Thursday, January 07, 2010

What does it mean to be pro-Palestinian?

Harry's Place has two excellent articles just posted on the recent Gaza Freedom March. The first article covers the Viva Palestina delegation, led by George Galloway, which was finally allowed into Gaza by the Egyptian authorities. They were greeted by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Amira Hass also has an interesting article on the reception that the Gaza Freedom March gained in Gaza - it's apparent from her report that Hamas' grip is tightening in Gaza. The protesters who had contacts with non-Hamas Gazan groups were hindered in their attempts to make contact and stay with members of those group (like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). She writes:
The international organizers of the march coordinated it with civil society, various non-governmental organizations, which were also supposed to involve the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, a semi-official organization affiliated with Hamas. Many European activists have long-standing connections with left-wing organizations in the Gaza Strip. Those organizations, especially the relatively large Popular Front, had organized lodging for several hundred guests in private homes. When the Hamas government heard this, it prohibited the move. "For security reasons." What else?

Also "for security reasons," apparently, on Thursday morning, the activists discovered a cordon of stern-faced, tough Hamas security men blocking them from leaving the hotel (which is owned by Hamas). The security officials accompanied the activists as they visited homes and organizations.

During the march itself, when Gazans watching from the sidelines tried to speak with the visitors, the stern-faced security men blocked them. "They didn't want us to speak to ordinary people," one woman concluded...

In meetings without the security men, several activists got the impression that non-Hamas residents live in fear, and are afraid to speak or identify themselves by name. "Now I understand that the call for 'Freedom for Gaza' has another meaning," one young man told me.
Perhaps the foreign activists will also gain some understanding of why the Israelis don't trust Hamas and why they have blockaded Gaza to try to bring down the Hamas regime.

The second Harry's Place article is about Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old German Jewish refugee who left Germany in 1939 with the Kindertransport for Britain. Her parents were murdered in Auschwitz. She has now become involved with the Free Gaza Movement and as the article says, has become an "icon" of that movement. She went on a hunger strike in Cairo. She is also apparently on the advisory board for Deir Yassin Remembered, which is led by Daniel McGowan and Paul Eisen. McGowan claims to be an advocate of the Palestinian cause, but his primary focus now seems to be on denying that the Holocaust occurred. It seems very odd to me that Hedy Epstein would be willing to work with a man who denies the truth of how her parents were murdered.

Perusing the DYR website, I discover a vile article, just posted by Henry Herskovitz (another DYR advisory board member). He finds Code Pink insufficiently radical because they won't go along with his assertion that it's necessary to "focus their attentions on the underlying cancer (Zionism, if you prefer)." Does Hedy Epstein really go along with the hideous anti-semitic stance of this organization that she has lent her name to?


  1. I found the part of Hedy Epsten offensive. Using her personal history as a critique of her position or affiliations is an ad hominem attack of the ugliest kind, a type the like of O'reily employ.

    I was very interested in the first part about Hamas' strong handedness, but then the personal attack on Hedy Epstein raised questions about your own objectivity. Interesting article.

  2. Hedy Epstein herself mentions her own personal history in explaining why she holds her current political position. I don't see why my discussing it is a personal attack on her. I also do not think it is unfair to mention her political allies - I'm not attacking her family or her friends, but the people she chooses to work with (McGowan and Herskovitz). Take a look at what they've written.

    I would also like to point out that this is my personal blog. I am not a reporter, I am expressing my own personal opinions. As such, objectivity is not my goal.

  3. But the people she works with, aren't her, so that seems the big problem.

    Also, personal blog or report, objectivity is still an intellectual value, if not also an ethical one.

    I would argue the same ethical responsibility a jouranlist has, applies to a blogger, or rather can you explain what the difference would be? Maybe I'm wrong and that's why there is so much junk on the internet.

    I don't mean any insult. It was an interesting post and I will do the further reasearch.

  4. It's true, the people she works with aren't her - but on the other hand, it's not like this is a job she has - being on the advisory board is voluntary. She supports this organization (Deir Yassin Remembered) and I would presume knows the other members of the board.

    If I became a member of an advisory board for a racist organization, wouldn't that reflect on me poorly?

    When I write a blog post, I try to give the important information so that readers can understand what I'm talking about and make sense of my opinions. But I'm not attempting to find all possible sources and construct an "objective" account of the topic.

    One big difference between a blogger and a journalist (or at least a news reporter) is that the reporter goes out and does original research to find out what has happened, while I as a blogger do not do so. I did not go to Cairo to interview Hedy Epstein, nor have I gone to Geneva (New York) to interview Daniel McGowan. I read what they have written or other people have written about them and then state my own conclusions. I think of writing a blog as being much closer to an op-ed writer or columnist than to a news reporter.

  5. Thanks for your response. I guess my confusion arose out of the lack of objectivity and real research in mainstream journalism, news broadcasting, which has sort of done away with the distinction you made, which is an important one.

    I am going to go do more research into Deir Yassin, to check the validity of your opinions. Thanks again for the information.