The Mavi Marmara Metaphor

6 Jul 2010 by CST

I have written an article for Standpoint magazine's website, discussing what the Gaza flotilla tells us about the state of the alliance between Islamists and leftists in Europe:

The working alliance between Islamists and leftists in Britain emerged out of anti-Israel demonstrations after the start of the second Intifada in October 2000, which preceded 9/11 and the protests against the war in Iraq. A decade on, anti-Zionism and the Israel/Palestine conflict remain its energizing core. There is no other conflict in the world which would have motivated Islamist and leftist campaigners to cooperate for a flotilla similar to that which approached Gaza at the end of May, with consequences which are still reverberating around the Middle East and beyond.

The Mavi Marmara, which held the bulk of the ‘flotillistas', is a metaphor for so much of the left-Islamist alliance. There were two main types of people on board: Islamists, mainly from Muslim countries and aligned with, or members of, the Muslim Brotherhood; and European and north American leftists, from a variety of pro-Palestinian campaigns and direct action groups. What is striking is that despite sharing the same political and physical space, they had completely different narratives about why they were there, how they intended to meet their aims and even who organised the whole flotilla in the first place.


This is the wider point about the alliance in Europe of leftists and Islamists. Islamism, globally, is a movement with energy, resources, self-belief and, in some countries, real power. Socialism is anything but. It has failed in power and lost its ideological certitude a long time ago, to be replaced by a vague and, at times, contradictory, set of ideas: anti-globalisation, environmentalism, anti-imperialism and so on. This is not an alliance of equals. European leftists, so used to being the junior partner in their cooperation with Islamists at home, have given up any pretence that their support for Hamas and other Islamist movements is one of critical engagement, or that they would rather work with secular, liberal forces in Palestinian society (or even their own). In this respect, the flotilla is a metaphor for the whole left-Islamist alliance. A journey over which leftists have a semblance of influence but little real control, into a confrontation not of their own making, from which they derive no political benefit.

You can read the whole article here.

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