Response to Patrick Lort-Philips'
letter in the right hand column
To the editor
Sent: Monday, June
28, 2010 9:17 PM
In his letter to the Jerusalem Post, with its spirited defence
of his daughter Alexandra, a member of the recent so-called "aid flotilla" to Gaza, Lt Col Lort-Philips, describes her as
a woman of "maturity, "compassion", and resolve".
May I , with all due respect, through your column and with
the kind help of the Lt Col, address to her the following few questions.
1) Has she ever organised, helped or
encouraged any form of aid-convoy/flotilla to, for example, the Eastern Congo, where the agony of its people is beyond
words. Where the rape of women is constant and brutal, and tens of thousands of women are left mentally and physically torn
apart?. Children live in terror and any aid is either sporadic or non-existent? True it is a dangerous place to go to , but
surely for a young woman and her co-workers of such deep "compassion" and "resolve" this should not be a problem,?
same for Darfur where the violence and deprivation have been going on now for years with the full knowledge of the world and
its compassionate "aid warriors" When the men are asked why they dont go out of the relative safety of the camps themselves
to collect the firewood instead of sending the women ( a ludicrous idea in view of the general attitude to "mens work"and
the place of women in African society ), the men reply
"If we go out we are killed, if the women go out they are only raped"!
On the border between Somalia and Kenya is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, well over 300 thousand people, desperate
refugees who have fled the savagery of Somalia, living in total isolation squalor and deprivation. There is little or
no aid for them, and they are the abandoned, the "Le Miserables" of the world, with no hope and just a few brave aid workers
trying fruitlessly and helplessly to offer support.
Could any of the Gaza/ Flotilla aid-workers even find these
countries on the map??
And then contrast this with the problems of Gaza,. Yes, life is difficult and yes they
live under seige and with a repressive Hamas regime, and yes there are shortages and frustrations. But the population
of Gaza receives, per capita, more international aid than any other group on earth. They inspire more love devotion and compassion,
( that word again!) than any other community. The eyes of the whole world focus protectively upon them, and Gaza has become
the darling of the Western world and its favourite cause and passionate rallying cry.
Israel sends through to
Gaza regular aid convoys of food and medicine. The UN is a constant presence, as is the Palestinian aid organisation UNWRA
and a multiplicity of other international support groups are also present providing aid and help. And still, around the world
the protest marches are organised for the "starving" in Gaza. And aid flotillas line up to come to the rescue.
I finally ask the following questions, addressed to all these "keepers of the worlds conscience"
Do you actually have some kind of point system to grade suffering and worthiness for aid convoys/flotillas? If so what is
it based upon?
2) Does Africa appear on this list in any place at all, even at the very bottom? Because
just as your heart seems to go out to the Gazans so does mine,painfully and passionately go out to the abandoned of Africa!
Is Palestinian/Gazan blood considered more valuable, Palestinian "suffering"more worthy than that of ordinary black
women and children of Africa?
4) Could it be that there is a reluctance to go to these forsaken places,
because it would all be done well off the world stage, without a world audience, well away from the brilliant spotlight of
the media , no teams of TV reporters flocking to the scene, no heroic images in newspaper interviews,no moments of fame and
glory ? No chance for defiance, no opportunity to galvanise the "troops"?
And perhaps it is just as well that
they dont go to Africa!. They might encounter conditions that would make them really really "cross", instead of just plain
"cross"which we are told was their reaction to the "flotilla"episode. "Cross", mind you, in a world gone mad with violence!!!
And this question really puzzles me. What is it about the Palestinians/Gazans that has so captivated your devotion and self
righteous indignation Alexandra? Could it have something to do with the fact that their "enemy" is the Jews? Such a convenient
and well tested scapegoat!.
Of course if any of the "flotilla fraternity"have in fact been to African countries
offering their compassion and aid, then my apologies and I personally would dearly love to hear about their experiences.
And they owe it to the rest of the world to show us that their compassion is genuinely and whole-heartedly for the whole of
suffering humanity and not just for Gaza, their own "pet project" with its dubious justifications and questionable motivation.
Letter by Patrick Lort-Phillips.
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.
Lt. Col. Patrick Lort-Phillips.