UK Foreign Office remains silent as Israel hijacks humanitarian boat and kidnaps 22 people

Al Awda as it sails out of port from Norway
Mohamed Elmaazi

On 29 July 2018, the Israeli military raided a Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters and kidnapped its 22-member crew and passengers.

Up to the moment of publication, Britain’s Foreign Office had apparently remained silent on the matter – even though a British citizen was among those captured.

Al Awda (The Return) is a Norwegian-flagged ship, and Norway’s government has apparently been contacted to secure the release of the ship, its passengers and cargo.

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.

‘Repeatedly tasered’, punched, and beaten

According to a statement released by Right to a Just Future for Palestine (JfP) on 30 July:

Prior to all of our electronic communications being cut to and from our boat, at least four warships had appeared. Following some unlawful radio directives to our captain and our insistence that we had a right of innocent passage in international waters, armed, masked soldiers boarded ‘Al Awda’ without permission.

The statement then refers to Israel’s military as ‘IOF’ (Israeli Occupation Forces):

They assaulted several unarmed participants by hitting them and using tasers as some of our participants lawfully endeavoured to resist this attempted hijacking, drawing upon two days of non-violence training in Palermo. Other participants were also hit by soldiers in this anything but peaceful exercise by the IOF, for what may have been a range of ‘reasons’.

A further statement released on 1 August says:

As most of the participants and crew from AlAwda (The Return) are being deported from their unlawful detention at Givon prison in Israel, we now have a clearer picture of just how much violence was used by… IOF in their attack on the first Freedom Flotilla ship on Sunday. Some participants were repeatedly tasered, including in the head. Others were punched or had their head beaten against a wall by IOF soldiers. Zip-cuffs were used in a manner which cut off circulation.

Silence challenged

While the silence from the British political and media establishment has largely been deafening, people from around the world took to Twitter to condemn the action.

And some highlighted that British citizen Dr Swee Ang Chai was among those taken:

Passengers on the flotilla come from all over:

Dear foreign secretary

Green MP Caroline Lucas wrote a letter to the Foreign Office:

Elizabeth Morley, an activist and friend of Dr Swee, also sent a letter to the foreign secretary and shadow foreign secretary.

It says:

There is a total media blackout in the UK about the fact that Dr Swee Ang, a British citizen, has been tasered and hit by Israeli soldiers in international waters…

It tells us first and foremost that the British Establishment looks benignly on Israel’s breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It also tells us that British citizens are expected to do the same. It tells us exactly how the British Establishment views the brave people who year after year risk their lives to bring the imprisoned Gazan people not only much-needed medical supplies but also humanity’s hope for their freedom.

Others also spoke out. A member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), Elizabeth Murray, also tweeted to her own foreign secretary:

Joe Meadors was a sailor and survivor of the hours-long massacre by the Israeli Airforce and Navy on the USS Liberty Communications ship during the 1967 war.

The memorial website for the attack (in which 34 people were killed) says that, on 8 June 1967:

US Navy intelligence ship USS Liberty was suddenly and brutally attacked on the high seas in international waters by the air and naval forces of Israel

Fortunately, no one has been killed this time around.

Pressure works

As the majority of the hostages are currently being released (and deported), it is arguable that the upwards pressure from below has had an effect.

One victim of the Israeli assault, meanwhile, is apparently planning to file charges:

Another boat that makes up the Freedom Flotilla (‘Freedom’) is still making its way to Gaza.

It has not been smooth sailing

As The Canary previously reported, two of the ships that are part of the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ were refused docking in Paris and harassed by authorities there, as well as by German authorities. But this military assault by Israel, in apparent violation of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea [pdf, p57], is by orders of magnitude more severe; as is the deafening silence by the press and politicians within allied states that continue to provide Israel with limitless military and political support.

Get Involved!

See who the participants on the Freedom Flotilla are.

Keep informed about the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

– Join a local Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Also support the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and see previous Canary articles about recent boycott campaigns.

Write to your national or local politicians to share your concerns and ask where they stand.

Featured image via screenshot

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support

Comments are closed