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British government woefully slow to react to Israeli piracy

The latest act of Israeli aggression against aid workers seeking to help Palestinians under siege in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of at least 10 and possibly 20 activists. Many more have been wounded. Full details of the action taken by the Israeli navy, in which commandos stormed the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, are still sketchy, with a media blackout imposed by Israel. However, it is known that some casualties have been flown by helicopter to hospitals in Tel Aviv. Early reports say that Shaikh Raed Salah, one of the leaders of the Islamic movement in Israel, is among those seriously injured. The names of the dead have not yet been released by the Israelis.


Reaction to the brutal, unprovoked assault has varied across Europe. In Greece, Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Turkey the Israeli ambassadors have been summoned to explain their government's illegal and murderous action. In Britain, the Foreign Office has, at midday on Monday 31 May, yet to make a statement, even though there are 28 British citizens on board the vessel attacked by the Israeli troops. Indeed, activists have been trying to get an indication of what action the British government will take to protect its citizens ever since it was known that the Israeli navy was preparing in force to meet the peaceful and unarmed flotilla of ships, many of which are flagged in Turkey. No response has been forthcoming from the government department whose head, Foreign Secretary William Hague, told the Jewish Chronicle last week that he and his colleagues will act "speedily" to change the law to allow suspected war criminals to enter Britain without fear of arrest. This is intended to benefit specifically those suspects who are Israelis.

The British media, which usually ignores aid convoys trying to break the Israeli-imposed siege of Gaza, has shaken off its stupor, proving once again that "good news is no news" and that it needs something drastic to happen before stories make the front page. In one "analysis" of the attack, by the Daily Telegraph's Richard Spencer, it is claimed that the Israeli forces were "provoked" by "a mob carrying sticks, if not knives and guns". Let's get that right: armed and masked commandos board a ship in international waters in the middle of the night and according to this journalist it is the civilians on board who "provoke" the soldiers. This outrageous piece of Israeli spin is in Britain's top-selling quality newspaper.

Another analysis by the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, looks at the effect this will have on Israel's reputation: "The deaths threaten to make what was always going to be a potential public relations disaster for Israel into a fully-fledged calamity," he says on the BBC website. Quite what it does for the reputation and effectiveness of international law remains to be seen.

Israel the rogue state has treated humanity with contempt yet again. No doubt the apologists will be wheeled out on the news channels to explain to the rest of the world why we are wrong – again – and Israel can and must continue to behave as it does "in self-defence". US President Obama is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow; we await the resultant statement with interest.

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