Two nights ago I received an email with a link to an article entitled ‘Gaza cannot remain a prison camp’. Once again, it was Israel that bore the brunt of the dreadful accusation. However, this time the statements did not come from some crazy despotic leader of a Middle Eastern nation. You can imagine my shock when I realised it was Britain’s new Prime Minister David Cameron, in Turkey to establish new partnerships given what he described as ‘Turkey’s unique position at the meeting point of East and West’.
More about Turkey later but Cameron’s attitude to recent events demonstrated the British leader’s complete lack of understanding and naïveté towards the reality of what is happening in the region.
Of the flotilla incident he declared, ‘The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable and I have told Prime Minister Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous’. He continued, ‘Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp’.
How can a world leader get it so wrong? Leaving aside for a moment the implication of using the term “prison camp”, let us focus on two other issues:
The first is that while failing to recognise the true facts on the ground in Gaza, Cameron has given Turkey, and Hamas as well, another opportunity to bash Israel in the world media. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, ‘What we saw happening was taking place in international waters and this attack in international waters, as such, can only be termed as piracy. There is no other way to describe it.’
Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor responded by declaring, “The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organisation Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas rule and priorities.”
He also put the spotlight onto the situation of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by saying, “We know that the Prime Minister would also share our grave concerns about our own prisoner in Gaza, Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage there for over four years, without receiving a single visit from the Red Cross.”
This brings me to my second issue, which is how Turkey manages to get off scott free in terms of its own very sordid involvement in the flotilla incident. It is common knowledge that the Turkish IHH is not, as claimed, a charity organisation, though some journalists and commentators are quick to play this down. A French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière declared that already in 1996 he came to the conclusion that IHH “is a terror organisation and not a charity group” (see more). By embracing the Turkish leadership and ignoring its own devious role in the flotilla deception, David Cameron has evoked in my mind memories of the history classroom, learning of another British Prime Minister of bygone days when Neville Chamberlain returned to London from a meeting in 1938 thinking he could make a pact with the Nazis.
While Cameron railed against the Israelis, he failed to acknowledge Turkey’s own illegal occupation of part of Cyprus for the past 36 years other than a fleeting mention that “we want you to continue to work towards a solution in Cyprus to help convince the doubters that the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU was indisputable”. As one former UN mediator in Cyprus put it, “Mr Cameron should remember that Turkey is an invader and illegal occupier of Commonwealth and EU territory, in contravention of numerous UN and EU resolutions” (see more). But I suppose that British diplomacy can ignore Turkey’s occupation of part of Cyprus, its oppression of its minority Kurdish population and even its responsibility in the last Century for the genocide of the Armenians. These are apparently considered as minor oversights in the same way as the use by Russian spies of British passports was ignored by this government. Hypocrisy and government working in unison.
Cameron’s comments were reported locally yesterday with Jason Koutsoukis’ offering in The Age entitled ‘British PM’s Gaza stance riles Israel’ and ‘UK to lift nuclear ban on India’ from the Australian.
For a meaningful in-depth analysis please read Barry Rubin’s ‘How not to conduct diplomacy: A case study: UK PM in Turkey’.
On another issue relating to the British, the recent issue of the “wikileaks” – the release of thousands of secret files about coalition operations in Afghanistan – raises in an interesting question of hypocrisy on the world stage.
One of the issues it has brought to the surface is that of accidental killings by British soldiers of hundreds of civilians – “revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business”. Their deaths came because the Taliban hides itself among the civilian population, making it impossible to sniff out the terrorists without the accidental killings of innocent civilians.
The scenario painted here might sound vaguely familiar – a terrorist organisation placing itself in the heart of the civilian population making it impossible for an army to distinguish between terrorist and civilian.
The difference is that there is no call by the United Nations for a Goldstone-Report like inquiry. Surely one set of rules cannot exist for Israel while another set of rules applies for Coalition forces? Please read ‘Analysis: Goldstone comes back to bite the Brits’. But its not really going to bite the Brits at all because everyone knows that the principles (if that’s what you want to call them) established by Goldstone were really intended to apply to only one set of people in the world and they are not the British.