When it comes to the struggle against Israel's policies of oppression there are two conflicting levels: that of government and that of civil society. The most recent example of this duality is the half dozen or so small ships held captive in the ports of Greece. The ships, loaded with humanitarian supplies for the one and half million people of the Gaza strip, are instruments of a civil society campaign against the inhumanity of the Israeli state. The forces that hold them back are the instruments of governments corrupted by special interest influence and political bribery.
Most of us are unaware of the potential of organized civil society because we have resigned the public sphere to professional politicians and bureaucrats and retreated into a private sphere of everyday life which we see as separate from politics. This is a serious mistake. Politics shapes our lives whether we pay attention to it or not. By ignoring it we allow the power of the state to respond not so much to the citizenry as to special interests. Our indifference means that the politicians and government bureaucrats live their professional lives within systems largely uninterested in and sometimes incapable of acting in the public good because they are corrupted by lobby power. The ability to render justice is also often a casualty of the way things operate politically. The stymying of the latest flotilla due to the disproportionate influence of Zionist special interests on US and European Middle East foreign policy is a good example of this situation.
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There are small but growing elements of society which understand this problem and have moved to remedy it through organizing common citizens to reassert influence in the public sphere. Their efforts constitute civil society movements. Not all of these efforts can be deemed progressive. The “Tea Party” phenomenon in the United States is a radical conservative movement that aims at minimizing government to the point of self-destruction. But other movements of civil society, in their expressions of direct action in the cause of justice, are much healthier. The worldwide movement for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning (BDS) of Israel, of which the flotilla movement is an offshoot, is one of these.