The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) released a statement this afternoon in response to Israeli forces attacking and killing international humanitarians on board an aid ship en-route to Gaza early this morning. The FCO statement falls short of any condemnation of the Israeli action. Not only was the FCO woefully slow in formulating any response whatsoever, but the statement that has now been issued is also best described as feeble. Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Israeli government to allow aid into Gaza – which it should have been doing anyway – and said… that his officials are still “asking for more information” and access to the British nationals involved. We are entitled to ask, “Is that it?”
Twenty-eight British citizens are on the ships on which at least 20 people have been killed by Israeli soldiers, with a further 60 injured, and the FCO is “still asking for more information”. Other governments around the world have denounced the Israeli action as a deplorable act of piracy, calling the incident a massacre. A number of countries, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Turkey and Spain, have called the Israeli ambassadors to account for their country’s action.
Instead of condemning the Israeli forces who boarded the aid ships under the cover of darkness while in international waters, William Hague has the audacity to point the finger of blame on the humanitarian volunteers themselves saying, “We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved”. Blaming the victims of Israeli actions simply for being the victims is commonplace, but rarely has it been stated so openly by a senior British politician.
Moreover, Mr. Hague suggests, “It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries”; is he being serious? Of course enough was not done to protect the civilian activists and prevent death and injuries. Israel had no right to board those ships. The flotilla was in international waters and acting entirely in accordance with international law. Israel has broken that law by its forces acting like marauding pirates, boarding an aid vessel manned by civilians and killing and maiming them indiscriminately. How long do we have to wait for a British Government to stand up and actually condemn Israel for its rogue state behaviour? When will enough be enough? The blood of unarmed civilians has already been spilled on too many occasions by Israeli soldiers.
The British government has a duty to protect its citizens as well as uphold international law. As such, the British people must demand that our government takes immediate action against Israel, letting it know in no uncertain terms that we don’t need “strategic allies” who treat international law and their fellow human beings with such contempt. Now most certainly is not the time, as William Hague told the Jewish Chronicle last week, to change Britain’s law of universal jurisdiction “speedily” to allow suspected Israeli war criminals to enter Britain without fear of prosecution. Piracy on the high seas – which Israel’s action this morning was, without doubt – is an international crime and only international law can deal with it. Britain must take the lead and charge in absentia the Israeli ministers and officials responsible for today’s killings. At the very least, Mr. Hague and his cabinet colleagues must shelve indefinitely any plans to change the law, sending a very clear message to Israelis bent on breaking the law that if they do enter the United Kingdom they will face the consequences of their illegal activities.
The Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the Government of Israel to open all crossings for aid to enter Gaza and deplored the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla.
In a statement this morning the Foreign Secretary said:
“I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.
We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries.
This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.
I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.”