By Stuart Littlewood – London
I thought I would share this with you.
Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband – or rather, someone on his behalf – has written to me about the government’s response to Israel’s hijacking of the mercy ship Spirit of Humanity on the high seas and the outrageous treatment of six peace-loving British citizens (including the skipper), en route to Gaza not Israel, who had their gear stolen or damaged and were thrown into Israeli jails. The letter contains the usual wet and meaningless expressions like deplore and press and raise the issue, which are the familiar hallmark of Foreign Office mentality.
And I’m told it is "reckless" to travel in international waters. It should, of course, be safe – and would be if the high and mighty Western allies, always talking big against terror, were to enforce maritime law and rid the Eastern Mediterranean of marauding Israeli pirates.
Miliband’s spokesman says: "The Israeli Navy took control of the Spirit of Humanity on 30 June, diverting it to Ashdod port in Israel. All those on board, including six British nationals, were handed over to Israeli immigration officials. British consular officials had good access to the British detainees and established that they were treated well. The Israeli authorities deported the detainees on 6 July."
Treated well? That’s not what the peaceful seafarers say. They were assaulted, put in fear of their lives and deprived of their liberty for fully a week – a long time in a stinking Israeli jail.
Miliband’s spokesman: "The Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons on 30 June that it was ‘vital that all states respect international law, including the law of the sea. It is also important to say that we deplore the interference by the Israeli navy in the activities of Gazan fishermen’."
Such fine words. Where is the action to back them up? Gaza’s fishermen suffer increasingly unjust restrictions and are still fired on.
Miliband’s spokesman: "When the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on 1 July he raised the issue with him and asked for clarification about whether or not the Spirit of Humanity had been intercepted in international waters. We will continue to press the Israeli authorities for clarification."
It’s well over a week and Lieberman hasn’t clarified anything. There’s a surprise! Was the Israeli ambassador in London summoned and given a dressing down? Has London demanded compensation for the Britishers’ losses and damage? Has the boat and its cargo been returned? Have arrangements been made for the aid to be delivered? Our Zionist-leaning government apparently takes pleasure in Britain’s repeated humiliation. Not long ago the British consul-general in Tel Aviv (a woman) was strip-searched by Israeli security perverts.
Miliband’s spokesman: "We regularly remind the Israeli government of its obligations under international law on a variety of issues, including with respect to humanitarian access to Gaza as well as Israel’s control of Gazan waters and the effect this has on Gaza’s fishing industry."
Ever get the feeling they’ve switched off their collective hearing aid? What is the point of obligations if they never have to be met? Miliband and the rest should hang their heads in shame, particularly over the Gaza fishing scandal.
Miliband’s spokesman: "As I said on the phone, our Travel Advice makes clear that we advise against all travel to Gaza, including its offshore waters; that it is reckless to travel to Gaza at this time; and that medical and other essential specialist staff needing to travel to Gaza should coordinate their entry to Gaza with the major international humanitarian organizations already on the ground."
Why does London perpetuate the blockade of Gaza by colluding in Israel’s unlawful conduct? Where are the consequences and penalties for breaching international law and all codes of human decency?
On the other point, Gaza’s Ministry of Health is surely best placed to know what’s needed.
Miliband’s spokesman: "Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem have also similarly advised those wishing to deliver humanitarian assistance to Gaza to do so through existing humanitarian organizations which can advise, particularly with regards to medicines, [and] which items if any are currently required."
Private suppliers should be free to deliver aid through whatever channels they wish.
Miliband’s spokesman: "The UK has been unequivocal in its calls for Israel to lessen restrictions at the Gaza crossings, allowing the legitimate flow of humanitarian aid, trade and reconstruction goods and the movement of people. This is essential not only for the people of Gaza, but also for the wider stability of the region."
“Unequivocal”? “Essential”? More splendid but empty words. The needs of the crushed and devastated and half-starved people of Gaza have been urgent for 3 years, ever since Britain ganged up with the Zionist axis to bring Gaza to its knees.
Miliband’s spokesman: "Recent events in Gaza are a tragic reminder of the importance of progress on the peace process."
No kidding……. They are also a tragic reminder of the West’s perverse failure in its duty to enforce compliance with international law, human rights and UN resolutions.
Miliband’s spokesman: "The UK, with the support of our international allies, will continue to pursue vigorously a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution, involving a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state."
But never vigorously enough. The world is still waiting after sixty-one years. And let’s change those worn-out words around. How does a secure Palestine alongside a viable Israel sound?
Britain and its allies need to try a new tack… like first establishing the rule of international law and forcibly breaking the siege. It’s so blindingly obvious.
Meanwhile, doesn’t the gut-churning, cowardly shambles that is Gaza make you proud to be British? Or American? Or European?
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.