In covering the announcement of plans by the Israeli cabinet to approve the establishment of an “independent public committee” to enquire into the events surrounding the attack on the Gaza aid convoy (I hate the word flotilla, however hash-tag-friendly the unusual word is), a gaggle of media outlets have led with the salient fact that one of the two international observers of the enquiry, former leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble, has a Nobel-Peace thingie.
Antipodean quotidien The Australian, part of arch Palestinian partisan Rupert Mudoch’s stable of pamphlets, actually sticks mention of the gong in its headline: ‘Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble to monitor Israel’s Gaza flotilla inquiry’.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Who could be more hard-assed on the Israelis than a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and one from Northern Ireland to boot? One of the passengers on the MV Rachel Corrie, the Johnny-come-lately Irish flotilla boat, was even a Nobel winner as well. I’m sure he was mortified to hear about the IDF’s capture of another initiate of the Nobel fellowship.
Or perhaps not. What goes without mention in most other reports (although not in the EUobserver’s article or that of Israeli daily Haaretz) is that on the very day that Israel attacked the convoy, 31 May, Lord Trimble was in Paris founding the international “Friends of Israel Initiative”, alongside Spain’s right-wing and hair-helmeted former PM, Jose Maria Aznar.
First reported in the Jerusalem Post (although since then, the article has mysteriously been removed from the site [still available here]), the meeting was also addressed by Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and ex-advisor to Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, and John Bolton, a neo-conservative’s neo-conservative, Bush’s ambassador to the UN and opponent of the International Criminal Court.
The Initiative aims to counter the “unprecedented delegitimation campaign against Israel, driven by the enemies of the Jewish state and perversely assumed by numerous international authorities,” according to a statement. One presumes that the latter band of villains the group’s statement mentions is the UN and EU, so is Baron Trimble and Co. suggesting that Europe is out to delegitimate the Jewish state? EU foreign minister meeting today and discussing the proposal might like to take this into account.
They might also like to consider how Ulster Unionism has historically strongly backed Israel against the Palestinians, both in kneejerk reaction to the IRA’s support for the PLO (just as Loyalists backed apartheid South Africa while their opponents backed the ANC) and also from the ideology’s ties to evangelical protestantism, as pointed out on the Northern Irish Slugger O’Toole blog.
As quoted in the Down Democrat, the weekly local paper from Downpatrick, County Down, Baron Trimble’s associate and deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Danny Kennedy said in the wake of the attack on the convoy: “Given our experience of terrorism and how it was dealt with in Northern Ireland, I think that a section of the unionist population have more than a sneaking regard for the manner in which the Israeli Government defends Israel and puts its security considerations above all others.”
Upon joining the House of Lords in 2006, Trimble was sponsored by the late Baron Steinberg of Belfast, until his death the honorary president of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, a group who a few days ago put out a statement swallowing the Israeli PR line whole, demanding that the activists from the Free Gaza Movement “must explain why they are associating with a protest where lead members call for ‘death to the Jews’, and which aims to give Hamas unrestricted ability to import missiles from Iran.”
But what of Brigadier-General Ken Watkin, the cuddly Canadian military judge advocate general and second international observer appointed to chaperone the Israeli committee? It turns out the good brigadier back in November refused to answer questions from a Canadian House-of-Commons committee of inquiry into rendition and torture of prisoners in Afghan jails.
The soldier’s stonewalling extended to refusing to tell the committee whether he had read his government’s own foreign affairs department reports on the Afghanistan’s poor human rights record and even newspaper articles that contained torture allegations.
All indications are the EU will endorse the Israeli proposal for an inquiry, with the quid pro quo being a lightening of the blockade (although not the lifting of it). The US has already given its blessing. The conclusions of the meeting of European foreign ministers, which were published only a minute ago, say: “To command the confidence of the international community, this should include credible international participation.”
With Europe all-fur-coat-and-no-knickers when it comes to human rights, as Amnesty International wrote last week in its annual report (ok – so they didn’t use the word ‘knickers’ in the 2010 State of the World’s Human Rights document, preferring the more diplomatic but still damning: ‘It is sadly still the case that the reality of protection from human rights abuses for many of those within [Europe’s] borders falls short of the rhetoric.’) having already abandoned calls for an international inquiry, we will soon see whether the bloc considers Trimble and Watkins ‘credible’.
Appointing to the inquiry as observers these two muppets – who will in any case only take part in the hearings and subsequent discussions, but will not vote on any conclusions – is as serious as appointing a pair of experts from the International Brotherhood of Persnickety Closeted Roommates to an investigation of a drunken, late-night jealous assault by Bert on Ernie.