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Flotilla passengers are no more than post-modern tourists

Passengers on the flotilla are a post-modern type of tourist, but only simply tourists nonetheless. They can role-play heroes, but ultimately they are not looking to participate in genuine, meaningful humanitarian activity – that would ruin their sense of vacation.

By Dr. Evgeni Klauber, Tel Aviv University

For some of its Western participants, the Gaza Peace Flotilla is not just an ordinary political protest: it is an exotic and dangerous cruise that involves a heroic element. In this sense, the flotilla represents a fashionable new type of tourism – call it “post-modern tourism.”

In the 21st century, the geography and the characteristics of tourism underwent extensive changes. Once, tourism was an activity designed to expand our experiences of time and space – it involved seeking new specific locations to be explored for a limited and specific period of time. Modern tourists sought to observe undiscovered paradises, to widen their traditional frameworks, to break away from routines.

Post-modern tourists, by contrast, do not want to just expand their space-time frameworks: they want to experience new systems of meanings. Post-modern tourists have made their way to the detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay prison to spend a whole day in captivity; they have traveled to Gulag in Siberia to spend a week in conditions designed to make them feel the crimes of Stalin’s dark regime on “their own skins.”

Today, post-modern tourists sign up for the exotic tour to Gaza to buy a moment of excitement and emergency that they expect Israel will provide as it resists the flotilla’s challenges its sovereignty. The experiential peak of the flotilla was supposed to be immediate: one can sign up on-line for the “overpriced” third-class cruise, and after several days of an exotic tour – the short, intensive, and high-pressure moment of meeting the Leviathan, a powerful Hobbesian sovereign which will emerge out of the sea to make order. The difference between modern and post-modern tourists is that the former try to personally experience objects that belong to history, while post-modern tourist seeks to provoke and thus create history (perhaps inspired by the 2010 flotilla).

In the past, “modern” tourists would go and observe sites such as the Gulag and Guantanamo to view cells, and observe the detainee’s uniforms and ‘comfort items’ laid out neatly for viewing. Now, the post-modern tourists wear these uniforms themselves and use those items in order to produce an illusion of oppression and to invoke the “heroic” sense of resistance within themselves. This is another way, an expensive one, to add a system of meanings to familiar objects, while manufacturing a sense of heroism. To visit Gulag, then, for the modern tourist, is to discover detention facilities located on the ten islands in the horseshoe-shaped archipelago, while the post-modern tourist asks to live through these facilities, to feel them from the inside. Post-modern tourists try to understand how the rocks look from the perspective of the camp’s prisoner.

Critics feel that a thousand days in the artificial tourist Gulag camp cannot re-create the experience of even one actual day in life of prisoner, as described by Solzhenitsyn in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” In this view, such tourism just cheapens history – as Christopher Hope writes, “Russian capitalists are exploiting the nation’s dark past.”

Both modern and post-modern tourism include transportation, marketing, accommodations, eating and drinking establishments, shops, entertainment, convention facilities, activities and other hospitality services. In this sense, the Flotilla of Peace to Gaza is no different from other organized tours of the ‘modern tourism’ type: it provides all amenities mentioned above. Several tourist agencies have already offered tours to the region in the past with “Suggested Docking Locations for the Gaza Cruise Flotilla,” which included the Grand Palace Hotel, the Gaza Mall that attracts thousands, and Gaza Movie Theater, and even Gaza World Cup 2010. All these are supposed to attract modern tourists.

But unlike modern tour groups, the post-modern cruise participants are seeking feelings, not just spectator experiences. The post-modern tourist wants to share his experiences afterward and not only about the practical details and accommodations. The tourist seeks to represent him/herself as someone who knows what it is to be a political detainee, or Palestinian refugee, or some other role in the conflict. While modern tourists compete among themselves over the number of places visited, post-modern tourists compete over the depths of their feeling achieved as a result of artificially created changes of their identities.

Perhaps that’s why there are so many “people of depth” or as Judi McLeod ironically calls them, a “D-Grade coterie of celebrity activists” on the Gaza Flotilla – including Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker; perhaps after her Devil’s my Enemy (2008) she is now looking for the next topic for another “self-experienced novel.” There is the 77-year-old retired U.S. ambassador Samuel Hart, who has even declared that he is not anti-Israeli, but just a “tourist”; soccer star Iker Casillas and tennis legend Rafael Nadal perhaps simply want headlines.

Ultimately, these participants are still tourists. They can role-play heroes, they can imagine that they are pushing the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty; but ultimately, the post-modern tourists to Gaza do not really want to participate in any genuine, meaningful humanitarian activity because that would ruin their sense of vacation. You don’t see these people spending real time in Gaza, living there, making friends and devoting their lives to humanitarian or even political activism on the ground. Post-modern tourists draw the line at staying in Gaza and endangering their personal security on its violent streets – unlike journalists, who take these risks every day and sometimes pay the price, such as Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent who was kidnapped in Gaza by the Army of Islam – people.  Post-modern tourists want to feel big, exotic, dangerous and heroic things – from a very safe distance.

Dr. Evgeni Klauber holds a PhD in Comparative Politics and International Relations from the University of Delaware. He studied ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet republics, focusing on the mobilization of Russian-speakers in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. He is now Fulbright scholar and a visiting lecturer at Tel-Aviv University.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Roberta

      Nice try. Very funny. Is this a sample of post-modern sociology? Or post-modern journalism?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Erin

      Spoken like a true academic living that “safe distance” on a daily basis. I think the point why so many were willing to be passengers on the flotilla is that they do have an understanding what daily life in Gaza is like and why it is like that, so much so they were willing to put themselves, their lives, at risk.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Michael Dawson

      This is a great parody of the old leftie accusation that “You’re not a REAL socialist.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. So a “true” activist leaves his life behind to join the oppressed, while the “postmodern tourist” admits he has a life to return to?

      A “real” journalist takes the risk of living in a dangerous area every day. A “postmodern tourist” takes the same personal risk for a shorter time – and brings attention to the issue to a wider audience and says and does things that journalists cannot do – so he’s a faker?

      The use of the term “postmodern” – evoking a sense of meaninglessness in existence – to describe these activists is dirty and disingenuous. This I assume was your point, no? To paint these activists and humanitarians as doing nothing genuine or meaningful. They just don’t want to ruin their vacation.

      This is a clear case of postmodern academics.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Empress Trudy

      This is absolutely accurate. Leftist ‘activists’ never set foot in any place without a Hilton.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Miki

      ROFL, this is the best piece of intellectual wankery I have read in a while. Well done Evegni Klauber!

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ariely

      Why the so called Human rights activists demonstrate against Israel and not other countries?
      1: Demonstrate in Muslim world? They will be killed!
      2; Demonstrate in Russia, China? They will be jailed!
      3; Boycode universes in NATO countries for killing civilian while fighting terrorists
      thousands of miles away from their home?
      They will be losing funds, popularity and jobs!
      Why demonstrating against Israel in Israel?
      They are not afraid of being: killed or jailed.
      They will receive a great media coverage, glory and funds.

      After all they know that they will be protected by the defending Israel values and laws

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ariely

      The so called human rights protectors-don’t protect 21 century vales!

      They support movements that fight against all the values they pretend to defend.
      They are silent when Islamist are denying:
      *Women equality–human rights–religious freedom–democracy
      However they are practicing:
      *Kill people that condemn Islamist values-hate teaching in schools and children garden–genocide preaching in Mosques and TV—indiscriminately targeting civilians—chasing Christians-slavery in Sudan and Golf states
      And don’t blame:
      1:Muslim brotherhood speech saying:
      ‘Hitler didn’t finish the jog—The Muslims will finish the job”
      2:Hamas charter:
      The day of judgment will not come until Moslems fight killing the Jews.
      The stones and trees will say O MOSLEM, THERE IS A JEW BEHIND ME, KILL HIM
      3:”Hiding among civilians prevents armies with western values the ability to fight. We impose a new non conventional equation in wars”
      Said by Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al on Al-Jazeera.
      4:”We condemn the assassination of Osama Bin Laden,an Arab holy warrior”
      Palestinian Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh They should support the following values.

      They should support the country that stands for all the values they pretend to defend!
      *will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
      *will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets;
      *will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex;
      * will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture;
      * will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions
      Those are the defending Israel values and practice based on the independence declaration:
      Despite non stop wars,terror attacks,boycodes,dehumanization Israel has to phase for more than 65 years
      –Israel follows those guidelines.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Dr. Evgeni,
      please defend your thesis.

      You’ve invented a defamatory term – “postmodern tourist” – to describe humanitarian activists. Yet you’ve not shown any substantive difference between your “postmodern tourist” and regular activists and journalists.

      This is really low.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jonathan Cook

      Does this website not aspire to some level of quality control? Articles like this really have no place here – or probably anywhere else. Not only does the dr know nothing about journalism and journalists, he also obviously knows very little about people like Alice Walker and Hedy Epstein.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Deïr Yassin

      Well, at least our Russian guest at Tel Aviv University – built on the ruins of the Palestinian village Sheikh Muwannis – isn’t a sociologist or an anthropologist. Political scientists should stay within the field that they know about – politics.
      This is a piece of right-winged crap covered up with pseudo-intellectual concepts and vocabulary. Maybe it’s the translation ….
      Waiting for another sociological study of “Birthright trips among American middle class Jews” or “Russian neo-nazis in Southern Tel Aviv”.
      Free Gaza, Free Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Arnon Shvanzinger, your first comment has been edited for violating our comments policy, which you are invited to read. Please keep your comments within our guidelines; next time they will simply be deleted. Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Empress Trudy

      I shouldn’t expect the Flotards to adventure their way to Sudan, Congo, Yemen or North Korea where such intervention is greeted peacefully with murder or imprisonment in a concentration camp. It stands to reason you will rarely see leftist ‘activism’ in any place these leftists don’t expect to vacation in someday. The Gazatarians should take note of this and understand that any place that old American Jewish Trotskyite dead enders are happy to ‘activate’ to is a potential tourist gold mine. Gaza beaches are fairly clean and nice and they’re Mediterranean. So assuming you could sell your wives and girlfriends on being covered in Sharia compliant beachwear and being gender separated, I think you could be on to something.

      By they before you act on your urge to delete this, these are all factual statements which reflect the state of things in Gaza this very moment.

      Reply to Comment
    14. James Sarranga

      Very interesting point: for some, I agree, Flotilla is a picnic

      Reply to Comment
    15. Yeah, I’m ok with the edit.
      I don’t quite remember what was there that is no longer there – so I can’t really tell. But I’m pretty sure I was po’d when I wrote that first comment.

      It would be nice to get a comment from the Dr. though. I’m mighty curious what more he has to say.

      Or if such a discourse is not forthcoming, then perhaps a comment from you guys.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Leonid Levin

      I found this piece extremely cynical. The flotilla participants are portrayed as tourists who are looking for excitement and adventure and who are not genuinely engaged with the issues at hand. Of course, we can never know for certain what truly motivates every individual participants. People themselves are often unaware of their deep motivations. But from what I saw and read of the participants (watch the videos at democracynow.org), I have a totally different impression of them than the author.

      Vittorio Arrigoni (may he rest in peace), one of the participants of the first flotilla of 2008, was definitely no tourist. He stayed and lived in Gaza for 3 years, befriended many Gazans, and documented first hand the cast lead indiscriminate killing of Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    17. What a revolting piece! Last year, nine of our comrades were killed by Israelis, this year, our friends still dared to break the blockade. Was Lord Byron who went to fight for the Greek liberation, also a “post-modern tourist”? His Stanzas are relevant for the heroes of the Flotilla:
      When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,

      Let him combat for that of his neighbours;

      Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome,

      And get knock’d on the head for his labours.

      Reply to Comment
    18. janna

      dear author,
      i reject your statement: “the flotilla’s challenges [Israel's] sovereignty”.
      the flotilla and other actions in solidarity with the palestinian people in no way seek to challenge israel’s sovereignty as a country. these actions seek to challenge israel’s occupation of another people and their lands.

      Reply to Comment
    19. sh

      When I see terms like post-modernism I fall asleep, a habit provoked by the most appallingly boring lecture suffered through a couple of years back. Its definition, I eventually deduced, is as varied as individual descriptions of Zionism are (and equally pejorative in the eyes of people who waffle on about it, which may be a post-modern phenomenon in itself for all I know).

      Individuals on the flotillas may be all of the things this professor says plus some. But post-modern or not, this is nothing new. Volunteers from all over the world went to the newly-created Soviet Union to help build roads and bridges; internationals volunteered to fight on the side of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War; an Argentinian bourgeois named Che poking his nose in a Communist revolution in Cuba… etc.

      The flotilla would never have become a flotilla if there had been alternative means for violence-rejecting volunteers to enter Gaza with harmless cargoes of aid. We now have proof that not only Gaza but also the West Bank is blockaded, viz. the flurry over activists arriving at BG airport today with the terrifyingly revolutionary purpose of being unprecedentedly truthful about their intention to visit there. In their own way, armchair warriors or not, all these people are doing quite a successful job at revealing to us to what degree we have painted ourselves into a corner.

      So, glad this cynical professor brought the subject up, as too much self-righteousness does tend to get tedious. +972, thanks for posting.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Truly Postmodern. Not only is the journey more important than arriving but the aim is not to deliver aid but to seem as if they had any to carry.Isn’t this what Postmodernists call a Simulacrum?

      Reply to Comment
    21. Robi

      to summarize the thesis of this theory: any kind of action carried out by people who are not directly involved in the situation they intend to change is… fake.

      The problem is that any action carried out in “solidarity” with other people implies that you are not directly involved in the situation.
      The second problem is that solidarity actions have a political meaning, and have always helped changing things.

      As weird as it may seem, the people of Gaza are waiting for the Freedom Flotilla, and don’t spend their time brooding over naive, eccentric theories whose only goal is to delegitimize a political action.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Merlot

      Why create a new term, why not use the term that many of us in the Palestine solidarity movement have been using for years to describe a small group of people who come to Israel and Palestine for an adrenaline rush and not to make a true difference: conflict tourists. Perhaps because the author is trying to give his laughable argument an intellectual veneer. Lets all be honest with one another, there are conflict tourists who come to “experience Palestine”. They are not the majority, but the are present. You see them in Nilin and Bilin on occasion or at protests. They are the people who don’t seem to know much about the conflict and don’t stay long, but come to have the experience of conflict. During the second intifada you would see them at checkpoints and later enjoying a beer at the American Colony. However, these types don’t make up the majority of the solidarity activists who come to Israel and Palestine. To compare the flotilla activists to these people or to people who go to visit Gulag cells is ridiculous (no one can visit Guantanamo as a tourist, putting that forward is simply ridiculous – Guantanamo is no Alcatraz). You visit Gulag cells to knowing you are simulating an event and that you are not taking any risk. The people who decided to go on the flotilla made their decision knowing that previous participants had been arrested, beaten and killed. They made their decision based on their principles and with a goal of bringing change. They weren’t going to Gaza to smoke a hooka at the al-Diera Hotel. This is what distinguishes them from gulag or conflict tourists. If we want to look at true conflict tourists a better group to analyze might be the people who go on “terrorism” and “IDF” simulation tours.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Is the good doctor going to make an appearance in the comments thread?

      Or did he just drop this Hasbara-ish bombshell and move on? And if so, are any of the regulars of +972 going to step in and comment?

      So far in the comments we have Ziobots cheering this new denigrating concept – postmodern tourism – and others asking some pertinent questions about this concept that are getting no answers. From anyone.

      And kudos to Merlot for pointing out that flotilla activists actually risk being shot and killed as part of their “postmodern tourism”. This should put to rest Dr. Klauber’s false claim that these activists “draw the line at [..] endangering their personal security”.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Empress Trudy

      It’s not activism if you have to get vaccines before you activate there, that’s why. Send boats to Malta which is now struggling with a massive increase in illegal immigrants from Libya.

      Reply to Comment
    25. miri

      Totally disappointed to see +972 publish such a demeaning pseudo intellect attack on activism. It demeans not only the inherent humanity of the flotilla activists, themselves, but demeans every single act of simple human decency committed by every individual, throughout human history, from the guy from Philly who jumped out of his car to help people in a crash, only to be killed while trying to recross the highway; it demeans the work of every Israeli activist who goes home to a nice shower and a toilet that can flush paper; it demeans the unions in NYC who launched a boycott of businesses dealing with the nazis, prior to our entry into WWII; it demeans the work of every partisan who fought the nazis, every righteous gentile who helped save a Jewish life (including a family member — long dead before I was born — who lied to allow a Jewish stranger to be listed as family); it demeans all of the deaths involved in the US Civil Rights movement.

      This is shameless.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Empress Trudy

      Are you THE Israel Shamir or have you adopted the name of a famous antisemite, holocaust denier and supporterd of Russian and Belarussian internal security forces which used his work with Wikileaks to round up and disappear political dissidents?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Right Wing Zionist

      The author hit the nail on the head. How do I know? Because it seems to have hit a raw nerve amongst many leftist sympathisers in here. What is it they say? The truth hurts …

      Reply to Comment
    28. RichardNYC

      This article is only partly correct. Some of them are tourists. Others are anti-semites. Others are Islamists. Better to focus on the fact that Gaza does not need their help.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Kevin Barrington

      Well Dr Klauber,

      A very post-modern piece of pontificating which suffers from the standard “it’s all about me” flaw.

      A point you have overlooked entirely is that the message the presence of supposed D grade celebrity activists sends is one that builds awareness in their home countries.

      I know the average non-political Joe in Ireland stats to suspect something is rotten in the State of Israel when s/he sees noted Irish athletes throwing their considerable weight behind what once seen as a marginal issue.

      The affront to modernity that is the Jewish State and its fears of a true democratic solution become harder to conceal when the man on the street sees figures he respects stand up and protest.

      Like much postmodern writing, the facile, the glib and the shallow is all that stikes me here.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Wim Heitinga

      I don’t believe it at all. This is total nonsense, BR.
      Wim Heitinga

      Reply to Comment
    31. For the people here claiming that the “leftists” don’t go to other countries to do human rights work or that the Flotilla isn’t a valid form of protest- what planet do you live on? Oh, yeah, planet Zion. The whole “it proves you are an anti-Semite and anti-Israel because you aren’t sailing to Syria or Libya” mantra is just a ridiculous straw-man argument. As if the only way one can demonstrate a seriousness about human rights is to go to every single country where people are oppressed.

      I hate to break it to SOME of you but there are people all across the political spectrum trying to draw attention to what is going on in places like Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, just to name a few. Maybe you should go check out Eve Ensler, who by the way, has engaged in protests in Israel against the Occupation. Is he an anti-Semite? Is she a post modern tourist? She has also gone to Afghanistan, DRC etc. in an effort to provide shelters, schools, treatment for women and children who have been victims of war crimes.

      And to the author of this pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo- Part of political activism is to be provocative and draw attention to an issue. I’m sorry if that’s inconvenient for some of the Occupation apologists, including apparently, the author.

      But by all means, keep living in your self-righteous, victim-fetishizing world where anyone who challenges the inhumanity of the Occupation is nothing but a limousine liberal looking for adventure.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Dr. Klauber. Calling Dr. Evgeni Klauber!
      You are needed in the comments section.

      We’re trying to conduct a crude form of peer review of your pseudo-intellectual postmodern attack on activism. Some of the people are asking for some much needed clarifications. Are any forthcoming?

      ps.
      Dear +972:
      Since Dr. Klauber seems unable (or unwilling) to defend this hack-job against activists (that you’ve allowed him to publish), can I go back to calling him what he is?
      Or would that still be a violation of your comments policy? I only mean to challenge the comments policy – not break it outright.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Empress Trudy

      Stacy

      I never said it demonstrated you were an antisemite, I said it demonstrated you were a facile hypocrite. That you believe, you honestly believe that the state of Israel is literally ground zero for every single thing that has ever gone wrong is wrong and ever will go wrong on the planet is neither here nor there. If that’s what you believe, fine. That’s what dogmatic faith IS. Your particular brand of dogmatism is materially no different from that of a a dead end ex Soviet Stalinist, a fundamentalist Catholic, Hamas, the Ba’ath Party, Eco-terrorists, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Klan, or North Korean juche.

      That’s what blind idiot dogmatic faith is; impermeable, absolute, untouched by reality or logic or appeals to reason or sanity or compassion. And that’s fine. The world needs useful idiots.

      My only point is that as long as everyone is shlepping 10,000 miles to shake their fists at something, and by their own words, are accomplishing nothing of any import whatsoever, then they could just as well do that anywhere on earth for any of the other hundreds of misfortunate groups scattered hither and yon. Or, they could if so inclined to actually have the integrity to live by the precepts of the apparent meaning of their activism do something, anything really, for people who could benefit from their help.

      I mean these boats had to steer out of the way of the Libyan coast, no? And current estimates are that something between 10 and 20 thousand people have been killed in the fighting so far and 10′s of thousands more have become refugees in Malta, Sicily, Tunisia or anywhere they land.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Empress Trudy

      ARNON –
      “I only mean to challenge the comments policy – not break it outright.”

      I can recommend you sail to wherever the server farm is, and shake your fist at it then illegally enter the data center?

      Reply to Comment
    35. To all comment-writers here – +972 appreciates a range of views. You don’t have to agree with them or like them, but it is remarkable to me that anyone would question why we publish them. Our raison d’etre is to raise debate and this piece has in that sense completely accomplished its goal. No, our comments policy cannot be violated. This is not a game, we take discussion seriously and the comments policy was thought out very carefully to provide an earnest and open environment for discussion. Following it is the minimum level of restraint you are asked to show in order to be respectful. Thanks for understanding.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Empress-

      Thanks for your response. Seriously.

      You seem to think that singling out Israel for criticism is somehow illegitimate because there are other places in the world where many are suffering too- at least if I understand your comments correctly. My problem with that is we could say that about any activists who focus on certain parts of the world. We could say it about those that focus on Sudan, DRC, Iran etc. The fact that anti-Occupation activists aren’t simultaneously sending flotillas to Sudan, Tunisia or Syria is indicative of nothing in terms of their commitment to what they believe in with respect to Gaza.

      Basically, it sounds like you diminish this particular anti-Occupation activism, as does the author, for no other reason than you happen to disagree with the point of view that underlies it. That’s fine, but to use that basis to claim that these individuals are somehow less sincere than others doesn’t real hold a lot of logic for me.

      But we may just have to disagree on this.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Empress Trudy

      Having been threatened by an AK toting 12 year old in the midst of a millions deep genocide in Africa I’d have to say your protest is a hobby and you’re a dilettante. It’s not that we expect you to be everywhere at all times, but you have to wonder when so called organizations for peace and justice like HRW, AI and UN essentially devote nearly 100% of their combined funding and effort to eradicating Israel if perhaps they have their agendas a bit askew. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with attempting to wipe out Israel, hell million of maniacs the world over want to. So they must be on to something. But it’s fascinating to watch them literally step over the smoking corpses of millions of men women and children to do that, and to tell me, with a straight face, it’s for peace, freedom and justice.

      You don’t see flotillas to Syria, Sri Lanka, Somalia or Sudan because a) you’d actually put your lives in danger from violence, b) no one would take you seriously for being such an idiot and c) having to get vaccines to go somewhere to keep from getting unpronounceable diseases that might kill you, is unpleasant.

      A friend of mine is a Navy doctor. He gets to treat people with bubonic plague, in Afghanistan for example.

      Hell I’d be happy to see the rich white hippies of California rescue Juarez, Mexico. But we know that’s never going to happen either.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Jonathan Cook

      Dana, Your comment really can’t be left to stand without a response.
      This site, I believe, offers a platform to a range of left Zionist and non-Zionist voices, mostly Israeli. That’s a good thing, because the left in Israel had all but disappeared for most of the past decade. On the other hand, there are lots of Israeli sites offering far-right and fascist perspectives. This site does not need to duplicate them and, whatever you suggest, it is not a free-for-all. (If you doubt that, let me propose a piece arguing that Adolf Hitler was much misunderstood and see whether +972 would care to publish it.)
      This article is not only morally repugnant in its premise – as well as disrespectful to those solidarity activists who actively oppose (and have died opposing) the occupation – but it is also profoundly ignorant of history (as well as journalism), as others have noted.
      There are plenty of places the dr could have published this nonsense. The question is why +972 saw fit to gave him a platform. The fact that neither the dr nor any of you have made the slightest effort to defend either his “argument” or the decision to publish his article here, despite a wealth of criticism in the talkbacks, speaks volumes.
      Of course, it’s your blog and you’re entitled to publish his piece. The issue that should concern you is what conclusions we – your readers – are likely to draw about your moral judgment, or the ultimate worth of the site, in agreeing to publish it.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Jonathan Cook

      Sorry Dahlia. In the heat of my outrage I renamed you :-*

      Reply to Comment
    40. Response to Israel Shamir:

      Dear Mr. Israel Shamir. Your comment relates to Lord Byron’s adventures in Greece. Was Lord Byron another post-modern tourist? It is true that Byron had a lot of passion for national liberation movements. Moreover, in 1823 he was elected a member of the Greek Liberation Committee. However, I want to make three points related to Byron’s Greek experience and the possibility of comparing it with post-modern tourism. First, I am not sure that idea of the Flotilla, initially, would extort Byron’s admiration. In The Corsair, he contrasts Greek civilization with Turkish villainy, by stressing drunk Muslims and disguised Dervishes. Here, one must be especially careful with comparisons, as Byron was always suspicious with Arabs and his statements would be read today as, at least, politically incorrect. My second point relates to Byron’s genuine intentions to help liberation movements. It is certainly true that in January 1824, he joined the uprising at Missolonghi, as he wanted to help the Greek struggle by money and personal example. Byron also was convinced that he is the one who is “destined by nature to upload the rights of man whenever he saw them trampled upon.” As long as Byron bought one-way ticket to Greece, he does not belong to the category of post-modern tourists. Tourist is one who visits locations for limited time and goes back home. Post-modern tourists purchase round-trip packets; they also prefer to solve effectively all the logistical problems related to the peak moment’s preparation and its aftermath. Nonetheless, there are some points of similarities between Lord Byron and post-modern tourists. Here is my third point. Recent research on Byron has revealed that he was also looking for some heroic stimulants, and, going to Greece, for him, was another stimulant, or in words of his historian, Leigh Hunt, from his Lord Byron and Some of His Contemporaries, the Greek experience was for Byron “mixed up with other stimulants.”

      Reply to Comment
    41. Response to Mr. Leonid Levin
      Dear Mr. Levin. You have denied the notion of post-modern tourism, arguing that there is too much risk being involved. I would say that risk, in this case, is a definitive factor that makes this kind of activism into post-modern tourism. Post-modern tourists want to come to Gaza not despite of the risk – but because of the risk. In the recent research of risk behavior, there are no more doubts that individuals, who decide to undertake risky activity, are weighing the risks against their direct and indirect personal benefits. In the case of political decisions involving risk, the individuals can still make their evaluations in accordance with their own sets of values, but the values’ influence on the final decision to take or not to take risk is limited by social norms. In simple words, if taking risk will improve one’s social image than there are more chances that this risk will be taken.

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    42. Dear MERLOT:
      I think we need a clarification regarding what I mean by “post-modern tourism.” Post-modernist tourism, apparently, was wrongly understood by my readers as an insulting term. During the last three decades, more and more scholars have addressed various tourism-related activities as manifestation of post-modernist rather than modernist culture. In general, current trends in tourism, such as the rise of small and field-specific travel agencies, the growing attraction of “heritage tourism,” the thriving of nature-experience oriented tourism, and the increase of simulated tourism-related environments, are identified by scholars as “postmodern tourism.” Usually, the post-modern tourism scholars distinguish between “simulational” and the “other” types of postmodern tourism. The simulational type of post-modern tourism, according to Jean Baudrillard, is focused around the analysis of “hyperreal” experiences and refers to simulated locations and other contrived attractions as typical postmodern environments. The notions of the “other” postmodern tourism emphasizes the search for the “real,” and stresses to the growing appeal of the “real felling” and “living through the events” while producing history as postmodern expressions. To apply these theoretical developments to the case of Flotilla-Flytilla, it can be argued that it involves both the “simulational” and the “other” components. Flotilla takes its participant through “real” moments of history making by means of intentionally organized action, i.e. simulated resistance.

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    43. Dear MIRI:

      We could interpret the mission of the Flotilla, as you do, in moral terms, either as the justified attempt of fearless group of missionaries to help their desperate brothers in Palestine, or as Israeli, also justified efforts, to protect its security. I suggested seeing Flotilla as an example of how personally biased motivations of its participants can also play a role. As long as I would not trust personal motivations from neither Israeli nor Palestinian side of conflict (let’s assume that both sides are right), I suggested, in my article, taking the discussion away from moral evaluations to the field of descriptive sociology. While taking the Flotilla, and now also Flytilla, debate away from moral appraisals, we can see it as an example of what I called “post-modern tourism,” a new phenomenon that occurs when actors join political forces not only because of their values and believes, but also because of the political images they want to create for themselves and for their more immediate environments, i.e. family, friends, and co-workers. Let’s take a brief look at the supporters of the Flytilla operation organized by other pro-Palestinian activists over the last weekend. Tom Innes, the spokesman for the flight from Britain, told Ynet that there was no intent to cause a violent disruption at the airport; and he added that those arriving in the “fly-in” were “just tourists.” Obviously, the “just tourists,” here, is not ultimately my theoretical elaboration – it’s their self-declaration statement. What, then, transforms those “just tourists” into activists? That particular event that I am talking about – a simulated moment of danger – will do the job. For the rest of the time post-modern tourists can enjoy regular tourists’ attractions. My argument about personally biased motivations of the Flytilla participants was strengthened once again after several not formal interviews I conducted with the participants of the Flytilla at Tel-Aviv’s night clubs, such as Bukovsky. After the interviews with the foreigners it was clear: the Flytilla participants from Belgium, Germany and UK have enjoyed Tel-Aviv’s night life, a major Israeli touristic attraction, during the weekend. Since modern tourists can also enjoy Tel-Aviv’s night life during any other weekend, the post-modern tourists added to this experience a “good cause,” which made their participation into more “meaningful” and risky.

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    44. Dear Robi:
      You have summarized my argument saying something like “every freedom fighter is actually a post-modern tourist.” This is, of course, not what I argued in my article. Think about the variety of movements since the 1960′s: first civil rights and student movements, ecology, feminism, Islamic and Jewish religious extremism in the Middle East, Hindu militarism in India, anti-immigrant violence in Western Europe, ethnic nationalism in Balkans and former Soviet Union, suicide bombings in Iraq. All these social movements had their ideological supporters and opponents. But, also, there were always people who joined the struggle on its safe side because of their ego-centric reasons and left the struggle on those junctures, where the risks were higher then the expected benefits of participation. Unfortunately, the Flotilla participants belong to the later category of participants. According to my evaluation, these people do not belong to the group involved in the events I just mentioned above. This group defines itself as not ideological, they like to take risks due to their immediate social environments and, they treat Flotilla as a product that can be purchased by means of material investment. Like in every touristic attraction, the post-modern tourists evaluate their risks, expect certain level of facilities to be offered, and as long as Flotilla is treated as a touristic product, it can be compared to the experiences in Gulag’s cells and Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. Let me give you another example that will clarify the difference between political activists and post-modern tourists. We cannot even imagine that symbolic T-shirts for the resistance movements, which ask to end the war in Iraq, will be purchased before the war took place. Of course, after the war started and after thorough debates about the nature of this war emerge, retroactively, one can join related political movement and get the T-shirt. For post-modern tourists in Gaza, however, those T-shirts are available before the actual event takes place. One can purchase those T-shirts together with other apparel of post-modern tourism in special agencies. Flotilla-Flytilla, in this sense is distinguished from general pro-Palestinian movement. Post-modern tourists do not want to get a T-shirt with pro-Palestinian rhetoric: the want to purchase a T-shirt with Flotilla-Flytilla forthcoming event’s symbols. The regular pro-Palestinian rhetoric is boring, while the event-centered heroic rhetoric brings much more excitement and meaning into regular touristic attraction.

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    45. Jonathan Cook

      I’m glad to see the author finally responding, if only because he has clarified that his views are just as morally repugnant as I read them to be in his original article. My problem is not with him (I’m sue there’s a market in academia for this stuff), but with +972 for publishing it. Above he states in reference to these so-called “post-modern tourists”:

      “Unfortunately, the Flotilla participants belong to the later category of participants.”

      Note: not “some”, not “most”. All of them. Every single one of them, according to the author, was there on some sick exercise to cash in (emotionally) on Gaza’s suffering, including several Holocaust survivors. Will anyone at +972 come out to defend this position, or are you going to hide behind the dr’s weasel words?

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    46. max

      That’s sacrilege: people want to get their good-feeling injection by posting, cheering those that actually participate on the fringes; they already heard on this site from an Activist that pretending to ‘share’ is presumptuous; some have to face the prospect of playing chess with themselves, as ‘the other side’ seems missing from the table (or when periodically present, rejects their honest efforts for self flagellation);
      and now you come up with a moral-free evaluation of their motives!
      .
      A more serious point: isn’t every action we take driven by selfish aspects? Don’t we get an ego kick when we give to the poor? How many people hide their philanthropic deeds, especially when they can get tax rebates? I presume that you don’t negate the positive aspect of it, as a win-win proposition.

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    47. Empress Trudy

      This sort of thing could actually be a gold mine for Gaza. Start a new activism tourism industry.

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    48. Merlot

      Dear Evgeni,

      What is needed is not a clarification of the term post-modern tourist. Your meaning was clear. What you have done is set up a situation in which people going on a tourism to feel and experience a unique (and sometimes oppressive situation) e.g. a gulag, are equated with people going on the flotilla to oppose Israel’s blockade of Gaza and occupation. This is not misunderstood to be insulting. This is insulting. By doing this you and making the flotilla activists “tourists” who are merely looking for an experience you take away their message. You take away their moral outrage. You miss the point for why they are sailing and you miss the point of why others might join ISM in the West Bank. You explicitly say that they don’t actually want to participate in hard humanitarian work. This is demeaning. As someone who has managed humanitarian aid projects in Gaza and who has spent extended periods there over the last several years I would say that what they are doing is some of the most vital humanitarian work that can be done. Most of us who are official “humanitarians” provide band aids that help people but we don’t challenge the systems of oppression that keep Gaza under blockade. We also don’t put our lives at risk. The flotilla activists and ISM activists (as much as I disagree with them at times) challenge the actual systems of oppression and risk their lives. In your attempt to be scholarly you seem to be missing reality.

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    49. Merlot

      As note, the authors credibility comes into questions when he starts claiming to have conducted informal interviews with “flytilla” activists at Tel Aviv night clubs. This is the type of claim that needs support over and above a statement by the author claiming, “no really it happened”. As much as we all may love drinking a Heineken at a club near the Tel Aviv beach, to think that the flytilla activists first act would be to visit an Israeli club as opposed to connecting up with affiliated groups in Bethlehem or other parts of the West Bank is ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that the few flytilla activists that made it through not only confirm the authors (weak) thesis but also visited clubs where he happened to meet and interview them. Higher standards next time, please.

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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