We have arrived in Gaza. Yet our vessel, the Tahrir, is tethered to the pier in Agios Nikolaos, Greece. We are in the pleasant company of a stable of yachts from various parts of the other world.
I chat with the Yachtsmen and Yachtswomen. They feel right at home with someone who knows the difference between a French Omni Alubat and an old Roberts ketch. They ask me to explain Gaza because our Tahrir, a 25-metre day ferry, is draped now in “Free Gaza” banners.
It turns out, of course, that they already know. They are people of the world, after all, privileged wanderers, like us. But they love the details.
One asks, “Do you mean to say that you’ve had your papers done up for a week and the Greeks are blocking you in the harbor just because you might piss off the Israelis?”
“Yes.” I am now answering in the briefest way I can.
“Well that’s bloody strange. I mean when we’re ready to haul up, we just tell them that the slip is free and we fuck off. Why would he care where you go?”
As usual, the why is more difficult than the what. And that’s why I make the exaggerated claim that we are all in Gaza now. Being in a state of statelessness means always having to say you are sorry. You are never allowed to say “but this is the law that the people have elected you to uphold.”
The law of Greece, like the law of any modern nation that depends for it’s life on shipping and tourism, is that foreign vessels are welcomed into its ports and bid farewell when they leave. There are regulations. The Greeks must know who you are and whether your vessel is in sound condition lest it sink and inflict undue cost on the nation’s rescue services.
But not here and not now. Greece, famously a member of the EU, has a Minister of Civil Protection who has invented an instruction to the port authorities. The instruction is nonsense to anyone who has read a legal document (for example, the time period is specified for one day — the day of issue, and nowhere else defined), but it compels the port authority to find a regulation, any regulation, that could, in an alternate universe, be in doubt.
At the same time, it makes sense. The Minister is part of a government that needs every nation’s help to survive. Not the country — it will get along fine — but the government of the country. It’s in trouble for all the usual reasons. You can read elsewhere who is intervening on the Greek Government’s behalf and what the reasons might be. But there is a logic, and here it is:
No one in power wants to stop the imprisonment of people who live on that narrowest of strips, Gaza. Yet few in power want to support it. And while we do nothing, the million and a half of us continue to disappear as citizens of a world of humans. Instead, we are the animal humans of a powerful nation. Sometimes Palestinians in Gaza are fed and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are bombed and sometimes they are just shot. They can snarl and bite, or they can be cowed and attractive. But they can never leave the farm.
Here in Agios Nikolaos, we are getting a small taste of what that will feel like. This is an easy way for the powerful to manage the world and it may be coming to a barnyard near you.