Yesterday the New York Times reported that Alice Walker, author of the 1982 novel The Color Purple, would be on the American contingent for the flotilla that plans to sail to Gaza later this month.
It is tempting to dismiss both Walker and the flotilla as tempests in a teapot. Last year’s flotilla, in which nine club-wielding “peace” activists were killed, may have sparked an orgy of media outrage, along with condemnation by even Western leaders like the UK’s David Cameron. Yet in significant ways Israel nevertheless seemed to win the narrative war. IDF videos demonstrating the plainly violent intentions of the blockade-runners successfully entered the Zeitgeist. Even the BBC, in a lengthy special on the incident, largely vindicated Israel’s version of events.
More to the point, many will claim that the importance of these incidents is overblown. Whatever negative attention Israel receives, the main thing is to maintain the blockade, as it is what makes it difficult for Hamas to arm itself though the recent opening of the border between Egypt and Gaza may render the whole point moot. Nevertheless, there will always be haters of Israel, who will provide no shortage of useful-idiots like Walker to help further the aims of genocidal terrorist movements. That in itself is no small reason for the existence of the Jewish state: to provide the Jewish people with the necessary means of self-defense in the face of ineradicable hatred.
Drawing upon deep trends in Zionist thinking, there is some truth to this dismissal. Mao famously said that power comes from the end of a gun. The fate of the Zionist project has also long been and largely will be determined by the ability of Israel’s citizens to defend themselves physically.
But those who think this way underestimate the ultimate power of the idea. Nations are born and destroyed largely by the conviction on the part of tens or hundreds of millions of people that the idea which governs them is strong and enduring.
So worry a little about Alice Walker—canonized by her Pulitzer Prize and her important movie starring Oprah Winfrey—and her comparison of the Gaza-blockade running boats to the freedom riders of the 1960s. There is power in these efforts. They won’t be defeated by pretending otherwise.