Here Comes Another Flotilla
One year ago the Mavi Marmara, cast by its sponsors as the Palestinian Exodus, led a "Gaza Freedom Flotilla." Its goal was not to condemn the ruling Hamas government in Gaza, sworn to Israel's destruction, but to breech the Israeli blockade. Its "humanitarian aid" cargo included ballistic vests, gas masks, night-vision goggles, clubs, slingshots, daggers, knives, metal pipes and stun grenades.
After rejecting Israel's proposal for cargo inspection at the Ashdod port, the Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli naval commandos. They encountered what even the BBC described as a premeditated attack. With three Israeli commandos thrown from the top deck, two shot, three stabbed and slashed, and others attacked with metal pipes, the Israelis relinquished their paintball guns for live ammunition. The expressed wish of two of the nine assailants for martyrdom was fulfilled.
To mark the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara, pro-Hamas activists have organized a new flotilla, scheduled to depart for Gaza later this month. Another confrontation with the Israeli navy is likely. Once again, Israel will be internationally vilified in a predictable melodrama that will unfold before an appreciative world audience, eager to pillory the Jewish State. The flotilla planners seem not to have noticed that their encore is superfluous: the Gaza-Egypt border is now open.
Nor do they seem aware that the new Gaza flotilla escapade, like its predecessor, will once again demonstrate that Palestinians owe virtually their entire historical narrative to Jewish sources and Jewish history in the Land of Israel. In a remarkable inversion, a people without an identifiable national identity or history until well into the 20th century has plundered Zionist history to create its own illusory past in a land that never was theirs.
Relying on the Hebrew Bible, Palestinians claim Ishmael, Abraham's son by his servant Hagar, as their ancient ancestor. Their biblical forebears, they assert, were the Canaanites who, the biblical narrative recounts, were displaced by conquering Israelites. Rejecting irrefutable historical and archeological evidence, they insist that Jews never had two national commonwealths in the Land of Israel many centuries before the birth of Islam.
So, too, they deny that there was a Temple in Jerusalem or that the Western Wall has been a Jewish holy place ever since its destruction in 70 CE. Yet triumphalist Islam chose to build its hallowed Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa mosque on that very site - precisely because Jews revered it. Muslim conquerors also seized the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, where Jews had worshipped at the graves of their biblical ancestors for more than ten centuries. Transforming Ma'arat haMachpela into a mosque, they barred Jewish "infidels" from entry for seven hundred years -- until the Six-Day War.
The flotillas are modeled after the rickety refugee ships that tried to bring desperate Jews, fleeing from Nazi terror and extermination, to Palestine before and after World War II. The most famous of these was the Exodus, with thousands of Holocaust survivors on board, turned away by the British government in 1947. Any resemblance is, of course, purely intentional.
This time, however, there is a new star performer in the carefully scripted melodrama: an American ship, named "The Audacity of Hope" (sound familiar?). There is also a new cast of characters. It includes coordinator Leslie Cagan, an aging "red diaper baby" whose political allegiance has led her from enthusiasm for Castro's Cuban revolution to the Black Panthers and an array of anti-war causes inspired, she claims, by the exemplary history of the Communist Party. Now, of course, she wants to free Palestine.
One of her shipmates will be Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor determined to demonstrate that neither American Jewry nor Israel speak for her. During the past decade she has made annual visits to the West Bank where she engages in her anti-Israel activities in biblical Judea and Samaria. Another companion will be a University of Arizona college student who hallucinates that he is walking in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Palestinian inversion of Jewish history, which the flotillas illuminate, is one more example of the "lethal obsession" that historian Robert S. Wistrich has brilliantly analyzed in his grim history of "Judeophobia." It has been left to the Palestinians, with their unrivaled talent for mimicry and their gullible fellow travelers (figuratively and literally), to plunder the history of the Jewish enemy whose nation they emulate to express their wish to obliterate it.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena, published in May by Quid Pro Books.