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Moustafa Bayoumi, ed, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

OR Books; 256pp; $16 from www.orbooks.com

“We have been attacked while in international waters…the Israelis have behaved like pirates”. So says Henning Mankell describing the infamous attack by the Israeli army on the Gaza Aid Freedom Flotilla earlier this year. His piece is just one in a fine collection of articles edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, and published with admirable rapidity as a rebuttal to the official Israeli version of events.

This is an excellent resource for activists which provides both eyewitness accounts of the events of 31 May and detailed analysis of why they happened. Although I am very familiar with the politics of the region, anyone new to this conflict will find this background information invaluable in understanding the positions of both parties.

Whilst the essays are varied in quality, working together they build up a number of key themes. Firstly, shocking as it was, this attack and Israel’s attempt to justify it are nothing new. Israel has committed many such acts of “self-defence” and can usually rely on the US government and other supporters in the West to ensure there are few repercussions. A second theme is that it often takes an outrage against international activists to remind the world of the suffering that Palestinians experience every day. These two aspects of the experience are enough to make anyone despair. However, there is plenty of hope to counterbalance this. Firstly, in the strength of international solidarity that has built over the last decade, the very fact of the aid ships and the growing BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) being two obvious examples. Secondly, and importantly, I was struck by the number of commentators noting that young Jewish Americans are turning their backs on the Zionist movement, and that US campuses are witnessing Muslims and Jews working for peace in Israel. This, linked to the sense that Israel’s “ugliness” is becoming an embarrassment to America, may eventually be a turning point in the course of this conflict.

It is probably too early to say what the impact of the storming of the Mavi Marmara is on the course of the Israel/Palestine conflict, but it has undoubtedly shaken Israel’s sense of its place in the world. There is also no doubt that this book is an invaluable tool for any activist wishing to inform themselves in order to campaign effectively for change in the region.