January 30th 1972 is ingrained in my memory. It was my birthday. I was still a schoolboy. There was a big fuss, but after a while, back in England, the memory faded.
In case you are unaware, 13 people, all Catholics, were shot dead in Bogside, (London)Derry by British paratroopers. The incident was soon named Bloody Sunday.
For 38 years the families of unarmed protesters have sought justice.
The army claims that some were armed, that there were bombers amongst them. The families, and history, seems to suggest that the army ran amok, shooting indiscriminately.
So why a comparison with Operation Cast Lead when the Israeli army and air force attacked Gaza in December 2008 to January 2009 killing over 1000 people and destroying hundreds of homes , buildings and infrastructure? The Israelis said it was necessary to stop rocket attacks from Hamas which had rained down on Southern Israel for seven years and to cripple Hamas’s military capabilities. Opponents called it a massacre, genocide and the usual hyperbolic language reserved only for Israel on the international scene.
The UN were lightning fast to react, the world was quick to condemn. Within weeks the Goldstone Report found Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel did not co-operate but have made there own investigations and have rebutted almost every accusation in the Report and explained reasons for mistakes made in very difficult conditions. It should be noted that the UN, the UN Security Council the UN Human Rights Council, the EU, NGO’s and every tin-pot dictator in the Middle-East and beyond was also quick to condemn, in most cases BEFORE any formal investigation.
Recently, the Israelis intercepted a flotilla of Humanitarian Aid bound to break its maritime blockade of Gaza. On boarding the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, with 600 people on board, mainly Turkish, the Israelis were attacked and then shot dead 9 ‘activists’ and wounded several others after rapelling from a helicopter carrying paintball guns. The opposing narrative says the members of the terrorist-linked IHH, who had taken over the ship, were defending themselves. Again, the world was quick to condemn, to cry ‘illegal blockade’, ‘piracy’, ‘murder’ before the facts were really known.
Now look at the case of the British Army shooting dead 13 of its own citizens at a time when (London)Derry was the centre of IRA activity which sought, by violence, to force the British government to secede Ulster (Northern Ireland) to the Irish Republic.
Just Google ‘Bloody Sunday UN’, ‘Bloody Sunday UNHRC’, ‘Bloody Sunday Security Council’. Nothing. At no time in 38 years have the UN or most of the NGO’s accused Britain of disproportionate force, murder, a crime against humanity, or war crimes. The British were left, quite rightly, to investigate themselves. And they have failed miserably in that time under successive governments, to deliver the truth, or any truly reliable definitive report until Saville, which is about to be unleashed.
In all that time successive British governments have either kicked the incident into the long grass or have exercised incredible secrecy about the ongoing investigation. The first report by Lord Widgery was considered a ‘whitewash’ of the army by none other than Tony Blair who commissioned Lord Saville in 1998. It still took 12 years in the making with 5000 pages of testimony and analysis.
Yet within weeks or days of Israel taking sovereign action against an EXTERNAL aggressor the whole world not only condemns without the facts but then demands international enquiries and sanctions. The full panoply of UN organisations and NGO’s inside and outside Israel immediately jump on Israel demanding independent enquiries with international panels.
Israel appears to be the only Western democracy deemed unable to investigate itself. There have been three Iraq war enquiries in the UK with no international members. Senate Committees in the US with no international members.
Let me repeat: 38 years after the event and 10 years after its commission, after millions of pounds spent, the events of a few hours in 1972 are about to be brought to light. 38 years. The events of weeks in Gaza take a few hundred pages and a few weeks for Goldstone to produce.
Israel has agreed to Lord Trimble, (ironically a prominent former First Minister of Northern Ireland), A Nobel Peace Prize winner and a barrister, to be one of the international observers. The other is Ken Watkin, former Judge Advocate of the Canadian Forces.
Surely, in the light of such international hostility, it is prudent for Israel to allow some form of international observation and confirmation that the procedures have been transparent. Israel will try to demonstrate that its actions were legal and necessary.
This could be a positive outcome for Israel. If Trimble and Watkin find the Israeli procedures to be transparent and Israel’s actions to be justified, albeit with a flawed tactical plan, then the true story about the flotilla and how it was hijacked by extremists will no longer just be a claim to be denied by Israel bashers.