Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israel pisses on Britain
again, and our craven leaders love it
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, July 11, 2009
Stuart Littlewood considers Israel’s latest act of piracy on
the high seas – the seizure of an aid ship bound for Gaza and the
kidnapping of its passengers and crew – and highlights the
complicity of the British government, which is forever fighting a
rear-guard action on behalf of Israel.
"Nowadays you have to carefully pick your way through a veritable
obstacle-course of pro-Zionists, Chosen Ones and Israeli stooges that
inhabit every nook and cranny in the corridors of power and dominate
Britain’s key defence bodies. These Israeli flag-wavers seem only too
happy for the Israelis to piss on us – and on the rest of the world –
while rewarding them with more and more trade and scientific
On Tuesday 30 June the Israeli navy, in a blatant act of piracy on the
high seas, assaulted the vessel Spirit of Humanity and abducted six
British nationals who were taking part in a voyage of mercy. The tiny
unarmed ship was bringing a humanitarian cargo of medicines, children's
toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.
Israel's murderous 22-day offensive last December-January left more
than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties, 200 schools, 39 mosques and
two churches damaged or destroyed. The International Committee of the Red
Cross says the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in
despair", unable to rebuild their lives because Israel, having wantonly
wrecked their civil society and infrastructure, is blocking efforts to
bring in the necessary repair materials. Those on board the Spirit of
Humanity were acting in accord with donors' pledges of 4.5 billion US
dollars for reconstruction and rehabilitation and US President Obama's
request to Israel to let those supplies pass.
The mercy ship sailed
from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists,
humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries,
including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman
Cynthia McKinney. In the early hours of Tuesday morning Israeli warships
surrounded it and threatened to open fire if the crew didn’t turn back.
When they refused to be intimidated, the Israelis jammed their
instrumentation and blocked their GPS, radar and navigation systems,
putting all lives at risk.
The ship had been searched and given
security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus before sailing, and
posed no threat.
Richard Falk, the United Nations special
rapporteur on human rights, says the seizing of the Spirit of Humanity is
unlawful and the continuing blockade of Gaza a crime against humanity.
Yes, yes, Mr Falk. But the question as always is, what is your paralytic,
useless organization doing about it? Or is hand-wringing all it’s good
Many here, including myself, immediately wrote to David
Miliband, the British foreign secretary, about the outrage. Two days later
I called the Palestine desk at the Foreign Office in London. The person I
spoke to sounded uncomfortable having to trot out the same old
gobbledegook about "working hard to resolve the problem" and "doing all we
can". He said the six Britons were in Israeli custody and nobody was sure
where exactly the incident took place. However, the vessel was fitted with
a SPOT GPS tracker, so the system should have a record of their position
The real problem, as I suggested, is that Israel
dares to kidnap Britons on the high seas and doesn't fear the consequences
– no doubt confident there won't be any. I was reminded that Israel had
issued warnings (and so had the Foreign Office) not to travel in that
area. What area? Mustn't one travel in international waters?
spokesman assured me that progress was being made. There was "movement" on
getting humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but I pointed out that nobody had
seen any evidence of Israel conforming with international law and Geneva
Conventions. He claimed there was also "movement" on halting settlements
on occupied territory, although I observed that the Israelis had just
endorsed more illegal building.
I also reminded him about the
ramming of the MV Dignity on a similar mission by an Israeli gunboat on 30
December, 53 miles from shore, and how people here were still hopping mad
that nothing had been done about it. The vessel, with 16 on board, was
badly damaged and had to limp to a safe Lebanese port. As far as I know,
there was never an offer of compensation and no demand from London. As
usual, somebody else had to pick up the tab for Israel’s unbridled
The Dignity had a cargo of 3.5 tonnes of medical
supplies, the majority donated by the Cyprus government, and a British
skipper and a Greek mate. It carried 14 passengers, one of whom was
Cynthia McKinney. There were also two surgeons and a Palestinian
physician. A friend of mine was among them and wrote this chilling account
of the attack.....
At 04.55 hrs EMT on 30 December, searchlights
appeared astern. There were two Israeli gunboats. They came abreast,
circled and stayed with us. These boats can do over 45 knots, carry ten
tonnes of fuel and have sophisticated weapon systems including Hellfire
missiles. Tracer bullets were fired skywards, forming ellipses, and flares
put up. At 05.30 hrs approximately, one gunboat was playing its
searchlight on the port side of Dignity. Suddenly there was a tremendous
crash at the bow, and then another almost simultaneously, and another on
the port beam... The bow dipped and it seemed the boat was breaking up. It
was dark, the wind force was 4 to 5 and there was a 10ft sea. The master
shouted “we have been rammed”. It was feared the boat would sink. He
broadcast a Mayday distress signal; there was no response.
McKinney and Caoimhe Butterly could not swim; the life jackets were
rapidly deployed to all. The hull was taking water but bilge pumps were
working. The first words from a commander of one of the gunboats came over
the radio. First there was the accusation that the ship's company was
involved with terrorists and that it was subversive. Then there came the
threat to shoot. The master was forbidden from making for Gaza or further
south to El-Arish in Egypt. He was ordered to return to Larnaca – about
160 miles, even though the boat was badly damaged and the Israeli did not
know whether there was sufficient fuel, which there was not. He set a
northerly course and the boat stayed buoyant in a moderating sea. A crew
member arranged with the Lebanese authorities for a safe harbour in Sour (Tyre)
where jubilant crowds thronged the quays. A UNIFIL ship came out to escort
us and the Israeli gunboats, which were following, fell back.
there lethal intent? A gunboat came out of the black of night with no
lights showing whilst a searchlight from the other gunboat displayed our
port hull as its target. It would have approached at about 30 degrees to
the Dignity's port and at speed. The intention to sink the Dignity and
thus to drown its company was clear. If the hull had been GRP (Glass
Reinforced Plastic) it would have shattered and the boat would have sunk
like a stone 53 nautical miles off Haifa. Fortunately, the hull was
constructed of marine ply with timber ribs and survived... The ship's
company were repatriated except for a resolute Scot, Theresa McDermott.
She was imprisoned in Ramleh gaol. When the British Consulate in Israel
was contacted for assistance in finding Teresa, staff refused to help
locate her saying they couldn’t provide assistance to a UK citizen unless
she personally requested it. Teresa was released after six days, her
“crime” probably being a member of the International Solidarity Campaign
like Rachel Corrie before her.
My written question to Mr Miliband was
Why isn’t Her Majesty's government providing the mercy
ship Spirit of Humanity with an escort to protect against the unlawful,
piratical interference and threat to life by the Israeli navy? There have
been repeated incidents of harassment, damage, theft and armed aggression
on the high seas or in Palestinian waters by the Israeli regime against
The British government has loudly pledged Royal Navy
help to stop the "smuggling" of arms to the Gaza resistance but won’t
protect Gaza’s fishermen from being fired on by Israeli marauders while
trying to earn their living. And evidently the government can't be
bothered to protect our own people going about their lawful business.
But, sure enough, they kicked up an almighty fuss when Iran nabbed 15
British sailors two years ago for allegedly straying into Iranian waters.
For our sins we are saddled with a foreign secretary who calls for
Israeli tank crewman Gilad Shalit's release but not the release of 11,000
Palestinian civilians – some of them women and children – rotting in
Israeli jails. He even allows the British ambassador to become a dogsbody
of the Jewish community in this one-sided campaign. On 25 June Miliband
Today is the third anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.
Both British ministers and the British ambassador in Israel have had
repeated contact with Gilad's family and emphasized our support for
Gilad's immediate release. Last September, the ambassador helped to
deliver over 2,000 Jewish New Year cards for Gilad to the ICRC
[International Committee of the Red Cross] as part of a campaign organized
by the UK Jewish community. I repeat the UK's call to Hamas for his
immediate, unconditional, and safe release. We share the Shalit family's
dismay at Hamas's refusal to allow the ICRC access to Gilad.
shameful that his dismay doesn’t extend to the 11,000 Palestinian
British people are waking up to the truth about Israel’s
lawlessness. In the absence of firm action from the British government
they are taking reprisals of their own, in the form of boycotts, which has
driven Mr Miliband to complain that “the Government is dismayed that
motions calling for boycotts of Israel are being discussed at trade union
congresses and conferences this summer”. He insists that boycotts
“obstruct opportunities for co-operation and dialogue and serve only to
polarize debate further. Boycotts would only make it harder to achieve the
peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve and desire”.
Miliband hasn't learned the lesson of the last 61 years. And our prime
minister-in-waiting, David Cameron (a Zionist and, like Brown and Blair, a
patron of the Jewish National Fund), is no different. He says: "I think
there’s something else we need to do, which is to say to our academics in
this country that boycotts of Israel are completely unacceptable, and I
think we also need to say that to the trade unions."
have to carefully pick your way through a veritable obstacle-course of
pro-Zionists, Chosen Ones and Israeli stooges that inhabit every nook and
cranny in the corridors of power and dominate Britain’s key defence
bodies. These Israeli flag-wavers seem only too happy for the Israelis to
piss on us – and on the rest of the world – while rewarding them with more
and more trade and scientific co-operation.
Stuart Littlewood is author
of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the
Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit