Who Will Protect the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza?

By Stuart Littlewood – London

The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) has issued a press release to remind everyone that what promises to be the largest flotilla yet, comprising 15 ships carrying passengers from 12 European states as well as Latin America, Africa, Asia, Canada and the United States, is due to sail for Gaza in late May.

Passengers will include hundreds of peace advocates, including parliamentarians and human rights activists, and representatives of more than 40 media institutions.

Campaign organisers say that Israel has responded by threatening to once again use deadly force to stop the flotilla, including snipers and attack dogs. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Israeli Defense Forces chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi has warned that "if the IDF is faced with a similar situation in the future, there may be no alternative to deploying snipers to minimize troop casualties."

The Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF will deploy attack dogs from its Oketz canine units.

The release says Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, is summoning foreign diplomats to Jerusalem to urge them to work with Israel to stop the flotilla from taking place. According to the Irish Times, he justified his call for co-operation by claiming the flotilla would violate international law.

"There is nothing in international law that supports Israel’s four-year-long blockade of Gaza, or its attacks on humanitarian shipments in international waters," says the campaigners’ spokesman Rami Abdo.

Funny how HMS Cumberland and HMS York magically appeared in the Mediterranean during the Libyan crisis to protect the victims of Qaddafi. HMS York unloaded tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid for the Benghazi Medical Centre. Where were these ships when British nationals on the Mavi Marmara and the Dignity and other vessels were being assaulted in international waters and terrorized by Israeli thugs, abducted and thrown in their stinking jails?

Why weren’t they bringing life-saving aid to Gaza’s hospitals after Israel’s indiscriminate ‘Cast Lead’ blitzkrieg on innocent civilians?

Israel still bombs, strafes and blockades Palestinians in Gaza with impunity on a daily basis, so when the Libyan crisis dies down can we expect to see HMS York load up with more supplies and sail for the Gaza Strip, along with the rest of the NATO fleet, where the humanitarian crisis continues unabated?

I have asked my MP to find out what the British Government is planning to do to safeguard British subjects (and indeed the other humanitarians) sailing with this latest flotilla on its peaceful mission to Gaza. Do ministers agree, I wanted to know, that the Cumberland and York should be made available to escort the mercy mission and protect it from Israeli psychopaths, who have amply demonstrated their eagerness to resort to lethal force and total lack of civilised restraint?

Of course, one letter isn’t enough. A thousand may not be enough. Let’s hit all MPs and MEPs in Europe with an avalanche demanding that they discover their backbone and do the right and honourable thing by the Palestinians in Gaza.

Tomorrow 40 foreign ministers from all over descend on London for a summit chaired by William Hague to:

• Strengthen and broaden the international community’s commitment to implementing UNSCRs 1970 and 1973 [a no-fly zone and another jolly bombing-fest].

• Reaffirm the importance of urgent humanitarian assistance…

• Call for a political process which helps create the conditions in which the people of Libya can chose their own future.

What a pity they aren’t as passionately committed to UN Resolutions 194, 242 and all the other solemn pronouncements that they signed up to but Israel still defies.

It’s certainly a busy week in London. On Wednesday the Chatham House think-tank. aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs, holds a conference on the theme ‘Sixty Years of British-Israeli Diplomatic Relations’. One of the agenda items asks ‘Are we there yet? 60 years of bilateral relations and the search for common ground’.

President of the delinquent entity, Shimon Peres, is attending and Hague will be there to deliver a keynote speech and no doubt stand guard over Mr Peres to ensure he is not slapped with a universal jurisdiction arrest warrant.

– 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.

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