, but it was also filthy. The Europeans have taken great strides to clean it up and yesterday, it was beautiful. And the way the sunlight hit the sea, I remember thinking to myself that’s why they call it azure. It was the most beautiful blue.
But sometimes it was rough, and we got behind on our schedule. We stayed on course, however, despite the roughness of the water and due to our exquisite captain.
There were no other ships or boats around us and night descended upon us all rather quickly. It was the darkest black and suddenly, out of nowhere, came searchlights disturbing our peace. The searchlights stayed with us for about half an hour or so. We knew they were Israeli ships. Who else would they be?
They were fast, and they would come close and then drop back. And then, they’d come close again. And then, all of a sudden there was complete blackness once again and all seemed right. The cat and mouse game went on for at least one half hour. What were they doing? And why?
Calm again. Black sky, black sea. Peace. And then, at that very moment, when all seemed right, out of nowhere we were rammed and rammed again and rammed again the last one throwing me off the couch, sending all our food up in the air; and all the plastic bags and tubs–evidence of sea sicknesses among the crew and passengers–flew all over the cabin and all over us. We’d been rammed by the Israelis. How did we know? Because they called us on the phone afterwards to tell us that we were engaging in subversive, terroristic activity. And if that if we didn’t turn around right then and return to Larnaca, Cyprus, we would be fired upon. We quickly grabbed our lifevests and put them on. Then the captain announced that the boat was taking on water. We might have to evacuate. One of my mates told me to prepare to die. And I reflected that I have lived a good and full life. I have tasted freedom and know what it is. I was right with myself and my decision to join the Free Gaza movement.
I remembered my father’s parting words, “You all will be sitting ducks.” Just like the U.S.S. Liberty. We were engaged in peaceful activity, a harmless pleasure boat, carrying a load of hospital supplies for the people of Gaza, who, too are sitting ducks, currently being bombarded in aerial assault by the Israeli military.
It’s been a long day for us. The captain was outstanding. Throughout it all, he remained stoic and calm, effective in every way. I didn’t know how to put my life jacket on. One of the passengers kindly assisted me. Another of the passengers pointed out that the Israeli motors for those huge, fast boats was U.S. made–a gift to them from the U.S. And now they were using those motors to damage a pleasure boat outfitted with three tons of hospital supplies, one pediatrician, and two surgeons.
I have called for President-elect Obama to say something. The Palestinian people in the Gaza strip are seeing the worst violence in 60 years, it is being reported. To date, President-elect Obama has remained silent. The Israelis are using weapons supplied to them by the U.S. government. Strict enforcement of U.S. law would require the cessation of all weapons transfers to Israel. Adherence to international law would require the same. As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, let us remember that he said:
1. The United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, and
2. Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter.
I implore the President-elect to not send Congress a budget that contains more weapons for Israel. We have so much more to offer. And I implore the Congress to vote “no” on any budget and appropriation bills that provide more weapons transfers, period.
Israel is able to carry out these intense military maneuvers because taxpayers in the U.S. give their hard-earned money to our Representatives in Congress and our Congress chooses to spend that money in this way. Let’s stop it and stop it now. There’s been too much blood shed. And while we still walk among the living, let us not remain silent about the things that matter.
We really can promote peace and have it if we demand it of our leaders.