History repeats with a twist

By Andrew Wander in on June 2nd, 2010

The Exodus 1947
carried Jewish refugees bound for Palestine
The raid on the Mavi Mamara has
parallels with another chapter of history in the region.

It was a military raid on a civilian ship bound for Palestine,
carried out in the international waters of the Mediterranean to prevent
the boat from reaching its blockaded destination.
When the soldiers boarded they met with stiffer resistance than they
expected, and so they used force, killing some of the passengers and
injuring many others.
The commandeered ship was towed to port and the survivors were
detained, before being deported amid a storm of international
condemnation.
The year was 1947, and the boat – the Exodus
1947
– was carrying Jewish refugees seeking to land without the
permission of the British military force in charge of Palestine.
The incident, which left three dead, is now seen as a key event in
the lead up to the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the
establishment of the state of Israel.
Israeli historians will be hoping that this week’s raid on the
humanitarian flotilla that was bound for Gaza will not be Israel’s own Exodus
moment.
It is too early to tell whether the incident will change the way the
world sees Israel’s strangling blockade of the Gaza Strip. But the
parallels between this week’s events and those of 1947 will be enough to
worry Israeli historians.
In 1947, international sympathy for Holocaust-surviving Jews and
their quest for a homeland crystalised around the treatment of those on
board the Exodus, who were eventually sent, in a move of
stunning insensitivity given recent history, to detention camps in
Germany.
In 2010, it is the residents of Gaza, themselves stateless and
suffering in the aftermath of a brutal conflict, whose plight has been
highlighted by a misjudged military assualt.
The violence on board the Mavi Mamara is being seen as a
symptom of the blockade on Gaza, just as the events of 1947 were seen as
evidence of a deep unfairness in the treatment of refugee Holocaust
survivors.
Then, there was a recognition that the status quo was not tenable,
and a year later, the state of Israel was founded.
As a result of Israel’s raid on the Mavi Mamara, it is
today’s bitter status quo that is now being questioned. It is
unclear whether the incident will, like the Exodus did 63 years
ago, represent a tipping point, or just another sad milestone on a road
to further suffering.
There are as many differences as similarities between the two
situations. It would be wrong to make too much of the parallels.
But it would also be wrong to disregard them. Tipping points tend not
to be visible until they have been crossed.

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