By Stuart Littlewood – London
A month ago, while reports were coming in that Israeli gunboats had ‘intercepted’ the Free Gaza flotilla 90 miles out to sea and told the humanitarian workers they would be boarded and towed to an Israeli port, I emailed Clegg: ‘Where is the Royal Navy when it’s needed to protect life and limb of the 30-odd British nationals?’
Ministers received advanced warning of Israel’s threats to stop the flotilla “by any means”. What was needed was firm intervention. Just for a change the British people wanted their government to do them proud on the international stage and protect those brave souls on their peaceful mission to bring relief to Palestinians whose lives have been made a living hell by the bully-boys of the Middle East.
They were, after all, only doing the right thing… doing what the West’s cowardly governments wet their pants at the very thought of doing.
Back in December when the parties were warming up for the general election, Clegg wrote in The Guardian:
“…And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.
“No doubt the febrile sensitivities of the Middle East have deterred governments, caught between recriminations from both sides. No doubt diplomats have warned that exerting pressure on Israel and Egypt may complicate the peace process.
“But surely the consequences of not lifting the blockade are far more grave?”
He certainly talked the talk. Would he walk the walk if given the chance?
Well, he now has the chance, and his reply has just arrived.
“The Government was very clear in its disapproval of the Israeli actions which ended in such heavy and tragic loss of life.
“We have underlined the need for a full, credible, impartial and independent investigation into the events of 31 May. We have made clear that we want to see a process that ensures full accountability and commands the confidence of the international community, including international participation.
“Israel’s announcement of an inquiry headed by former Supreme Court judge Yaakov Tirkel is an important step forward. We welcome the appointment of Lord Trimble as an international observer. Clearly it is very important that this is a truly independent inquiry and a thorough investigation that the international community can respect.
“These events have captured the world’s attention, but they should not be viewed in isolation. They arose from the unacceptable and unsustainable blockade of Gaza, which is a cause of public concern here in the United Kingdom and around the world. It has long been the view of the Government that restrictions on Gaza should be lifted – a view confirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which called for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and called on states to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation persisting there.
“It is essential that there is unfettered access – not only to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, but to enable the reconstruction of homes and livelihoods and permit trade to take place. The Palestinian economy, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, is an essential part of a viable state of Palestine which we hope will one day exist alongside Israel in peace and security.
“A solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is firmly in the national interests of the UK, as well as those in the region. We want the new generation of Palestinians to grow up in hope, not despair… We want the next generation of Israelis to live free from the fear of rocket fire… Whilst we cannot deliver this for either side ourselves, as friends to both Israelis and Palestinians we will seek to buttress the diplomatic initiative of President Obama’s Administration and the proximity talks…”
So no, he won’t walk the walk.
It is pointless calling for the blockade to be lifted. You have to smash it… with warships “exercising” nearby. Israel’s promise to “ease” it is purely cosmetic. I hear that incoming goods have risen by a miserable 7 or 8% while the block on exports remains. That’s all the West’s feeble hand-wringing has achieved.
Clegg’s choice of words is revealing… “the interception by Israeli forces”. It was nothing less than a dead-of-night military assault with guns blazing and a pre-planned execution of civilians on a wanted list. His whole reply might as well have been scripted by Tel Aviv. It probably was, because it turns out to be word for word the same as the communication sent to other complainants by Israel’s great friend now doubling as Britain’s under-secretary of state in charge of Middle East affairs, Alistair Burt.
Clegg can call for “a full, credible, impartial and independent investigation” until he’s blue in the face, but he won’t get one. He welcomes the appointment of Trimble to this farce. Why? Trimble is a founding member of a new international “Friends of Israel Initiative”.
The context for Israel’s crimes on the high seas is, of course, the racist regime’s belief that it can act with impunity. It never gets rapped for lawless conduct thanks to the abject failure of the international community – especially Britain, whose mandated responsibility Palestine once was – to enforce international and maritime law and the numerous UN resolutions (not just 1860).
UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (America abstained on Israel’s orders, according to Olmert) calls for the sustained reopening of crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. There is still no sign of Israeli compliance.
Clegg claims that “we” are friends to both Israelis and Palestinians. Bollox. British governments have spent the last 93 years betraying the Palestinian people, and continue to do so while slavishly supporting the Israeli regime in its programme of occupation, oppression, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment. Our last government and now this Coalition won’t even acknowledge the Palestinians’ right of self-determination or their democratic choice of government. Britain, to its shame, is complicit in those crimes.
To make matters worse, Labour and Conservative leaders are anxious to change our laws of universal jurisdiction to provide a safe haven for Israel’s killers while denying visas to Palestinian footballers.
And please, Mr Clegg, spare us this endless nonsense about rockets. At least as many state of the art US-supplied Israeli missiles were launched into Gaza, usually from US-supplied F-16s, as garden-shed whizz-bangs were lobbed into Israel. And Israeli air-strikes and armoured incursions continue on a daily basis. Furthermore, no rockets come out of the West Bank, yet the West Bank continues to be occupied, sealed and under severe movement restrictions. Clearly, this is not about rockets or even about Hamas, which has already agreed to recognise Israel within its pre-1967 borders in accordance with the international community’s position.
It’s a well-known fact that America is a dishonest broker, so aligning Britain with the puppet Obama’s diplomatic “initiative” simply hands Israel even more time to establish irreversible facts on the ground.
But the British public are wising up. They are beginning to know the score. Prime minister Cameron is a self-declared Zionist. Foreign secretary Hague has been a Friend of Israel since the age of 15. Under-secretary of state Burt is not just a Friend of Israel but an OFFICER of the Conservative Friends of Israel organisation.
The Knesset’s stooges roost happily in Westminster.
And Cameron has just put his name to a G8 leaders’ statement calling for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit but not the freeing of thousands of Palestinians abducted and rotting in Israeli jails.
Burt, in his letter, talks of our pledge of £26.8 million for humanitarian aid and early recovery activities in Gaza. Is that supposed to purge our negligence? The Palestinians wouldn’t need £millions of British taxpayers’ money year after year if they were left in peace. All this aid simply subsidises and reinforces the Israeli occupation at our (the public’s) expense.
Now that Clegg is in a position to actually kick government ass, I hoped the Liberal Democrats would have a moderating effect on the rabid Conservative Zionists who devote so much of their energies to the service of Israel.
Instead, Nick and his party appear to have fallen in with them.
– 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.