Everyone will have seen the news by now. About 36 hours ago, Israeli commandos stormed the vessels comprising the Freedom Flotilla, in international waters, and proceeded to shoot and kill at least 10 activists, maybe more, with scores of others injured. GPSC would like to extend its heartfelt sympathies to the victims’ families and also express its solidarity with all those who were aboard the flotilla, a great many of whom have been detained in Israel against their will. One such detainee is Ibrahim Musaji, a Gloucester-based activist, who – we understand – has not been injured.
The Israelis have had the chutzpah to claim that lethal force was justified because some activists violently attacked the soldiers as they boarded, as if the illegal act of boarding itself, in international waters where Israel has no jurisdiction, was inconsequential. The BBC, in its effort to churn out a continuous stream of coverage, has dutifully echoed the Israeli justifications, despite at the same acknowledging that Israel has yet to allow activists aboard the flotilla to speak to the press and present their “version of events”. It’s a familiar Israeli tactic, honed over many years, and put to good use during Operation Cast Lead – provide the BBC with privileged access to key Israeli spokespeople, as often as possible and in as short a space of time as possible, in the hope that the news agenda can be set and the falsehoods rooted before the victims of Israeli aggression finally get to give their version of events to the press. This evening, the first accounts from activists aboard the flotilla as it was stormed have appeared and – guess what – they contradict the official Israeli narrative.
So how has our coalition government fared thus far in terms of its response?
William Hague, member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and fierce defender of the rights of war criminals to travel the globe free from fear of prosecution, has stated that he “deplores the loss of life” during the Israeli assault. This might seem reasonable at first, but the wording – “loss of life” – is a clear attempt to side-step direct condemnation of Israel, and also muddies the waters by allowing the possibility of blame to be attached to the organisers and participants of the flotilla. [It’s a similar story over at the White House, where the not-so-progressive Obama “regrets the loss of life” during Israel’s raid, almost as if the protesters were not brutally gunned down, but rather involved in some mysterious and tragic accident. Worse still, the US have watered down a UN resolution by proposing that Israel investigate itself rather than be investigated by an independent UN commission, which is – quite simply – laughable.]
Nick Clegg, meanwhile, has finally piped up with a statement on the Israeli assault, but again, there is no direct condemnation of Israel. Clegg even adds the rider that “Israel has every right to defend its citizens from attack”… an argument Israel has used as cover for state terrorism and creeping ethnic cleansing for literally decades. I can also confirm that local MP Martin Horwood has yet to respond to the emails that have been sent to him by GPSC members, so I can only hope this is because he’s been furiously beavering away in his bunker trying to get Clegg to make a statement.
So where does this leave us? Well, in a sane world, Israel’s barbaric action against ordinary folk of conscience attempting to break an illegal and immoral blockade would have been met with a firm and decisive response from the UK government, i.e. the breaking of diplomatic ties and the immediate imposition of sanctions at an absolute minimum. But alas, the world is not sane, and our elected politicians have – predictably – failed to take yet another glaring opportunity to apply the pressure necessary to force Israel to comply with international law. As the excellent Robert Fisk writes in today’s Independent: “it is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will, who now take decisions to change events” because “our politicians are too spineless, too cowardly, to take decisions to save lives”. In short, then: it’s up to an oragnised citizenry to lead the leaders.
**GPSC members will be out leafleting in Cheltenham this Saturday, assembling at 1:45pm in the Mirage Cafe (over the road and a bit further up from the Central Library). Please do come along and lend a hand if you have time. If you need further info, please call 07818 032021**
Addendum: A further aid ship, the Irish-registered Rachel Corrie, is currently on its way to break the blockade. Israel has said it will intercept this ship also. Turkey, meanwhile, has said it may send a warship to escort the Corrie to Gaza. Ergo, much as the Israelis would like it to, this issue isn’t going away any time soon.