The ‘flytilla’ – a cameo appearance by bigots and extremists within the anti-Israel campaign in the UK

Yesterday we took a look at the way in which the Guardian’s report on the detention of British participants in the ‘flytilla’ airbrushed the extremist links of two of them – the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign chairman Mick Napier and deputy leader of the Welsh Green Party Pippa Bartolotti who flirted with the Nazi organisation known as the SSNP during her visit to Syria last autumn as part of the Hamas-supporting ‘Viva Palestina’ convoy.

That, however, was not the end of Pippa Bartolotti’s 2010 fascist-groupie road tour; once she arrived in Gaza, she was excited to meet some of the prominent Hamas officials there in person.  Here is how she described her meeting with Ismail Haniyeh on her blog:

“I was fortunate to meet Ismail Haniyah, the Prime Minister of Gaza, his Vice President Mahmoud al Zahar, and Minister of Public Works and HousingYousef al-Mansi.The Hamas PM sadly did not speak English, so I was unable to form a full picture of his personality and political attitudes. What I do know is that everything I have so far heard or read on the subject has been plain wrong. He came across to me as a quiet and thoughtful man who was eager to meet us. He made a special effort to come and speak with the women – who had largely been pushed aside by the men earlier in the day and had therefore been denied a full chance to speak with him. He is pictured here in a simple white robe and cap.”


Mahmoud al Zahar is, of course, a man who has no compunction about stating publicly that he thinks it’s just fine to murder Jews anywhere in the world:


“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”


Pippa doesn’t appear to have much of a problem with that either:


“Mahmoud al Zahar was clearly a knowledgeable man, well educated and by the nature of his knowledge, anti Jew. It seemed to me that he no longer separated Zionism from the ordinary Jew, but living under siege as he did with warplanes and warships continually threatening his people, killing his children and destroying his homes one could hardly blame him.” [emphasis mine]

Pippa Bartolotti was, however, not the only failed Green Party parliamentary candidate to take part in the ‘flytilla’. Sixty-six year old retired academic and former member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign executive Anne Gray stood as the Green Party’s candidate in Tottenham, London in 2010 and has long been involved in local politics. She is also active in CAMPACC – the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities – and as may be expected, in signing anti-Israel letters. 

Anne Gray


Another CAMPACC activist who took part in the ‘flytilla’ is 61 year-old Open University research fellow Les Levidow from Milton Keynes. Active in BRICUP, ‘Jews against Zionism and ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods’, Levidow also gives talks and writes essays, with ‘imperialist’ support for Israel as one of his main themes. However, he appears to have a particular affinity for the Khomenist faux human rights organisation which calls itself the Islamic Human Rights Commission and has spoken both at their annual conference and at their annual Al Quds day event.  Here is part of his speech from his 2008 appearance there:

“When we say ‘end the occupation’ we should make clear the occupation IS the Israeli state itself, not simply its control of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s existence as a Zionist state poses a continuous threat to peace and democracy in the Middle East. Israeli colonisation has destroyed any basis for an independent Palestinian state. There are basically two possible futures – either Israel forces more and more Palestinians to leave or else Israel is de-zionised, de-colonised so that there are equal rights for all.”

Les Levidow at the 2006 IHRC conference

Another member of the English ‘flytilla’ contingent who, although professing to be a Quaker, has no qualms about employing his Jewish roots when it serves the purpose of attacking Israel, is 83 year-old retired lecturer and life member of the UCU John Lynes from St Leonards on Sea in East Sussex. Lynes is a member of the Christian CND, ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians and ‘Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and as such has a prolific record in the signing of anti-Israel public letters. He is also a member of the ‘Christian Peacemaker Teams’ and gives lectures in that capacity. 

John Lynes



Another participant in the ‘flytilla’ with a record of having visited the region on Christian programmes is 77 year-old Audrey Gray, a retired nurse and social worker from West Chiltington in West Sussex, who also acts as a Methodist local preacher and gives lectures based on her experiences as a former Ecumenical Accompanier with the EAPPI project; established by the World Council of Churches and with links to Sabeel and the Alternative Information Centre.   

Audrey Gray

The other English member of the British ‘flytilla’ contingent is Val Kitchen, aged 68 from Tonbridge in Kent. Scottish participants include Mick Napier as mentioned above, Ian Stewart-Hargreaves , apparently a silversmith from Carloway on the Isle of Lewis and retired statistician Frank Thomas aged 66 from Edinburgh who seems to have connections to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition, and supports Scottish councillors in favor of boycotting Israel. 

SPSC chair and 'Welcome to Palestine' coordinator Mick Napier

The female member of the Scottish contingent is former community worker and current council employee Joy Cherkaoui from Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway. She is the treasurer of the local SPSC branch, a member of Amnesty International, involved in the CND and a former candidate for the Scottish Socialist Party.

Joy Cherkaoui

Another former candidate for a far Left political party is to be found among the Welsh participants in the ‘flytilla’. Joyce Irene Giblin of Newport represented (unsuccessfully) the Socialist Labour Party in the 2011 elections to the Welsh Assembly.  She is a member of ‘Swansea Action for Palestine’ and appears to support just about every anti-Israel outfit going, including ‘Jews against the Occupation’, ‘Viva Palestina, the ECESG and the ISM. Here she is with her fellow flag-loving Newport resident. 

Also from Wales come the last two members of the British delegation to the ‘flytilla’: 46 year-old Swansea council worker Fiona Williams from Mumbles who is also involved in Swansea Action for Palestine and 56 year-old book-keeper Dee Murphy from Swansea who is a founder of the Swansea-Palestine Community Link.

Dee Murphy and Fiona Williams

Ms. Murphy seems to make quite a hobby out of getting herself arrested; she is half of what is apparently known as ‘the Tesco two’ and spent eight days in custody following a January 2009 incident in a local supermarket.

“The Tesco 2 are Dee Murphy and Greg Wilkinson who kicked off a campaign to boycott Israeli goods by going into their local Tesco store, filling a trolley with dates produced on illegal Zionist settlements on the West Bank, taking them out without paying, tipping the dates on the ground and spraying them with red dye, then waiting for the police to arrest them.”

Here is Dee Murphy explaining her actions at the time, prior to being arrested: 


Less than a month before that incident, Dee Murphy had super-glued herself to the entrance barriers at BBC Wales in Cardiff. Her fellow ‘flytilla’ member Fiona Williams told the press at the time that the reason for the action was that the BBC’s coverage of Operation Cast Lead was “pro-Israeli”.

“Hamas is referred to as a militant organisation, rather than the democratically-elected government, having been elected by a huge majority.”

“The settlements in the West Bank should be referred to as illegal, the Israeli Defence Force as the Israeli Army, and the separation barrier as the apartheid wall.”

Here is Dee Murphy once again.

“So yes, they are shooting rockets into Israel, but these are an occupied people! And we all have the right to defend ourselves.” 


The British contingent to the ‘flytilla’ represents a cameo appearance by members of almost the entire spectrum of anti-Israel campaigners in the United Kingdom. From Quakers and Methodists, through members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and similar bodies, Jewish anti-Zionist fringe groups, Islamist sympathisers and almost- off- the- radar extreme Left political parties, along with the increasingly bizarre Greens: they all had their representation in this publicity stunt.  

Perplexed Israelis often ask me “What is going on in Britain?” This article is the answer to that question: a glimpse into the fringe world of political activism as a fashionable lifestyle choice. That world is, of course, nourished by the kind of one-sided reporting of the Middle East seen in so much of the mainstream media; not least the Guardian.  

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