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Passengers, Backers Spanned Globe

And we talk to Flotilla organizer Adam Shapiro

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Protestors in Manhattan yesterday.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Early this morning, Israel began deporting more than 680 people detained aboard the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla” to their home countries, from Australia to Yemen. According to Israeli authorities, more than half came from Turkey, but they were joined by contingents from Britain, France and the U.S.—and, in the case of bestselling author Henning Mankell, Sweden. It’s not clear how many Jewish activists, if any, took part in the convoy itself—85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who escaped Europe before the Holocaust, decided at the last minute to remain behind in Cyprus—but American Jews were certainly represented in the crowds who took to the streets in Jerusalem yesterday to protest the Israeli government’s decision to raid the convoy. Among them: Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old student at New York City’s Cooper Union, who lost an eye after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

Maybe it’s the Beinart effect, but we haven’t heard anyone publicly call Henochowicz a self-hating Jew, or any of the nastier names that have been used over the years. It’s a long way from 2002, when New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser declared one Adam Shapiro the “Jewish Taliban” after he spent the night with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah at the height of the Second Intifada. Shapiro’s parents, both schoolteachers, were subsequently harassed at their Brooklyn home and targeted by fliers denouncing their son as a traitor to America and the Jews.

As it happens, Shapiro was among the flotilla’s organizers, along with his wife, Huwaida Arraf, the American-born daughter of an Arab Israeli Christian. (Shapiro stayed in Washington, where he made TV appearances, while Arraf, who was aboard the largest ship, was featured by telephone on CNN.) Shapiro told Tablet Magazine yesterday that while he grew up celebrating Seders, he hasn’t considered himself Jewish since he was a teenager. “I consider Judaism to be a religion and not an ethnic identity,” Shapiro, now 38, explained. He hasn’t yet read Beinart’s much-discussed essay about American Zionism, but was glad to hear of American Jews wrestling with the occupation. “It seems like it’s shaking things up, and that’s good,” Shapiro told Tablet Magazine. “Obviously the American Jewish community has a role to play—if you want to engage as Jews, think about what it means to be Jewish, to follow the traditions of the Jewish people.”

However, he added, he was less concerned about the response of American Jews than of the American government, which he felt hasn’t been firm enough in condemning Israel for jeopardizing the safety of its citizens. “I identify as an American citizen, and that’s where my concern is,” he said. So was the flotilla a victory for the Free Gaza movement, at great cost to Israel’s image, as analysts across the board have declared? “I wouldn’t call this a success,” Shapiro told us, “because it’s a huge tragedy.”

Israel Begins Deportation of Activists Seized on Gaza Flotilla [Haaretz]

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Adam Shapiro calls this a tragedy? He can go to hell. This flotilla sailed right into a confrontation that it had planned. To any degree that he played a role in rebuffing Israeli offers to deliver the aid themselves, and to move ahead in spite of official warnings, the blood of those dead is on his hands.

Garry says:

Adam Shaapiro does not identify as a Jew. Why is tablet concerned about him? Because of his name? It makes more sense to interview his wife-at least she doesn’t have a Jewish name and we understand fully what her stand is. Mental illness among Jews is unfortunately not uncommon.

I would like to know if Adam Shapiro, working the press in D.C., takes any responsibility at all for what happened. The outcome would certainly have been on anyone’s shortlist of likely scenarios.

Michèle says:

so what’s the problem ? he is borned jewish but doesn’t consider him self as a jew.lack of interest

George Barth says:

I’m glad that Adam Shapiro is not a Jew anymore. And many
more “liberal Jews”, like those in the “Peace Now” movement,
are Jewish purely by birth defect. The Muslims are winning
at the moment, because they are lucky not being burdened by
“liberal” groups, whatever their name may be.

avram davis says:

Shapiro is Judenrat. He is exactly like those who collaborated with our killers in the Nazi era.

Larry Mandel says:

With history as a guide, under the Nazi regime, Mr. Shapiro and others like him would have been Jewish and treated as such irrespective of their own claims to be otherwise. I think it most sad, at least from my perspective, that as Jews, we bear a collective shame for the acts of these individuals. You can see such a lack of differentiation in the stridency of the international press and the “spontaneous” anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations that also do not differentiate between whether ones surname is Shapiro or Mandel. The true mission of the flotilla and its sponsors appears to be one of provocation, not humanitarian aid to citizenry of Gaza.

Deborah says:

Shapiro does not identify as Jewish. Fine. He says, “I consider Judaism to be a religion and not an ethnic identity.”

Yet he also says: “the American Jewish community has a role to play—if you want to engage as Jews, think about what it means to be Jewish, to follow the traditions of the Jewish people.”
Isn’t “the Jewish people” a reference to an ethnic identity?

Ruth Gutmann says:

Shapiro himself is confused about his motives for helping to organize this flotilla. Interviewed on PBS Newshour he vaccilated between “breaking the embargo” and “bringing the people in Gaza supplies they need.” Perhaps if he understood his own motives, he might be able to play a positive role instead of a destructive, death-dealing one. He is an embarrassment — and worse.

Great catch Deborah. It’s what happens when you accidentally say what you believe, rather than what you’re trying to advertise.

Bryna Weiss says:

Why don’t I see photos from the News of the many supporters of the Israeli response and their lack of blame. People were out questioning Turkey’s support of this provocative act. There were thousands with banners and flags- but no coverage? The whole thing is sickening.

Tinamarie Bernard says:

Perhaps it is good that he’s such a waffler in his choice of words. It reveals an utter lack of understanding about the history of his tribe, the Middle East and global politics.

And Bryna is right about the coverage of those protesting Turkey.

Another revealing irony that won’t make the news, I’m afraid: The regret that those of us living in Israel feel for the pain and loss of life, even though it was unavoidable (so it seems) and part of protecting the soviernity of the place I now call home. Instead, the world condemns, while we consider what went wrong, argue behind closed doors and through our tears, still compassionate for those who naively trumpet the horns of hate.

I see that on the Gaza Peace flotilla were a couple of Jews, one of them the, the organizer. He is married to an Arab Palestinian.

A second jew was Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old student who lost an eye after being hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

I am reading Daniela Norris book, which is an exchange of letters with a beautiful Palestian mother and wife, whom she met in Geneva, where she lives.

These two events tell me we are about to have some good change, in spite of the brouhaha, he press and the Turkish media consternation.

Palestinians and Jews are talking in a way not present before. We have books never possible before. I can see the Palestinians (perhaps Ramallah first, Gaza second) becoming an elite Arab state with Israel in a common market which can be enlarged later to include more regional members

These prediction will become true, I don’t know when, but sooner than we thought a week ago


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Passengers, Backers Spanned Globe

And we talk to Flotilla organizer Adam Shapiro

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