Webster, in one of its definitions of “character”, says it is moral excellence and firmness, and in the case of Cynthia McKinney the definition is appropriate. McKinney is now in an Israeli prison because she along with other humanitarians decided to defy the self-imposed Israeli blockade of Gaza, a blockade that everyone except Israel, says must be removed. I’m inclined to think it must be in the water of the state of Georgia that gives its residents, or some of them, the moral courage, backbone, to face and speak out against injustice, especially when it comes in the form of political Zionism.
There was Martin Luther King who spoke against racism, interestingly enough which “Zionism” has been equated with and there’s Jimmy Carter who has been a vocal opponent of the oppression of Palestinians and the proponent of an equitable solution for all parties in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Now along comes McKinney, drinking the same water of the Georgia hills and calling out from the jails of Israel to let freedom ring. The “movement” is catching, isn’t it?
On another level, McKinney has taken up a cause that for now is not a very politically correct one and which puts her in the cross hairs of the status quo. That parallels the path travelled by King in his fight against Jim Crow. At the time, King’s movement wasn’t a very popular movement and while it ended up getting him killed, there were people who said he was fanatical, impatient, a communist, and everything else bad that could be said about a person to marginalize him in the eyes of the American public and the world. It didn’t work and now there’s a holiday named after him….but it came with great personal sacrifice for Dr. King and his family. I am reminded of Muhammad Ali who took a stand against the Vietnam war….a stand which took him all the way to the US Supreme Court. Along the way he was vilified, despised, stripped of his livelihood for a time. Not Ali, and though he took a position which made him a lone figure in many ways, he too prevailed, politically and personally. Now he’s the darling of media…he lit the Olympic flame in Los Angeles during the Olympic games and is applauded everywhere he goes, but that didn’t come without courage and character.
Oceans and time zones removed from the shores of America was one Nelson Mandela who languised in a South African prison for almost three decades for opposing the racist and brutal political movement apartheid….. a system of government which by the way Israel supported politically and militarily. Most of that time he stayed there, as did civil rights predecessors of Mandela while being demonized by the establishment and denied any sense of humanity or dignity, yet he persevered and later bacame the president and leader of a New South Africa in spite of his oppressors and because of them. Liberty cannot be denied a people who want it or those who want it for them, even when it’s opposed by the strongest of nations. Israel should have learned that lesson since they too were the oppressed, but it will have to be repeated for them but with roles reversed and this time at the expense of their political zionism.
Mckinney has joined the list of people who have chosen to give up a comfortable life to oppose slavery. She picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Obama who said, along with an international community of nations, that the blockade of Gaza must be lifted.
Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.
Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them. The United States will fully support an international donor’s conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction for the Palestinian economy. This assistance will be provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority.
Let’s be clear that the blockade of Gaza is not about the security of Israel, the strongest military government in the Middle East and some would say one of the strongest in the world, but rather it, the blockade, is about destroying the will of the Palestinian people, denying them sovereignty and continuing a military presence in the occupied territories. For Israelis, all Palestinians are terrorists. Witness the recent round up by the Israelis of non Hamas supporters in the West Bank. Meanwhile civilians living in Gaza continue to suffer as a result of the seige with only a minimal amount of the supplies needed by the people living there actually arriving. It is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions and one that McKinney responded. She now sits in an Israeli jail as a result of her activism, like activists who’ve gone before her, having broken no law, yet speaking for those whose voices aren’t or can’t be heard. Her detractors, like Obama’s have resorted to the race card; the blogosphere is full of unflattering pictures of McKinney and what they mean, which further underscores the correctness of her position, for McKinney’s position is the only position on which to fall during this crisis in Gaza. It is the same position required of humanity in all other similar scenarios, despite the attempts of revisionists to the contrary. Political zionism doesn’t take too kindly to exposing the sufferings of any people except their own.
What is perverse is the Israeli lack of regard for law. The confiscation of aide and the imprisonment of relief workers comes on the heels of a human rights report that says Israeli committed war crimes in its assault on Gaza late last year and early this, and on the heels of another announcement that America will renew Israeli loan guarantees. The message is quite clear, Israel can endlessly break the law and suffer no negative consequences. Kudos, therefore to a small movement of which McKinney is a part that is going against the oppressive jugernaut of political zionism and siding with its brothers and sisters of humanity in being a part of a solution. I think it’s the Georgia water that does it.