Happy Fourth of July! We celebrate you — even those of us who are Americans by enthusiasm only. The King’s attempt to bring you to heel failed, and you escaped the noose for yourselves and for us. You got your representation for taxation and you did it by breaking the law, by dumping some goods in the port.
While you grill your burgers and contemplate your dawn’s early light, spend a moment thinking about your compatriot law breakers who have been rounded up in Athens. Their hunger strike is “illegal”. Their boat cruise is “illegal”, their threat to the blockade of Gaza is “illegal”.
You may feel that they represent the minor edge of sensitivity to human rights, and that maybe they could use a little cooling down, that the situation is complicated and delicate — wiser heads must be allowed to manage the situation, for our protection the theirs.
That’s an argument I’ve heard and the only answer I have is that, when the colonies declared independence, it was far from a unanimous decision. The Rebels, too, could have used a little cooling down. They were playing a dangerous game. And the army led by Washington was a long shot. The Americans had a little foreign intervention by some unruly French and a little domestic intervention too by people who would eventually be called Native Americans for their trouble. But there were many colonists, far more than a simple majority, who wanted well enough left alone.
In other words it was messy. There were principles and hot-heads. Hangers-on and thrill-seekers. Opponents and obstructionists. The fearful and the silent. And no one knew the outcome and there were a thousand possible results. But there was only one compelling logic — the logic of a new world were people must be equal under the law.
Today, the most sacred day of equality under the law, I am in a port in Greece under the watchful eye of the Greek Coast Guard. They are legitimate agents of an elected government that, over the last few weeks, has sold its independence to the bank. It was able to make the sale by the grace of the Israeli Government whose leader is now trumpeting his ability to reign in the rebels. He’ll be using this power to continue the expansion of his domain and diminish the rights and opportunities of his subjects — both the Israelis who elected him and Palestinians who did not.
What’s next? The people, equipped with airline tickets to Ben Gurion airport, are now arriving there and, in a new-found frankness, declaring to immigration authorities that they are traveling to the West Bank. Until now, if you were actually traveling to the occupied West Bank, you had to pretend for Israeli Immigration that you were not, unless you were prepared to beg with Israel’s IDF border control at the Allenby Bridge from Jordan. Either way, you’re supposed to lie or beg to meet a Palestinian. Unless, of course, the Palestinian lives in Gaza. In that case, you’re supposed to just go away.
So Ben Gurion is now filling up pretty quickly. It may get a little messy. It’s hot. There may be some arguments. Someone may dump a box of tea over the side.