According to the latest reports there was what has been characterised as a ‘massacre’ by the BBC in Benghazi. At least 200 protesters have been killed.
But not just killed but executed by snipers with deliberately lethal shots to the head and heart.
As we know, the UN was very keen to demand a rapid enquiry into Israel’s interception of a so-called humanitarian flotilla intent on breaking Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine ‘activists’ were killed, eight of whom were associated with the IHH, an Islamist organisation with close links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In this incident Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, where they were subject to a prepared attack by a mob wielding iron bars, knives, and, apparently, at least one firearm. In an act of self-defence the Israelis shot and killed 9 activists at close quarters. Several were reported to have been shot in the head.
The world was up in arms that such ‘unarmed’ humanitarians were ‘attacked’ by Israeli soldiers.
I have already written about this incident and a recent report by the Israeli Turkel commission exonerated the IDF. A Turkish report was also produced which came to a completely opposite conclusion that the deaths were deliberate; an absurdity quite happily accepted by the Muslim world.
Israel faced worldwide condemnation, and pressure was brought to ease the embargo of goods entering Gaza.
Let’s remind ourselves that even if you take the worst view of this incident, Israel killed 9 activists protesting against Israel’s policy in Gaza.
Yet, in Libya, we already have at least 300 casualties, killed for protesting about the policies of their own government, killed deliberately, not in a physical struggle, but at distance by snipers. Killed by their own government for having the audacity to want freedom and democracy.
How much worse is the action of the Libyans in Benghazi and elsewhere than the actions of Israel even interpreted at its worst?
By any system of logic and fairness or consistency the UN must require that Libya immediately investigate these killings. And while they are at it, maybe they can ask the Egyptians to investigate more than 300 deaths or the Bahrainis to investigate the live ammunition used against its citizens, killing several.
The test of a UN that is not biased and is not obsessed with demonising Israel, initiating resolutions and investigations into every state action, would be for there to be equal treatment of the egregious actions of Arab governments.
The UN Human Rights Council has condemned Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, but what actions will they actually take?
In the UK and elsewhere, will academics break of contact with their counterparts in Arab countries whose governments suppress their people with such ruthlessness?
Will Trades Unions vote to divest from these same countries and to cut off co-operation with their fellow unionists?
Those who tell us Israel is not treated differently from other countries and is not held to higher standards, now have their chance to prove it.
UPDATE The speed of events in Libya may well mean that there is nothing left of the Gadaffi regime before too long. (22.00 20 Feb 11)
Trade links between the UK and China are very important. Why? Because China is emerging as the superpower and economic giant of the 21st century whilst the United States is in deep financial difficulties.
The Chinese market is huge. EU countries are falling over themselves to make deals with China.
The BBC today announced:
Mr Li, tipped to become China’s next premier, has also been pressing to get EU trade bans against China lifted.
The EU has an arms embargo in place that limits high-technology sales to China which could have a dual military use.
Elsewhere, BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corp signed a deal on deep-water exploration in the South China Sea, while Jaguar Land Rover committed to sell 40,000 vehicles in China in 2011.
Agreement has also been reached to bring two giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, the first to live in the UK for 17 years.
Now hang on. Remember Tibet. Remember the destruction of Tibetan culture and the suppression of its religious and cultural heritage. Remember that Tibet is being swamped with Chinese and that the ethnic and cultural heritage of Tibet is being destroyed. remember that Tibet is more or less closed to the outside world.
The two men had not shirked from discussing “difficult” issues such as human rights, Mr Clegg added, acknowledging that “persistent differences” remained between the countries.
Hmm, Yes. This is the soft pedal approach. Heaven forfend we offend the Chinese by being too heavy-handed. Widening cultural and trade links will hasten democracy. And Edinburgh zoo gets a breeding pair of Giant Pandas into the bargain.
Personally, I see this as realpolitik. I don’t actually blame the UK government for doing this. Maybe this approach will work.
Now look at Cameron on Israel in Turkey last year which I wrote about last year here.
“Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza can not and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp,” he said.
Cameron has no problem dissing Israel to an Islamist regime. Cameron has no problem with saying:
I have. Unlike a lot of politicians from Britain who visit Israel, when I went, I did stand in occupied East Jerusalem and actually referred to it as occupied East Jerusalem. The Foreign Office bod who was with me said, most ministers don’t dare say. So, yes, I thought I had quite an argument when I was in Israel with Tzipi Livni about settlements and I think Obama is right to take a robust line. I think we have to but it is depressing how little progress is being made right now.
Yet he is so mealy-mouthed about China.
The sad fact is that foreign policy is not about truth or principles, it’s about getting what is best for your country, for the UK. It’s about being liked by the nice Americans. It’s about showing how important and influential the UK is.
Israel is dispensable. Israel is an easy target. The UK has little to lose by calling East Jerusalem ‘occupied’ whilst ignoring Tibet’s repression and loss of autonomy within China.
I’d like to see Cameron in Taipei criticising China’s Tibet policy. I’d like even more for Cameron to go and stand in Lhasa.
In 2008, the Dalai Lama criticised the then Labour government for not speaking out against a “cultural genocide”. (See TimesOnline here.)
Mr Brown has been accused of kowtowing to Beijing by refusing to invite the Dalai Lama to Downing Street for formal talks. Instead he will meet the spiritual leader at Lambeth Palace on Friday enabling the Prime Minister to claim that he is receiving the 72-year-old monk in a spiritual rather than political capacity
Successive governments have tip-toed around the Tibet issue so as not to offend almighty, rich, big-spending China.
But Israel gets the big stick. It’s small, not as powerful as you have been led to believe, it doesn’t spend big in the EU, it cannot harm anyone’s economy.
Yet how many academic, trade union, student or cultural boycotts or calls for such have you seen lately?
Maybe we could say that the UK government is panda-ing to the Chinese
The BBC reports
More than 220 Iraqi civilians were subjected to “systemic abuse”, including torture, by British soldiers and interrogators in Iraq, the High Court was told on Friday
Now replace ‘Iraqi’ with ‘Palestinian’ and ‘British’ with ‘Israeli’.
Just mull that over for a while and test your reactions.
If it had been Israelis and Palestinians the full weight of the UN would undoubtedly be behind a Goldstone-style investigation which would be convened within a couple of weeks with the findings of the committee already decided.
Meanwhile, almost two years after Cast Lead, Israel is still investigating its own operations.
The UN enquiry into Israel’s interception of the aid ship (without any aid aboard), the Mavi Marmara, has come and gone with the inevitable foregone conclusions being reached by the usual stooges the UN seems to be able to dredge up when it needs to demonise Israel.
Israel’s Turkel enquiry into the flotilla continues after several weeks of taking evidence.
The British are a little more reluctant, it appears:
Solicitors acting on behalf of the Iraqis submitted video evidence to support their claims.
They are appealing for a judical [sic] review of a refusal by Defence Secretary Liam Fox to order a wide-ranging public inquiry into allegations that abuse was widespread.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman said a dedicated team had already been set up to investigate.
So the British army is going to investigate itself.
Now do that little ‘what if’ thing again and imagine Israel had said that an IDF investigation into the torture and abuse of 220 Palestinians was quite adequate. Image the furore.
Allegations of mistreatment include sexual abuse, food, water and sleep deprivation, prolonged solitary confinement, mock executions and being denied clothes.
Michael Fordham QC, appearing for the Iraqis, said: “There are credible allegations of serious, inhumane practices across a whole range of dates and facilities concerning British military detention in Iraq.”
Referring to the prison which became notorious for allegations of torture and abuse against US soldiers, he asked: “Is this Britain’s Abu Ghraib?”
Of course, the British judicial system should be robust enough to deal with this. No?
“The IHAT is the most effective way of investigating these unproven allegations rather than a costly public inquiry.”
IHAT? That’s the ‘Iraq Historic Allegation Team’. Historic! These alleged abuses occurred between 2002 and 2008. That’s ‘historic’?
Anyway, I’m sure justice will be done. This is Britain and we British have a perfectly adequate way of dealing with such matters. And by the way, sorry, but we don’t have enough money these days for due process. Let the army sort it out.
So why is the UN not setting up an enquiry? These were Muslims who were abused. Where’s the UN Human Rights Council when you need it? Too busy trying to smear Israel, of course, because that seems to be their preoccupation.
A mere 220 Iraqis being allegedly abused is not a potential War Crime or a breach of any of the Geneva Conventions, or International Law or Customary Law. I presume this is the case as they appear to be blissfully unwilling to have anything to do with it. No Israelis involved, you see. Waste of time.
Two public inquiries have already been launched into similar claims.
The first inquiry into the death of 26-year-old hotel worker Baha Mousa in UK military custody in September 2003, began hearing evidence last July.
And last November, the MoD announced details of a second public hearing into allegations that 19-year-old Hamid Al-Sweady and up to 19 other Iraqis were unlawfully killed and others ill-treated at a British base in May 2004.
See what I mean? The British do investigate and prosecute when they have the money to do so and the public is shouting loud enough, but it was such a long time ago.
How many public enquiries into torture are necessary? We already proved we do it, albeit it’s not state policy, so why drag the name of Britain and the British Army through the mud? Is this not Liam Fox’s argument. And if we had a Labour government, I’m sure he’d support that government and wouldn’t be calling for a public enquiry. Would he?
But enough of British politics.
Back to the UN. Can you honestly tell me that if this had been Israel the UN would not be foaming at the mouth?
Double standards anyone?
UN Watch representative, Hillel Neuer, gives it good to the so-called UN Human Rights Council whose only purpose these days seems to be in demonising and singling out Israel for its perceived offences, but ignores blatant human rights violations just about everywhere else.
I leave it to the inestimable Mr Neuer:
… allegedly. Well now the Daily Mail reports:
One of the women accused of being a Russian spy in the U.S. travelled on a British passport, according to the FBI.
Tracey Lee Ann Foley, who was posing as a naturalised U.S. citizen born in Canada, is believed to have been given forged British documents by her Russian handlers.
“.. we cannot permit the cloning of, interference with or misuse of British passports by another state.”
So when does the Russian diplomat go home then, Mr Hague?
If they do take the same action as they did against Israel, fair enough; but if not, why?
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.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Col. (ret) Richard Kemp, who is a former head of UK forces in Afghanistan (and who first came to the notice of the Israeli public when he stood up for Operation Cast Lead at the UN in the wake of the Goldstone enquiry), is in Israel.
Kemp has this to say about the world’s reaction to the interception of the terrorist sponsored ‘Freedom Flotilla’:
“I believe Israel should do it rapidly and comprehensively and should be completely up front if it has made mistakes – mistakes should be admitted by Israel, but I don’t think it should be subjected to an independent inquiry any more than other Western countries are.
Look at what appears to have been a very serious military error made by the German army in Northern Afghanistan last year when something like 50-150 civilians were killed in an air strike..”
Quite right, and that is just one of many, many incidents in Afghanistan and around the world, far more serious than the flotilla incident, which are completely ignored by the UN.
While Kemp was critical of Israel’s handling of the flotilla raid, in particular its intelligence-gathering prior to the operation, he said the blame for the death toll lay with the “activists” who attacked the soldiers.
This is clear for any reasonable person to see from the evidence of the videos. All that the supporters of the flotilla can say is that they had a right to defend themselves. Do you remember the last time anyone was killed in a paintball contest? The paintball gun was the Israeli’s primary ‘weapon’ . When the world is bleating about disproportionality of Israel’s activities at every possible occasion, is it not disproportionate to prepare a lethal attack with knives and metal clubs and then take pistols and shoot at someone with a paintball gun? That is bloody murder in my book.
Kemp rightly points out that this raid was bungled. We still do not know why nine people died or whether there deaths were caused by their zealotry to become shahids (martyrs) as is witnessed in this video:
It could be bravado, of course but other pronouncements and the weapons found on board point to a Gaza or die attitude. When someone is prepared to die in order to kill you what would you do with a pistol in your hand. With hundreds of people on board against a handful of commandos, whatever you think of the legality of their actions, they did not come with deadly intent, unlike their assailants.
Here’s some of what was found on the ‘peace convoy’:
As Kemp says, there must be an investigation, but no-one will accept the conclusions if they absolve the Israeli Navy, of course, only kangaroo-court UN enquiries whose members have decided guilt in advance (Goldstone) are allowed.
The Independent today showed a picture taken in 2004 of an alleged breach of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.
The incident is to be investigated at a public inquiry to be announced tomorrow by Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, which will also examine evidence of one of the worst atrocities ever carried out by the British Army.
It is claimed that hours after the picture … was taken, the four men were transferred to a UK-run detention camp where they were badly beaten and where 20 other civilians were murdered by British soldiers.
It is clearly correct for the British Government to address these allegations and take appropriate action against the perpetrators if found guilty.
But wait a minute. Soldiers abusing Muslims? International Law broken? Soldiers murdering civilians? Now where have we heard this recently? Oh yes, of course. Gaza! The Goldstone Report.
So where are (or indeed were) the demonstrations on the British streets about these specific alleged atrocities? Where are the special meetings of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council)? Where are the demonizations of the UK in the world’s press? Where the outrage in the Muslim world? Where the Channel 4 report?
Have you seen any of these in the past 5 years? General outrage about the invasion, yes, but no international pillorying of the UK per se, no condemnation of the entire British Army. Only ‘concerns’ about specific incidents.
So why when it comes to Israel are things so different? Why are Israeli internal investigations whitewashes, but British ones acceptable?
There couldn’t be bias going on by any chance? Nah! Surely not.
The BBC News website reports :
A member of the Afghan parliament has criticised a Nato air strike on a clinic where a Taliban leader was being treated for his injuries.
The report stresses that NATO checked there were no civilians in the clinic first before they attacked with helicopter gunships.
Amnesty International has called for an investigation. NATO say 12 militants were killed.
I’d like you to compare this incident to the furore that would surround and has surrounded Israeli attacks of a similar nature.
For NATO to say they checked that there were no civilians in the building requires a healthy degree of scepticism.
Clinics like hospitals are protected buildings unless they are being used as a base for military operations or direct attack.
Think Gaza Operation Cast Lead and accusations of war crimes.
But AI are very reasonable when it’s not Israel who are the accused party:
Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the attack, but added that if the Taliban fired first, they had committed a serious violation.
Not quite the point despite AI’s attempt to whitewash NATO. If you were confronted by troops and gunships you might be inclined to fire first too. This does not vindicate the imminent attack on a clinic.
Just replace NATO with Israel and Taliban with Hamas. Now what would you say?
I know what I would say. Proportionality.
Israel is being and was being directly attacked on its own borders by Hamas. This rendered Hamas a legitimate target. If those targeted are responsible for horrendous acts of terrorism and are hiding in a protected facility then, as far as I am aware, Israel waits for them to come out. In Operation Cast Lead hospitals were only fired upon when fired from. The main hospital in Gaza, where the Hamas leadership were using the basement as an operations centre, was not attacked. If Israel was so intent on war crimes and so careless of civilian casualties would they not have targetted Shifa hospital?
Apparently NATO would.
Double standards anyone?
On Saturday the BBC reported that a “makeshift” hospital in what is supposed to be a civilian safe zone has been hit by the Sri Lankan army killing 91 Tamil civilians and injured another 87.
The Sri Lankan army has put the blame on the Tamil Tigers saying that they had carried out suicide attacks and insisted that they had stopped their heavy bombardment some days before.
It was doctors at the hospital who claimed that the Sri Lankan army had bombed the hospital. You would think they would know the difference between a suicide bomb and an artillery shell.
But in the interests of the fair reporting standards that the BBC is so keen to tell us it upholds the reporter offers this word of warning:
Journalists are not allowed near the conflict zone, so the conflicting accounts cannot be independently verified.
I would point out to the BBC that during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military action against Hamas in December and January, no such statement ever appeared on the BBC News website or TV broadcasts. The BBC, and its viewers, were asked to swallow whole reports from just one side of the conflict, coming through UNWRA which, in turn, received all their information directly from Hamas. This lead, for example, to the misreporting by UNWRA head John Ging of the supposed attack on a UN school where 41 people were reported to have been killed. Later, Ging had to concede that no such incident had taken place and about a dozen people had been killed outside the school, the majority of whom were combatants.
But the BBC STILL REPORTS THIS INCIDENT AS IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. and adds a pathetic “Update” at the end:
In February 2009, the United Nations said that a clerical error had led it to report that Israeli mortars had struck a UN-run school in Jabaliya, Gaza, on 6 January killing about 40 people. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Jerusalem, said that the Israeli Defense Force mortars fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. He said that the UN “would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school”.
Some “clerical error”! It doesn’t even mention the fact that only 12, not 40 had been killed, and it only mentions obliquely the IDF investigation which actually names most of the fatalities and identifies them as know Hamas combatants.
Why does the BBC not just withdraw completely this lie. The report is still there with the headline “‘Stray mortar’ hit UN Gaza school” and a photograph of an injured child being carried from an ambulance, presumably to a hospital even though we now know that NO CHILDREN WERE INJURED IN THE SCHOOL.
So why does the BBC continue to post a lie or, to be generous, an erroneous report which appeared to have the authority of the UN and which the UN corrected later? The UN report was so credible that, according to the BBC, even the IDF at first believed it and produced the “stray mortar” story. But:
The [Israeli] statement was made anonymously to the media because the investigation had not yet been made public by the military
So this wasn’t even the official IDF position at the time but suited the BBC’s biased viewpoint, so they printed it.
The BBC report continues:
The dropping of the defence that Hamas mortars had come from within the school compound may cause some embarrassment to Israel in what has been a high profile incident.
The initial “human shield” claim was made forcefully after the killings by the military, politicians and many supporters of Israel.
“Hamas cynically uses civilians as human shields,” the military said in its initial statement, and later it went as far as naming two well-known Hamas militants among those killed at the school.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the incident “a very extreme example of how Hamas operates”.
It is not clear what credibility the change of position will be given by observers.
The last sentence says it all really: the Israeli government was not to be believed. It was Israel who were the war criminals, Israel who breached every rule of warfare and Hamas who were the victims. This is in marked contrast to the BBC’s Sri Lanka report where it emphasises that story cannot be verified.
The IDF has clearly shown that Hamas not only used Human Shield policies but operated in cynical violation and total disdain of international law throughout the conflict. Yet the BBC still sees fit to perpetuate its own misreporting and offer a dismal and ineffective rider.