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Flotilla passenger on why she's sailing to Palestine

June 28, 2011 9:35 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2011 12:34 P.M.)
By: Mya Guarnieri
ATHENS, Greece (Ma'an) -- At 33, Megan Horan is one of the younger passengers on the US Boat to Gaza. She admits that she is also a newcomer to the issues surrounding Israel and the Palestinians.

After attending an interfaith conference last summer, soon after the Israeli raid on the flotilla that left nine activists on the Mavi Marmara dead, Horan's interest was peaked by a Palestinian speaker who mentioned the attempt to break the blockade. Ann Wright who spoke of her experience on last year’s US boat, the Challenger 1.

“When I returned to Seattle, I started to really dig,” says Horan, who works in hi-tech.

Because it was important to Horan to get a “balanced” look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she explored many sources on different sides of the issue. Haaretz reporter Amira Hass’ "Drinking the Sea at Gaza" was particularly influential, Horan says, as was the work of an American rabbi, Michael Lerner.

She recalls being “shocked” by what she learned. “I was very pro-Israel, I never questioned Israel. Quite honestly, I didn’t think of Palestine -- which sounds horrible, but it’s true,” she says.

Asked why, Horan responds, “Because I’m American and they’re our ‘friends.’” She explains that she wasn’t raised to be pro-Israel, per se. It was something she absorbed from the American culture.

In the US, "we are taught in school about how the Jews were persecuted but we don’t learn about the Palestinians.”

She also feels that the mainstream media is problematic.

Pointing to her own experiences, Horan says that the majority of Americans are “very blind” and “don’t understand” what’s happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Once she began reading about the issues, Horan began to give a critical eye to American foreign policy. “Where are our tax dollars going?” she asks, referring to the $3 billion that the US gives to Israel in the form of annual military aid.

Horan, who maintains that she is still a part of the "mainstream," says that she has gotten some friends interested in the issue.

But, as would be expected whenever one begins to challenge a society’s long-cherished beliefs, she has found herself at the center of debates about Israel.

Since deciding to join the second Freedom Flotilla, Horan says, “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Don’t you think Israel has a right to exist?’”

Her answer: “Absolutely! But within their own borders -- they don’t have a right to control the air space, the sea, and the land" of the occupied territories.

Despite her commitment to breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, “I would not be considered a bleeding-heart liberal,” says Horan, the youngest of 10 children, with a laugh.

She also shies away from the label of Democrat or Republican: “It depends on who is running. At times, I lean more Republican,” she says. “I think that’s dangerous to identify yourself with one party.”

Horan explains that her parents, who are Catholic, strongly encouraged her brothers and sisters to be free thinkers. She brings this approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict too.

“We have to stop identifying ourselves as a nationality,” she says, adding that for her, the flotilla is “not a nation thing.”

“It’s a human thing.”

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