40% of World Health Organisation essential medicines are inaccessible in Gaza. The only painkiller available at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is ibuprofen: the go-to headache remedy in the West is rationed between men, women and children who bleed and clutch their bullet wounds on corridor floors in the 24-48 hour wait to receive treatment. Once surgery begins more corners have to be cut; blood supplies are exhausted due to a lack of lab facilities to transfer it. Overworked doctors improvise and sometimes work miracles, but more often than not Palestinians suffer easily preventable deaths.
8,000 Gazans were shot over the last three months during the Great Return March, pushing a normally inadequate medical system into crisis. This crisis demands expedited cargoloads of vital supplies: something which should be easy for a a strip of land on the Mediterranean, where 30% of the world’s merchant ships are in transit at any time of year. However, Israel has enforced a brutal embargo on Gaza since 2007, and the UK Navy lends a hand to this siege that the UN Human Rights Council have declared a ‘flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law’.
Israel break the Oslo I accord by shooting at Palestinian fishermen who travel beyond 6 km from the shore, rather than the agreed 37km; they violate UN law by sinking aid flotillas and slaughtering humanitarian workers. If the UK Foreign Office’s stated objective to ‘stand up for human rights by working with international bodies’ was sincere we would not be assisting the IDF in their transgressions.
The HMS Ocean (L12) was the the UK’s fleet flagship and primary helicopter carrier at the time. It docked in Haifa on the 30th of November 2017 where, according to the Jerusalem Post, it carried out ‘several drills with the Israel Navy and Air Force, including a land engagement planned around a search-and-rescue operation with some rotary assets of the IAF and a small component of the 120 royal marines onboard the ship.’
Other than the HMS Ocean, which was built by Vickers in Cumbria, the other four vessels were all manufactured by BAE Systems – the UK’s largest and least ethical arms manufacturer. BAE have profited greatly from the IDF and Shin Bet’s hunger for increasingly advanced military equipment to enforce their apartheid. They have their own subsidiary company in Jerusalem, BAE Systems Rokar, after purchasing a small Israeli tech company.
BAE Systems Rokar boasts an impressive collection of dystopic patents to their name, including a ‘low cost guiding device for projectile and method of operation‘ and a ‘system and method for guiding a cannon shell in flight‘. The ‘defence engagement activities’ Lancaster disclosed are an opportunity to ‘cultivate relationships that will support business and exports’, allowing British giants such as BAE to put their toys on show and try to sign another winning formula in UK-Israel arms collaboration.
Thanks in no small part to British cheerleading, the Israeli Navy are more emboldened and equipped than they ever have been, and the raids and patrols have increased in frequency. Just three months after the HMS Ocean visited Haifa a Palestinian fisherman was shot down for floating beyond the (illegal) 6km blockade perimeter. During the HMS Duncan’s visit in May a Palestinian aid flotilla full of disabled Gazans attempting to escape was seized under the threat of capsizing it.
On the surface the British government might condemn the ‘disproportionate’ response of the Gaza blockade, and claim to uphold United Nations resolutions against the heinous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. In reality, however, we supply the hardware, the expertise and the moral support to Israel that allow them to continue asserting control over the open prison that is Gaza.