By now one will be aware that a New Zealand Green Party Member of Parliament Marama Davidson was arrested along with other women on a “peace flotilla”, trying to get into restricted waters off the Gaza coast. Whilst the women on the ship have been detained and will soon most likely be deported back to the countries they came from, the actions of Mrs Davidson and the others highlight the fine line between political grandstanding and genuine protest.
It is not that I disagree with her about the cause of the protest. Gaza has suffered appallingly from a combination of Israeli attacks, occupation and aid meant for ordinary Gazans being diverted by the Hamas leadership. The quality of life in terms of socio-economic needs such as health, schooling and social welfare is a disgrace by any reasonable interpretation. As the case usually is in conflict, women and children have borne the brunt of the effects of the conflict and the subsequent occupation of a small, but very densely populated area only a few square kilometres in size.
But it is well known that Israel, for better or for worse, will apprehend ships at sea off the coast of Gaza if it thinks there is no good reason for them to be there. Mrs Davidson would be well aware of the ships that have been arrested in the past, but she chose to go nonetheless. So, the real surprise about the arrest should not be about the arrests that were almost certainly going to happen, but that anyone is surprised in the first place. Because Iran supplies Hamas and Hezbollah with rockets, a commonly used weapon whose payload has been getting bigger, Israel has a right to make sure that they do not reach either organization.
The question is whether or not the same attention among New Zealand media could have been drawn using other less controversial actions. One alternative could have been getting the media along to a protest outside the Israeli embassy where the Green Party could have supported it along with members of the New Zealand public.