A year ago, peace and solidarity activists tried to break the blockade of Gaza with an international flotilla of ships. They failed, in the sense that the Israeli government attacked the flotilla, took control of the ships, and brought the ships to Israel. They succeeded, in the sense that the flotilla and the Israeli attack brought attention to the Israeli-US-Egyptian siege of Gaza, dramatically increasing political pressure on the three governments, leading to a partial easing of the siege.
Now an even larger flotilla, with the participation of more ships and more activists from more countries - including, crucially, the U.S. ship Audacity of Hope - is preparing to set sail in June.
And - God willing - when the Audacity of Hope sets sail, I will be on it.
It is our hope and expectation that the Israeli government, after all the negative publicity it received for its attack on last year's flotilla, will allow our ships to pass to Gaza unimpeded. It is our hope and expectation that the Obama Administration will pressure the government of Israel not to attack us, especially with a U.S. boat with well-known American peace activists on board participating in the flotilla.
Sometimes the Israeli occupation authorities and their allies try to project a "mad dog" image to their opponents: don't bother trying to resist our power, because we are ready to crush you by any means necessary, and no-one who matters to us will care what means we use.
But as the Israeli government reaction to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla shows, it ain't necessarily so.
Al Jazeera reports:
Some Israeli officials see the situation as potentially disastrous in terms of public relations.
"We can't win on this one in terms of PR," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.
"If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes."
You can read every word ever penned or spoken by Gandhi, King, or Thoreau, and you will never find such an eloquent expression of the power of nonviolence as the statement of the spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry.
In the face of an effective act of nonviolent resistance, the oppressor faces two unappetizing choices: concede ground, thereby undermining the image of absolute power the oppressor wants to project, and therefore encouraging further resistance; or resist with force, thereby projecting the image of "brutes," and therefore encouraging further resistance.
You can see why the Israeli government spokesman would be irritated.
Another great power of an effective mass nonviolent resistance action is when it gives "bystanders" a choice of taking sides - whether they want the opportunity provided by that choice or not.
The government of Cyprus had the opportunity to take a side, and it decided to try to obstruct the flotilla.