Dying for a noble cause was not on the agenda of the European and North American leftists on board. For them, this was a Peace Boat taking humanitarian supplies to suffering Palestinians. It also had the political purpose of lifting the Israeli blockade to allow free passage of goods and people in and out of Gaza. This is the narrative that sees Gaza as akin to the Warsaw Ghetto, and the flotilla as a modern-day Berlin Airlift. That their goods may be handed over to the Hamas government in Gaza for distribution is just a fact of circumstance with no deeper ideological meaning. (Contrast this with the words of Mehmet Kaya, who runs the IHH office in Gaza: "We only work through Hamas, although we don't limit our aid to its followers. We consider Israel and the United Nations to be the terrorists, not Hamas.") Although they must have considered the possibility of danger, there are no videos of western leftists welcoming the prospect of martyrdom. Few appear to have expected those resisting the Israeli boarding party to have used the level of violence they did. Previous seaborne efforts to reach Gaza have either been allowed through unmolested, or were apprehended at sea without violence, and they were not aware of any reason to imagine this time would be different.
Rather than seeing this as a Muslim Brotherhood-organised operation, the leftist flotillistas present an action with a much more varied and diffuse background. Some held positions in formal groups such as the Free Gaza Movement, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or Viva Palestina; others are individuals who have spent time with the International Solidarity Movement or campaigned for the Palestinians in their local towns and cities. This reflects the decentralised, network-based campaigning which has come to typify the left in many Western countries. It is also, importantly, how the flotilla is perceived and reported in Western media. Even foreign minister William Hague described it as "collections of individuals from different countries [coming] together to try to force Governments to change course and reach a global audience in doing so." The idea that this was a Hamas-inspired project, organised via Muslim Brotherhood networks as part of its asymmetric warfare against Israel, is not just absent from most Western interpretations of what happened: it is actively and defiantly scorned. The Guardian's Nicholas Lezard, for example, had little time for the idea that "the debacle was in fact a work of supreme cunning on the part of Hamas, deliberately engineered in order to discredit Israel in the eyes of the world." His implication was that this allegation is an invention of pro-Israeli propaganda, despite the evidence of Hamas figures claiming exactly the same to be true. Lezard then went on: "I and the blameless Review section of this newspaper will be denounced as either Hamas stooges, antisemites, or both. It would appear that unimpeachably impartial reporting from this miserable part of the world is a categorical impossibility." The point is not that the Islamist narrative of who organised the flotilla, and why, is right, and the leftist one is wrong, much less that Lezard and the Guardian are Hamas stooges or antisemites. Rather, it is that the Islamist and leftist versions of what happened to do not enter the thinking of the other. Lezard is correct to say that impartial reporting on this subject is extremely rare, but not for the reasons that he seems to think.
Once on board, there is little doubt which of these groupings were dominant. IHH members appear to have had an authority over the ship that was unmatched even by its captain and crew, declaring parts of the ship out-of-bounds to all but themselves. Videos show passengers chanting the anti-Jewish battle-cry, "Khybar Khybar Ya Yahood!" (which evokes the military defeat and subjugation of a Jewish tribe by the Prophet Muhammad in 629 C.E.). There do not appear to be comparable videos of flotillistas strumming guitars and singing Imagine or The Internationale. This follows the general trend of left-Islamist cooperation, which usually results in an Islamisation of leftist discourse, rather than a secularisation of Islamist language. After the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara which left nine flotillistas dead, Islamists and leftists alike spoke in a language of martyrs and sacrifice.
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