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Israel’s Threats: Will Gaza Flotilla Be Safe? – OpEd


By Stuart Littlewood

It was a simple question. On 27 March I wrote to my Member of Parliament asking: ‘What is the British Government planning to do, please, to safeguard British subjects (and indeed the other humanitarians) sailing with the flotilla on its peaceful mission to Gaza?’

The Government had been only too happy, I said, to dispatch warships Cumberland and York to help civilians of all nationalities caught up in the Libyan trouble and deliver aid to the Benghazi medical centre.

I attached a press release from one of the flotilla organizers, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG). It called on all governments representing participating citizens to take concrete steps to protect their safety.

After a long wait I have finally received a response from Alistair Burt, Foreign Office minister for Middle East affairs.

He avoids the question altogether. “We are clear in our advice against all travel to Gaza and in particular participation in flotillas of this nature, given the events of May last year. We also believe that the delivery of aid is far more effective when co-ordinated with the major international organizations on the ground, such as the UN’s Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.” That’s all he has to say on the subject.

Burt used to be an officer (not a mere member but an officer) of the Conservative Friends of Israel. In a speech to the Board of Jewish Deputies in London last year, he told his audience he had worked from the age of fifteen for an MP who was a president of the Board and founder of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and how this “had a lasting effect upon me, and on my interests in Parliament”.

He said: “Israel is an important strategic partner and friend for the UK and we share a number of important shared objectives across a broad range of policy areas… And as an honest broker, the UK Government does not believe that economic sanctions or embargoes on Israel [are] the way to engage or to influence it.”

The director of the Conservative Friends of Israel called Burt’s Foreign Office appointment excellent news.

Israel’s naval blockade is illegal and so was Israel’s interception of the Mavi Marmara in international waters last May. The United Nations fact-finding mission set up by the Human Rights Council to investigate violations of international law and humanitarian and human rights law resulting from the Israeli attacks a year ago on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza, explains why. In that assault nine people were killed and many others injured.

The Mission’s team, chaired by Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, QC, a retired Judge of the International Criminal Court, reported they were “satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and that as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal…

“The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law… No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.”

And that wasn’t all. The naval blockade was implemented in support of the overall closure regime. “As such it was part of a single disproportionate measure of armed conflict and as such cannot itself be found proportionate. Furthermore, the closure regime is considered by the Mission to constitute collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus to be illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The action of the Israel Defense Force in intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was “clearly unlawful” and could not be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defense].

Will World Allow Israel to Maul Latest Flotilla? Yes or no?

Perhaps Mr Burt should also re-acquaint himself with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), which emphasises “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”.

Recent reports tell of the desperate shortage of hospital drugs in Gaza. The lack of 180 essential medical items and 200 disposables brings public health to crisis point. This terrible situation has been going on since I was there in 2007 and was handed an emergency list of medicines and spares for critical equipment like dialysis machines.

Even the World Health Organization, I hear, can’t get necessary medical supplies delivered.

Meanwhile Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has warned that his military will use force against anyone disobeying his navy’s orders and heading for Gaza’s shore. They threaten to also use snipers.

The flotilla will be going about its commendable, lawful business and British nationals will be on board. Burt and his colleagues are duty-bound, legally and morally, to protect them from the criminal assault they have been threatened with.

But Burt, by word and deed, is clearly an “Israel-firster” and influenced by that delinquent foreign power. How can his employment in a Foreign Office role (or indeed any British Government role) be consistent with the principles that underpin standards in public life?

An email to ECESG asking if they had received assurances from any of the governments they approached has gone unanswered. A telephone number on the UK website was answered by a voice that was almost unintelligible and I was referred to someone in Stockholm. That person said he could only speak about the situation with the Swedish government, which had sent a note to the Israelis saying Sweden expected the flotilla not to be attacked. That, it seems, was as far as they were prepared to go to protect the civilians.

I also emailed Britain2Gaza asking for a quick reply. No luck. It is little wonder that the flotilla project never gets the space it deserves in main-stream media.

So what is the situation please? Is it the attitude of most western governments that the humanitarian flotilla can “sink or swim”? If so, why aren’t the organizers being more communicative and mobilizing public outrage?

Or have those governments found the courage to embrace the flotilla’s noble cause?

– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to

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Palestine Chronicle

The Palestine Chronicle publishes news and commentary related to the Middle East Peace Conflict.

7 thoughts on “Israel’s Threats: Will Gaza Flotilla Be Safe? – OpEd

  • June 14, 2011 at 5:06 am

    If you enter Israeli waters as a sign of protest your boat will be sunk and you will go down like drowning rats.The UN will express moral outrage. Ban Moon will file reports. However at the end of the day no one cares when head stuck in there rectum do good liberals get killed. If you invaded Chinas waters they would harvest your organs, Iran would beat and tourture you. Your best bet is to mind your own business. But if you can not do that then good riddance.

    • June 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      It will be ordered to divert. Then captured. It will not be sunk.

  • June 14, 2011 at 8:11 am

    How do you people manage to continue to spread lies??

    Israel’s blockage is NOT illegal and neither was the boarding of the Mavi Marmara – you cannot just make up your own version of the law when it suits you…

    Please stop boring me with these articles and read the law that states its legality…until then you are just completely ignorant and delusional…and you are just a Jew hater…

  • June 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    this is redicoulus.
    israel has a naval blockade on gaza to block any weapon delivery to the Hamas. you give as much humanatrian aid as you want through the ground border, so it can be checked.
    look at the international law, it is 100% legal for a country to put a naval blockade on an area which is a base for people who tries to murder the contry’s citizens.
    also, the international law says that any attempt to break a naval blockade is an act of war, so israel can event sink the mavi marmara if she wants to.

  • June 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    There should be no Gaza Flotilla. Israel is protecting her own.


  • June 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    You say Burt didn’t answer? I think he did. What the British are doing to keep their citizens safe is advising them not to try to run a blockade to get into Gaza. If a civilian is stupid enough to commit an act of war (breaching a blockade is an act of war under international law) against a sovereign country, his own country isn’t obliged to do anything to help him. Note how the U.S. doesn’t do anything about those hikers who were stupid enough to go near the Iranian border and got arrested. And a good thing too. If countries were prepared to go to war every time some idiot citizen gets arrested or killed by security forces (police, military) of another country then every country would be constantly at war with every other country.

    If the leaders of the country are looking for an excuse, they might use the death of the idiots are an excuse, but nobody actually cares. The government of Turkey didn’t really give a crap about the dead Jihadis on the MM. They just wanted an excuse to distance themselves from Israel so they could suck up to Iran.

  • June 15, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Go at you’re own risk, you terrorist supporters. You have been warned but have chosen to ignore. Israel always wins. They are smarter than you. They are smarter than most. If you can’t beat em, join em. It’ll fill the void in your lives that motivates you to join lost causes. Bye bye.


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