Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Is that the best she can come up with?

The article at the bottom of this page was published in Jerusalem Post and my father responded with the following letter, see below...

To: The Editor, Jerusalem Post. 19 June 2010.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in reply to Julie Burchill’s article in the Jerusalem Post of 18 June and must declare an interest here since I am the father of Alexandra Lort-Phillips, she of the hyphenated surname present on the Mavi Marmara when the vessel was sailing with the Gaza aid flotilla and boarded by Israeli Special Forces.

Linking the way people behave to the names they have been given – over which of course they had no choice – displays the sort of xenophobic bigotry which can eventually lead to disasters like the Holocaust. Although Miss Burchill’s article may have been written with tongue in cheek, it will bolster many with more sinister and blinkered views of the state of the Middle East at the moment.

Millions deplore the plight of the ordinary Palestinians who live in Gaza at the moment, but unlike most our daughter was inspired to get off her backside and try to do something about it. When she became aware of the appalling deprivation that is going on in the strip, her fury was not only with Israel but also with Hammas, with the political bigots of every hue in the region and with the wider international community’s failure to do anything about it. Her eyes were open to the faults on all sides and it was only her passion to help that led her to find the organisation that appeared closest to taking practical action. On account of this she helped with the Viva Palestina aid convoy over Christmas and New Year last year during which incidentally her co-driver was a Jewish woman!

The red tape and obfuscation that this aid convoy encountered both from Egypt and Israel hardened her resolve to help more with future aid deliveries, hence her presence on the flotilla and her encounter with the Israeli Commandoes. As the London Times following this event noted, ‘Ms Lort-Phillips refused to blame the Israeli commandos for the killings. “They got on board the ship and behaved like soldiers behave. It’s not their fault that they were put in that situation by someone in charge of military strategy,” she said.’ Such a mature take on an event in which she and her friends had been assaulted, killed, injured, abused, robbed and incarcerated is remarkable testimony to a balanced mind grappling with what seems to be an intractable problem.

Treatment of the type described above has made her and millions of others around the world exceptionally cross. It has acted as a recruiting agency for Hammas and others who hope for Israel’s annihilation. She is not one of them. She wants justice, peace and quality of life for the deprived of Gaza whose hardship she has witnessed at first hand.

We her parents instinctively admire much of what Israel has achieved since its foundation and also the focus on culture, scholarship, objectivity and democracy that intelligent Judaism has given the world. The recent intemperate response to well-meaning idealists aided and abetted by articles like Burchill’s has lost Israel many friends. It will continue to do so until they open their eyes and treat those who disagree with them with the sort of humanity with which they have been generally welcomed into the community of nations and the sort of humanity our daughter displayed in the aftermath of the assault on the Mavi Marmara.

We share the pride in her shown by her great Aunt Frances Campbell-Preston, another great and much venerated humanitarian whose generation, and she personally, suffered greatly in the defeat of another ghastly dictatorship that so victimised its neighbours 70 years ago.

Patrick Lort-Phillips.

How the British media get their kicks

06/18/2010 16:38

In Britain, tabloids get excited about roistering royals, fickle footballers and sex maniac MPs. But broadsheet papers only really get excited about Israel.

Talkbacks (22)

Over here in Britain, the tabloid newspapers get excited about roistering royals, fickle footballers, priapic pop stars and sex maniac MPs, among other things. They get excited about celebrity love-rats, three-in-a-bed romps and cocaine hells. They’re pretty excitable all round, bless ’em! But some of the broadsheet newspapers only really get excited – really excited, parasexual excited – about one thing: Israel behaving badly!

Of course, one hack’s bad is another hack’s baaad, and of course my first reaction was, “Ooo, which part of ‘don’t mess with Israel’ don’t these bed-wetters understand?”

On the phone later with my equally philo-Semitic gentile friend, she predicted that “if there’s any English on board, one of them will have a hyphen. You wait and see!”

I must point out here that unlike the situ in your gorgeous country, having a hyphenated name here doesn’t mean you’re the proud son of someone, i.e. Ben-Whoever. Rather, it means that you’re an upper-class, peasant-exploiting, in-bred half-wit.

In some extreme cases of overcompensation for what is clearly lacking in other departments, a mere double-barrelled name is considered too, too common, and families will add yet another hyphen – hence the Cave-Browne-Cave (sounds like code for a a pervy sex act) and Vane-Tempest-Stewart (one of the daughters, Annabel, left her husband for a Jew – an exception to the half-witted rule). And imagine how tragic your sense of your own worth must be to actually bother with four surnames (Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax) or even five (Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Greville – you’d have nodded off by the time the introductions were done). For some reason (and while not implicating any of the above named), the spawn of the ruling class is often drawn to anti-Israel activity.

IF YOU read Agatha Christie’s stories from before she realized she shouldn’t call people names any more (pre-1950s, or maybe the year when her publishers decided that the next printing of Ten Little Niggers should instead be called And Then There Were None would be the watermark), you’ll find loads of dodgy stuff. There’s “men of Hebraic extraction, sallow men with hooked noses, wearing flamboyant jewelry.”

There’s “the long-nosed Mr. Lazarus,” of whom somebody says, “He’s a Jew, of course, but a frightfully decent one.” And Christie was a smart toff!

Jews are very clever and the English ruling class are very stupid, so naturally English Jews have taken from the poshos a bit of the wealth and property that once was theirs, snatched from the peasantry and bequeathed by robber barons long ago. Nowadays their thick, unemployable children can find an outlet for their inborn anti-Semitism in pro-Palestinian protest. And sure enough I turned on the TV the day after the flotilla was floored, and there was a man called Lort-Phillips, bewailing the plight of his sister, one Alexandra Lort-Phillips, late of the ship of fools, who was now hopefully getting what she deserved in Eretz Yisrael.

A few days later a piece turned up on the society page of the Daily Mail explaining that Lort-Phillips is the great-niece of Dame Frances Campbell-Preston, a woman of the bedchamber (not as fun as it sounds) and friend of the late queen mother of England, who inexplicably claimed, “I am very proud of her. She is standing up for her principles.”

Wow, from royalty-flunky to Hamas-groupie in two generations – that’s the spirit that made this country great! At least, though, the old broad has the excuse of being 91 years old to spout such twaddle. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

It was poor Mark Regev, your charming spokesman, who took most of the flak. On BBC’s Newsnight, the female presenter allowed the love boat cheerleader enough time and space to practically make the Gettsysburg Address on behalf of these savage clowns (they came off like a pair of those weird women who write offering marriage to serial killers, to be frank) before subjecting Regev to such a relentless interrogation that he had to plead to be allowed to make his point.

Over on Channel 4, Jon Snow (a respected journalist but rather strange man, who several years ago refused to wear a red paper poppy – the British symbol of respect for fallen soldiers – in the week approaching Remembrance Day on the grounds that doing so was “poppy fascism”) took up the war of words against Regev, becoming as overheated as a teenage fan of Justin Bieber on coming face-to-face with a supporter of Miley Cyrus, claiming that – ahem – the Turkish president might be about to order warships to accompany Turkish aid vessels headed for Israel.

“What are you gonna do, what are you going to do, eh? What are you going to do if Turkish warships show up?” Snow railed, basically doing a Chris Morris “it’s war!” routine which had Regev incredulous. Cut to the end of the show, when Snow had to make a grovelling apology. The Turks had obviously been on the blower; the president never ordered any warships. And Snow had used a heated exchange to provoke and promote some very dangerous propaganda.

Not once did I hear a British interviewer ask any of the so-called secular radicals participating in the flotilla why they are allied with Islamic supremacists who subjugate women, persecute gays, oppress non-Islamic minorities and seek to impose Islam globally. But Sarah Montague on Radio 4 was a breath of fresh air in her interview with a Gaza-groupie:

Sarah Montague: Are you saying that Israeli soldiers who boarded that ship opened fire and there was no provocation for it?

Sarah Colborne: That’s what I am saying, yes.

SM: You saw that. You saw them fire when there was no attack on them?

SC: I saw them, well, I saw them, what I saw was them coming down from a helicopter onto the roof, I saw them trying to board the boat via dinghies.

SM: Were they attacked by those on board?

SC: They – the people on board, as you can see, were trying to stop...

SM: Hitting them with metal bars...

A JEWISH lawyer I know, as level-headed and laid-back a man as you could find, told me that he has never seen the British Jewish community as frightened as it is now. With the honorable exception of people such as Miss Montague and the brilliant Brendan O’Neill on spiked.com (who doesn’t even support the State of Israel, but writes with sparkling contempt of the reason he despises the Gaza-groupies), the British media must take some responsibility for creating this climate of fear. When British Jewish children are beaten up on school buses, as has happened increasingly over the past few years, I hope they feel proud of themselves and their mission to inform and enlighten.

The writer has been a journalist since the age of 17 and an admirer of Israel since the age of 12. The television adaptation of her teenage novel Sugar Rush won an International Emmy in 2006.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Government, meetings, media

This week I went to try to do some practical work for the upcoming Glastonbury Festival. On Monday morning I get a call however from BBC New Channel They want to know if I can get to a studio and arrange a car to pick me up from the festival site to go to Bristol. I get there in time to make some short comments about the fact that Israel have announced they are undertaking an investigation. Well good for them. This is no good for us or the international community and we will not cooperate with it.

I get back to site after getting some wellies and manage to do one hour of work. Also put up the large tent for use during the festival. I also hear from BBC Radio Wiltshire who want to hear my views on the investigation so I make these over the phone. BBC Five Live were going to speak to me as well my but they call back to say the football coverage has taken over....

On Tuesday I am lucky enough to get a lift to the station and onto a train back to London. Osama and I are going to Sheffield today for a meeting with Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign. We get there in a couple of hours and during the journey work on statements of the incident for legal purposes - recording carefully and chronologically what happened to us onboard and during out kidnap and detention by Israel. We arrive in good time to get to the meeting and before this Mushir our host takes us to BBC Radio Sheffield for a short interview with their drive time presenter.

The PSC meeting is well attended and we both give our accounts to the group. It is great to see Waqar from Viva Palestina Convoy 3 there - it is a surprise! His friend H also gives us a lift to the station as the last train we can get is at 9.15pm. When we get there the train supervisor tells us we have Chesterfield tickets not Doncaster ones so should not get this train. I listen to her which is wrong. Them we are stuck having missed the last London train. This is a nightmare as Osama has a flight in the morning. In desperation I work out if we can get a lift to Doncaster we could possibly catch the final train. I ring Waqar and he and H return to get us - but instead of taking us to Doncaster they insist on taking us to London! Wow. Amazing wonderful people. So by 1.30am they have returned us home. During the journey I type up Osama's statement and talk about the next convoys with Waqar and H.

Wednesday I need to get to a legal meeting in the afternoon, then meet Paveen and go to Lewisham for PSC branch. I am gutted to find out that Paveen has been a victim of hate crime in her area - a websote has been defaming her, published her address and her tyres were slashed. These are the sorts of people we are up against.

We make it to the meeting and its great to see fifty or so people turn out as well as Frank Barat from Russell Tribunal on Palestine. This is a tribunal originally established by Bertrand Russell to consider the conduct of America in Vietnam with the following justification:

"If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us"

The Russell Tribunal for Palestine was established in 2009.


9.30 in the momrning morning a number of the UK volunteers meet up to attend an appointment with Alistair Burt the government's Middle East minister. I download the 15 minutes of footage from Iara Lee's Cultures of Resistance in the Snappy Snaps opposite the FCO to give to the minister.

We enter a large room in the building with a large long table and long windows. The atmosphere is grand and the air echoes slightly. There are a number of people with Alistair Burt, some from consular department, some from his office. The group ask me to go through the account of the attack. I have my notes of the timings and structure but I am not sure if I am able to get across the horror of the experience. After this we put our specific requests to him. We reject the Israeli-led enquiry - he states the government position is to accept it, we ask to see William Hague - he declines, we ask for clarity on what the government is doing about Gaza - he responds in a vague way 'everything that can be done is being done'.

It is a disappointing meeting - what is the point of hearing about our experience when the policy and decisions are already made and nothing specific is told to us about what the government is doing - oh apart from they do agree to publicly demand the missing passports back.

We come out and speak to the press and media about this afterwards.

I get a call from BBC Wiltshire - they would like my response on their Breakfast time show tomorrow morning.


Early call from BBC Wiltshire Radio - I state how disappointed we are with the government's response, how the blockade needs to be lifted not eased and how the investigation/ report into the incident will have no value.

I get up and see that Fatima Mohammadi has made a report - it is very good -see here.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Its been a hectic week. On the way back in the car I spoke to BBC News Channel for a couple of minutes he came out with a number of the absurd Israeli allegations which I think I was able to deal with. Managed to get some rest at home but this is in between numerous phone calls, going through lists of contacts that my brother has put together, checking email etc.

I can also see some of the reports in the papers that have been kept. The local paper in Wiltshire comes around to get a happy family reunited picture. I speak to Hackney Gazette who plan to publish a story as well. On Wednesday I get a lift with friends Julie and George up to London. I have to get to a legal meeting with the group at 5.30 then on to public meeting organised by PSC and Viva Palestina - again we provide eyewitness accounts (see the others' on the side bar on you tube).

On Thursday I get a couple of calls - one from BBC London 94.9 and the other from BBC Radio Wales. I'm booked in for short interviews. 94.9 Thursday 10th at 6.30 approx, BBC Wales Friday 11th morning.

When I get back I can see that some new footage has come out from Cultures of Resistance - its amazing.

I check my draft emails and I can see the following which is what I wrote at the time of the attack on 31st May that I was unable to send due to satellite jam:

"We are currently surrounded by Israeli warships and unidentifıed aircraft, 14 approachiıng according to most recent info.

We from UK opted to join this flotilla taking humanitarian cargo and people from more than 40 countries which has been organised and led by IHH because they are an international humanitarian aid organisation with more than 15 years experience in increasing the stability and security of areas of the world affected by conflict and humanitarian disaster. They support over 10,000 orphans in Gaza through a sponsorship programme and 16,000 worldwide, they work in 127 countries and are extremely well organised and safe.

The idea that such an organisation could be attempting to undertake a mission to make this area more unsafe or 'look for a fıght' ıs ludicrous.

There is no reason under international law why Israel should interfere, inspect or stop us in any way.

We brought with us from UK a truck load of donations of medical equipment that we put on the IHH cargo ship personally in Istanbul.

The cargo and passengers have all been checked by Turkish or Greek authorities - we know the Israeli government have racist polıcıes......."

I couldn't finish or send it due to the satellite jam.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Now in UK - final hours on MM to follow

I decided to take the flight offered by Turkish Airlines yesterday and come back to UK with the main group of Brits. I intend to return to Istanbul soon however as there are still things to be done in relation to testimonies, lost property and anything else IHH may need help with.
It was wonderful to see supporters, friends and family waiting for us all. There were some cameras and news channels there. I decided to go home with parents who have with my brother done so much to field the media interest and worry about my safety and care.
The days before leaving were something else. On Friday 4th we got up and went to IHH offices, they told us about press conference in another building a short cab ride away so we made our way quickly there. I sat with Nicci Kiwi, and some of the Brits on a stage while brother Bulent (IHH President) held a press conference for Turkish press and TV. He explained how the Israelis had dropped an item on board - this was a list of 16 people from our movement with their names and photographs and the instruction at the top of the page in Hebrew "to be confronted/ challenged/ provoked (not sure of the translation)". The list included the 88 year old bishop Hilarion Kaputce so it is hardly a list of organisers - what were they hoping for in confronting the individuals? After the press conference I walked back to the office and made my way to the funeral of Cevdet Kiliglar - another massive event. In addition George Galloway is here today and he makes a speech to the assembly before the walk of the cortege and crowd to the cemetery. I go in the afternoon to the internet cafe to try to go through the numerous messages. I hear from Mehmet who I met at the forensic centre on arrival back from Israel, he suggests coming out and meeting his friends. Its great to meet them and we have a good conversation about how Mavi Marmara could have done more to keep the lost and injured people safe or planned better - however there is no getting away from the fact that simply the Israeli military turned up and started killing people. I also leave a broadcast on Gaza TV news about my experience onboard here's the report: http://ipad.io/KVB . The guys I'm with are lovely and insist on getting food and drink for me, they are Kurdish Turkish, they say things have improved for Kurdish people under this government in Turkey. I'm given a lovely Kurdish scarf and they jokingly teach me the say "Bijee Kurdistan!" which means "Free Kurdistan". THey say this does not mean a new border needs to be drawn around Kurdistan but that peoples' rights and freedoms should be respected. Absolutely. When I get back to the hotel I am thankful to see that Ken O'Keefe has now arrived in Turkey. He was beaten up by Israeli officers after demanding to be deported to Gaza not Turkey and bearing the brunt of their displeasure, see link for his words directly after arrival, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGlnsIW3zJk .
On Saturday morning again we return to IHH offices. There is a legal team there to advise and assist and we all share our contact details. Next we travel to a police station to make testimonies. This looks like it is taking ages and we are late for a rally. Three of the men killed were from or supporters of the Saadet Party in Turkey, a political party that has arranged an event about the incident and to recognise and remember the men. I go along at the last minute and we are taken in a car that gets stuck in traffic along the way and the closer we get the more I realise this is a massive event. Luckily in the car I manage to scribble down some thoughts about the mission and the men. On arrival we are ushered onto a massive stage in front of a crowd of estimate 20-50,000. Within a few minutes I have been invited onto the platform clutching my notes and have the awesome experience of speaking to the crowd for two minutes - something I will never forget. Afterwards Bulent and then Parveen and other Turkish speakers also speak. We get away from the rally after around an hour with tens of people stopping us for photographs and hugs.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Thankful to be back in Turkey with these wonderful people who I trust so much

We landed in Istanbul this morning and went straight to a press conference and health check. We then searched for baggage amongst scattered belongings 'returned' by Israel minus all laptops technology hardware and memory cards that could have contained any evidence of them. I was keeping a diary so I'll put it up here but for now just don't have it in my possession. So the next posts will go back in time a bit. We all attended an awesome funeral for one of the murdered passengers today outside the historıc Fatih Mosque. We walked from the mosque area to the cemetery in a crowd of thousands it was stunning and emotional - I found the lovely Ouassima in the crowd and we stayed together and ate afterwards. People here are amazing - when they find out we were on Mavi Marmara they hug and kiss us and take pictures. Insist on buying water and food for us and getting pictures together. I haven't had any sleep so I'm goıng to lie down now and resume when I can.