By Stuart Littlewood
Setting sail with the Gaza Flotilla is no Sunday afternoon game of cricket.
You’re suddenly in the blockade busting business and if you succeed in getting through you’ll put a lot of noses out of joint and symbolically squidge the evil ambitions of racist-supremacists like Netanyahu, Barak, Lieberman and Peres. You’re interfering in their economic terror war to crush Hamas. And the Israelis don’t take kindly to anyone spoiling their sick fun.
They know nothing of the Laws of Cricket, have never played the game and are skilled only in lying, cheating, sabotage, grand theft and crimes against humanity.
So expect maximum nastiness. Expect even bribery and arm-twisting by Israel to push the frontiers of their illegal blockade beyond Gaza’s shores and out to susceptible countries like Greece whom they can easily bully into doing the Zionists’ dirty work. Expect extreme "sledging", bodyline, beamers, bouncers, daisy-cutters, constant ball-tampering and even a bullet in the head.
The only sensible word I’ve heard regarding Greece’s stupid move to block the flotilla comes from Professor Richard Falk: "Greece has no right to detain foreign-flagged ships in its ports other than for purposes of assuring seaworthiness via timely inspection. And they cannot interfere with ‘innocent passage’ through their territorial waters, and this passage is definitely innocent." He interprets the Laws of Cricket accurately.
The law actually says: “Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State… The coastal State shall not hamper the innocent passage of foreign ships through the territorial sea…” The Greeks evidently don’t play cricket either.
The Spirit of Cricket was, until 2000, an unwritten code of fair play. For 250 years no-one thought it necessary to write it down because everybody in the game was expected to be civilized enough to know what fair play meant and to have proper respect for others.
As the game spread worldwide and was increasingly corrupted by money, and winning became a life-or-death matter for some warped individuals, the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club, guardian of the game’s Laws and Spirit) in 2000 formally set down the Spirit of Cricket by defining it in a Preamble to the Laws.
"Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself," it says.
Respect is vitally important – respect not only for opponents and umpires but also for the game’s traditional values.
These are surely the high ideals we should also be striving for in the game of international affairs.
The Preamble goes on to say that responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play is upheld lies with the captains. The umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play, and may intervene at any time, and it is the responsibility of the captain to take action where required. Captains and umpires together set the tone, and every player is expected to contribute towards this.
It is against the Spirit of the Game:
• To dispute an umpire’s decision by word, action or gesture;
• To direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire;
• To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice.
And there’s no place for violence on the field of play.
The parallels between the Laws and the Spirit of Cricket and the way international affairs should be conducted are clear. The umpires are the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. The captains are your Obamas, Netanyahus, Camerons, Putins, Sarkozys, Qaddafis, etc.
Sadly, Gaza flotillas are necessary because the likes of Netanyahu and Obama never played cricket (or so it would seem) and never became acquainted with the Laws and the Spirit of Cricket a.k.a. the Laws of Common Decency. Their education is seriously lacking – to the detriment of the whole of mankind – and, quite simply, they have no place in the game of international affairs in a civilised world.
Yesterday Britain’s prime minister David Cameron came under intense pressure from public anger following revelations that a snoop hired by his friend Rupert Murdoch’s gutter rag, News of the World, had hacked into the mobile phone voicemail of a murdered teenage girl and deleted some of the messages. He had no choice but to tell the House of Commons: "It is absolutely disgusting, what has taken place, and I think everyone in this House and indeed this country will be revolted.”
But are he and his colleagues the slightest bit disgusted or revolted by the murderous crimes against teenage girls in Gaza committed by their very good friends the Israelis, and all the other outrages against Palestinians under Israel’s five-year siege of the Gaza Strip? No, public anger has not yet reached boiling point over that.
From now on, Cameron would do well to distance himself from Murdoch’s loathsome NewsCorp gang instead of socializing with them. Of course, he should not have to be driven to do the right thing by public fury. On the field of play he is expected to lead his team in an exemplary manner in accordance with the Laws and the Spirit. He should also distance himself immediately from his loathsome friends among the pro-Israel lobby. Better still, he should shut that lobby down, especially within his own Conservative Party.
Clearly, Britain needs to bring in the MCC to monitor the way government “plays the game”.
And America ought to play more cricket – a lot more.
As for the Israelis, you know the pattern. They’ll soon try to infiltrate the game and take it over. They’ll throw out the Laws, trash the Spirit and ban Islamic teams. They’ll ruin the game like they’ve ruined international affairs and everything else, then claim to share our values.
There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! Play up! And play the game!" — Henry Newbolt (1892)
– 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.