By Stuart Littlewood – London
The news reported 20 killed and dozens injured after Israeli forces attacked the Free Gaza flotilla in international waters and gunned down unarmed crew and passengers.
This is no surprise. Israel had been threatening for weeks to use violence, as is its style, to intercept the peaceful mission.
And I have just watched Israel’s chief lie-monger, Mark Regev, on BBC TV. “We did everything we could to avoid violence,” he said. “They [the aid workers] chose the path of confrontation… This is elementary, we have to defend ourselves.” He claimed the Israeli boarding party was attacked! The week-kneed BBC failed to question this act of piracy in international waters and the blatant violation of maritime law.
Former British MP George Galloway, a mainspring behind the Free Gaza movement, called it “a murderous act of piracy” on innocent humanitarian aid workers and demanded a wholesale review of the international community’s relationship with “the criminal pirate state of Israel”.
When the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) just 3 weeks ago, made their woeful decision to admit Israel to their club, the Zionist regime’s plan to attack international ships attempting to bring relief to the 1.5 million innocent Gazans it had bombed and blockaded for 4 years, was already known. But the Organisation nevertheless went ahead.
Grit your teeth, watch, and marvel at this master-class in the art of bumbledom. It does not, of course, explain what many would love to know: how Israel’s vile conduct is deemed to comply with the OECD’s fundamental values.
So I asked our ambassador. The office of Britain’s delegation to the OECD had to be prodded and goaded several times before making a half-baked reply to the simple question: Why did the British government give approval – in the British people’s name – for relaxing the rules to allow Israel to join?
Ambassador Dominic Martin was too lazy to issue a personal statement. Or maybe he was just too embarrassed by the thought of having to spout the sort of bilge I would receive 17 days later from one of his junior assistants.
When I finally got a reply it was from a lady who did not reveal her job title. But her previous job was with the Honours Unit in the Protocol Division so, clearly, here was somebody with deep background knowledge of Israel’s theft of the Holy Land and general lawlessness. This is what she said:
"28 May: The rules for joining the OECD were not relaxed to allow Israel to join, and there was consensus among OECD members to admit Israel. Israel had to undergo a rigorous process of technical reforms to ensure that it met the standards of the OECD acquis in a wide range of diverse areas, from changing legislation in line with the Anti Bribery Convention to the environment. Israel has made commitments to bring its standards into line with those of the OECD in two areas, post accession – statistics (where it has been asked to disaggregate statistics for the Occupied Territories from those of Green Line Israel) and Intellectual Property Rights.
"The UK has always been supportive of Israel’s application to the OECD and welcomes the successful conclusion of accession negotiations. Israel is a country with whom the OECD and its members have many natural synergies. We view the accession of Israel as a positive development for a number of reasons. It is significant that Israel believes that adherence to OECD values and standards is important and helpful in the country’s economic and social development, including its efforts to address high levels of poverty and deprivation, particularly among certain categories of the Israeli population.
"The UK, together with EU member states, is confident that Israel’s accession to the OECD will open new areas of co-operation in our mutual interest. We do not believe that economic sanctions or boycotts are the way to engage or influence Israel.
"You asked in your subsequent email about a statement or press release. Neither we, nor the FCO, issued a press release or statement when Israel joined the OECD.” — Tanya Collingridge, UK Delegation to the OECD."
Who actually wrote that… Mrs Collingridge? Ambassador Martin? Or, more likely, someone in the FCO’s Hasbara Unit quoting from the Israeli propaganda manual?
“The rules for joining the OECD were not relaxed…”
Its mission statement says that the OECD “brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy”. And in December 2007 a roadmap towards Israeli membership set out the OECD’s “fundamental values” to which members must adhere. These include “a commitment to pluralist democracy based on the rule of law and respect of human rights”.
Oh dear. Israel, as everyone has come to realize, is no western-style democracy and no respecter of the rights of others. It is an ethnocracy with deeply racist policies and criminal territorial ambitions. Since 1967 it has ruled over millions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories without according them any democratic rights at all. It discriminates systematically against its Arab minority in numerous ways. For example, the OECD’s own report Israeli Child Policy and Outcomes finds that “government spending per child is much lower in the Arab sector than in the Jewish sector… average spending per child in the Arab localities is estimated to be 36.8% lower than in Jewish localities”.
Ongoing human rights violations are too numerous to list here – it’s latest murderous outrage has just been demonstrated on the high seas. Others range from preventing Gaza’s 3,500 licensed fisherman from earning a livelihood by shooting up their vessels whenever they put to sea, and preventing students from Gaza finishing their degree courses at West Bank universities such as Bethlehem and Birzeit, to what former prime minister Olmert himself described as “deliberate and insufferable” employment discrimination against their Arab minority.
Israel also operates discriminatory land laws that benefit Jews and prevent its non-Jewish Palestinian citizens (20% of the population) from exercising an equal right to own land. Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens are denied full legal status, thus excluding some 16,000 women from exercising their social rights such as accessing health care.
Basic services such as water and electricity are denied to Bedouin citizens of the Negev/Naqab. Their homes are frequently destroyed.
Has the OECD turned a blind eye to the terror and havoc wrought by Israel’s military? The sanctions and blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ blitzkrieg launched in December 2008 against the tiny enclave’s citizens and infrastructure have caused a massive humanitarian crisis. Promised relief and reconstruction are cruelly obstructed.
Between 2000 and the start of Cast Lead (according to Israel’s B’Tselem statistics), Israelis killed 4,790 Palestinian civilians in their homeland. Of these, 952 were children. In the same period Palestinians killed 490 Israeli civilians within Israel, including just 84 children.
Yes, 952 Palestinian kiddies snuffed in their own streets. Israelis slaughtered at least 350 more during Cast Lead and have kept Gaza under daily air attack ever since. So the “most moral army in the world” must have eliminated nearly 1400 youngsters by now. The number left maimed and crippled doesn’t bear thinking about.
Israel’s claim to sovereignty over all of historic Palestine has no basis in law, yet land confiscation and illegal settlement building continues throughout the West Bank in blatant breach of UN resolutions and previous peace accords, as do home demolitions and displacements, especially in East Jerusalem.
Doesn’t the OECD know about the severe restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by Israeli checkpoints and bypass roads, to the extent that Palestinians cannot easily reach their place of work or their farmlands, or even access the meagre healthcare facilities, and both Arab Christians and Muslims are prevented from visiting their holy places?
Isn’t the OECD aware of the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and detention centres, the widespread denial of children’s rights and Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees the right of return?
Israel’s contemptuous disregard of international law, UN declarations and normal codes of conduct shows that it is not the slightest bit committed to the “attainment of the purposes of the United Nations”. Thanks to its never-ending aggression, the persistent expansion of its borders and refusal to end its illegal occupation, Israel has miserably – many would say purposely – failed to establish “peaceful and harmonious relations” with its closest neighbours. It regularly violates Lebanese and Palestinian airspace and makes armed incursions into Gaza whenever the mood takes it.
It has made no contribution whatever to the economic expansion of non-member countries and no attempt to abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services or enable the liberalisation of capital movements. On the contrary, it has used unrestrained military might to wreck and ruin its neighbours’ prospects and reduce them to permanent poverty.
The OECD surely knows these things.
“Israel has made commitments to bring its standards into line with those of the OECD in two areas, post accession – statistics… and Intellectual Property Rights.”
Given the Israelis’ long crime sheet, are these the only commitments the OECD was able to wring from them? Why did it not, at the very least, insist on an end to the economic and military blockade of Gaza?
“Israel believes that adherence to OECD values and standards is important…”
Israel believes quite the opposite, as its actions show.
“The UK, together with EU member states, is confident that Israel’s accession to the OECD will open new areas of co-operation in our mutual interest.”
Has anyone explained what interests and values we could possibly have in common with the Israeli regime?
“We do not believe that economic sanctions or boycotts are the way to engage or influence Israel.”
Since when have we been squeamish about slapping crippling sanctions on other countries… Iraq since 1990 and Palestine especially when we didn’t like the outcome of their democratic elections in 2006 or the’ flavour’ of their fledgling but perfectly legitimate government? We eagerly joined with the bully-boys to crush it and pile on the misery for innocent Gazans.
Now we’re itching to “engage and influence” Iran with tougher sanctions. None of these countries have posed a threat to the UK.
For 62 years normal diplomacy has failed with Israel. People with a grain of sense have concluded that it’s time to change tack. The British thumbs-up for Israeli membership of the OECD is an obscene reward for previous bad behaviour and the first act of lunacy on the watch of our new Foreign Secretary, William Hague. But we can expect many more. Hague is so passionately pro-Israel that he’s determined to make the UK a safe haven for that regime’s thugs. This will be achieved by ducking out of our legally binding obligation to exercise universal jurisdiction over persons accused of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
He is reported in Haaretz as saying, “We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country and indeed not just Israel, but this could apply to many other nations as well. So this has to be put right. And that is well understood and agreed in the coalition government.”
How silly. Israeli politicians are welcome to visit the UK as long as their hands are clean. But Hague wants Mrs Livni, who is deeply implicated in the bloodbath in Gaza, and many more who are accused of crimes against humanity, to be able to come and do their shopping in London. I simply don’t believe that the entire coalition government shares Silly Willy’s protective attitude towards foreign war criminals. Besides, Hague’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, are not as hopelessly hoodwinked by Zionism as he is.
And the public, one hopes, would regard sheltering Israelis wanted for war crimes as totally unacceptable.
It might be worth mentioning that Foreign Secretary Hague became a Friend of Israel at the tender age of 15, when still in short trousers. How can he possibly be fit for purpose? How clever is it to allow signed-up, card-carrying admirers of the rogue state anywhere the levers of international power?
The Stark Reality of Israeli Terror
As I write, the fate of that altogether more gutsy coalition, the international Free Gaza flotilla, and its humanitarian cargoes and brave passengers, is still unknown. But after the callous murders at sea it can’t be good.
Some 30 British nationals are believed to be aboard, along with £millions-worth of humanitarian supplies donated by British citizens, peacefully going about their lawful business. Where was the Royal Navy? The Government had been alerted to Israel’s threats.
According to Aljazeera, Israel claimed the Free Gaza boats were embarked on “an act of provocation” against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza.
Last night I wrote to Nick Clegg, Britain’s deputy Prime Minister, saying: “What action is Her Majesty’s Government taking, please, to guarantee freedom of the seas and protect those going about their lawful business from Israeli piracy? Ministers were warned of Israel’s threats so had ample time to prepare for this development. Let’s have no whimpish driveling from the Foreign Office this time, please. What’s needed is firm, decisive intervention. Just for a change let us see our Government do us proud on the international stage.”
This was only one of many angry messages he and Prime Minister David “I’m-a-Zionist” Cameron must have received.
Every decent person this morning will feel great sorrow – but also tremendous admiration – for those who lost their lives or were wounded in a noble effort to relieve the endless suffering inflicted by the foulest professional politicians on earth. I fully expect their sacrifice to be marked by remembrance services across the world.
Meanwhile, hands up anyone who feels sorry for the OECD, which has been so comprehensively pissed on by the delinquent regime it welcomed with open arms only days ago.
(Footnote: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is where a select group of 31 countries compare policy experiences, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies. Its roots go back to 1947 and the reconstruction of Europe under the Marshall Plan. It is funded by its member countries to the tune of 328 million euros.)
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.