Malta role in Red Sea mission would abet Israeli genocide by proxy – Graffitti

NGO says Malta joining Red Sea mission against Houthi rebels would go against constitutional principle of neutrality and peace-seeking

Graffitti activists are covered with a white sheet and a keffiyeh, as they lay down on the beach as a reminder of the civilian death toll (February 2024)
Graffitti activists are covered with a white sheet and a keffiyeh, as they lay down on the beach as a reminder of the civilian death toll (February 2024)

Moviment Graffitti has condemned Malta’s consideration to join the EU’s Red Sea mission, Operation Aspides, saying participation would go against the island’s constitutional principle of neutrality and active peace-seeking.

Graffitti said Malta’s engagement in Aspides would help restore normal trade with Israel, which has been accused of genocide by various countries over its killing of over 25,000 Palestinians in attacks on Gaza following the October 2023 attack from Hamas.

“We call on Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg, and Prime Minister Robert Abela, to ensure Malta stays out of Operation Aspides,” Graffitti said.

Malta is “actively considering” participating in the EU’s Red Sea mission to defend commercial ships from Yemeni Houthi attacks. An officer from the Armed Forces of Malta will be stationed at the operation’s headquarters in Greece. 

This will not be the first time that Maltese military personnel will join an EU maritime mission in the region. In the past, an army contingent had been embedded on a Dutch warship off the Somali coast to deter piracy. 

“Moviment Graffitti appeals to the Maltese Government to instead direct its efforts for the restoration of safe trade passage through the Red Sea route by working within international institutions towards a permanent ceasefire and an end to the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,” Graffitti said.

The Ansarullah ‘Houthi’ movement started attacking commercial ships connected to Israeli companies in November 2023, saying that they will continue to do so until humanitarian aid is delivered to Gaza and Israel ceases its aggression.

This act of resistance has disrupted 12% of global trade, with 95% of all routes that previously passed through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, being rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope.

This is causing up to 30-day delays and more than doubling of the cost of exports, apart from serious corporate divestment.

OCCL and Evergreen, two shipping giants, have publicly announced they would no longer accept any Israeli cargo, with most others suspending their routes that pass through the region.

“While the response from most Western countries in trying to stop the genocide in Gaza has been meek at best, and actively supportive of genocide at worst, the response to strained trade routes has been resounding with the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and others all signing on to Operation Prosperity Guardian, a military operation that has seen airstrikes against Ansarallah targets on both land and sea,” Graffitti said.

While the EU has not wholly supported this operation, EU member states have approved a Common Security and Defence Policy military operation in the Red Sea seeking to protect merchant ships by intercepting attacks against them.

This has seen the contribution of Italian frigates and guided missile destroyers, a US aircraft carrier and a German air defence frigate. These vessels armed with highly advanced weapons are making their way to the Red Sea in preparation to support Israeli trade, and thwart resistance against Israel’s genocide.

“We demand that Malta does its utmost to stop this escalation of violence from taking place and ensure that no Maltese resources, officers or staff have any involvement in this operation,” Graffitti said.

“Doing so would be breaking the principle of our constitutional neutrality which clearly states that Malta should refuse to ‘…to participate in any military alliance…’ as well as actively pursue ‘…peace, security and social progress among all nations…’. Malta must not aid and abet genocide, whether directly or by proxy.”

The Aspides mission will be deployed at sea, with ships and air assets and according to the Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, the force commander will be Italian.  Crosetto said last week that Greece would probably take overall command of the mission, to be headquartered in the city of Larissa, although no formal announcement has been made.