A campaign has been launched by the Friends of Al-Aqsa organization for the government to take action to address the theft of yet another British Passport by the Israeli authorities. Al Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal was on board the MV Marmara on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was stormed by Israeli soldiers on 31 May. As with others on board, Jamal’s possessions were all confiscated by the soldiers, and not returned to him. As a journalist, his rights were not respected. As a citizen of Britain, worse still, his passport was not returned to him, and 23 days later, is still missing.
Friends of Al-Aqsa are calling upon the public to write to Foreign Secretary William Hague and their local MPs to demand that action is taken to secure the return of Jamal’s passport. Given the fact that, just a few months ago, Israeli secret services were implicated in the use of stolen British passports to carry out an assassination in the sovereign country of the UAE, the concern over this “missing” passport is understandable. The travel advice currently issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their website is that British citizens should not let Israeli authorities have possession of their passports unless “absolutely necessary.” The website warns that following the murder of Mahmud Al-Mabhuh in January and the subsequent “evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports… this has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control.” It is quite understandable therefore that Jamal is deeply concerned about his missing passport and exactly what the Israeli authorities may be doing with it.
At the time of the Al-Mabhuh assassination, William Hague himself announced in parliament that he would never allow such a thing to happen if he was foreign secretary. Today, he holds that very position yet has refused to publicly demand the return of Jamal Elshayyal’s passports.
Jamal’s background as provided by Friends of Al-Aqsa:
Jamal is a British national who has a long history of working on community projects, inter-faith relations, and social cohesion initiatives.
Jamal’s report from the top deck of the Mavi Marmara was the last the world saw before communications were cut off.
When the Israeli commandos arrested Jamal, they tied his hands behind his back, threw him to the ground and repeatedly kicked him. His hands remained tied for over 24 hours, during which he was refused permission to go to the toilet for several hours.
Jamal was forcibly taken to an Israeli prison and spent a further 30 hours in Israeli custody. During this time he was not allowed to make a phone call, nor was he allowed to see a lawyer. To make things worse, the British consulate did not come and see Jamal at any point during his ordeal.
When Jamal was finally released together with the other passengers (due to pressure from the Turkish government) his passports was not returned to him.
The Israeli authorities stole two of his British passports, as well as all of his possessions valued at over four thousand pounds.
The British government has been called upon by many groups and individuals to investigate why it was acceptable for a British national to remain in custody in Israel without receiving any consular assistance. The FCO has said that the Israelis did not allow the consulate to see Jamal or several other British nationals and it is important to know why they accepted this position.
NB: Jamal Elshayyal has served on the executive of the National Union of Students, he was a candidate during the 2006 local elections for Uxbridge South, has advised the Metropolitan Police, Mayor For London, FCO and DFES on matters related to Terrorism, Community relations and racism.
You can read his account of what happened here: