Ask an Awkward Question, Get a Silly Answer…
by Stuart Littlewood
Tired of listening to Agent Cameron and his foreign secretary William Hague trying to pick a fight with Iran and ratcheting up sanctions aimed at ruining that country’s economy and hurting innocent Iranian women and children, I asked my MP, Henry Bellingham, to table the following written Parliamentary Question (PQ)…
“Israel refuses (unlike Iran) to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear programme to international inspection. It has not signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, similarly the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Israeli regime continues to defy international law and UN resolutions with its illegal occupation, ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands, destruction of homes, arrest and imprisonment of civilians, its inhuman blockade of Gaza and many other crimes against humanity – including lethal assaults on peaceful shipping on the high seas bringing humanitarian aid. Instead of rewarding Israel with pledges of everlasting protection and special trade agreements, should not Britain and the international community now discharge their obligation to make Israel accountable?”
Mr Bellingham said he would have to ‘tweak’ the question, presumably to fit the approved format. In the process the emphasis on Israel’s nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction was mysteriously lost. This was the result…
Mr Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage Israel to (a) sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and (b) open its nuclear programme to international inspection. 
Alistair Burt: The British Government supports fully the universalisation of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We have called on Israel and other non-signatories to join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states. We have also called on them to agree a full scope Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 2009 the IAEA concluded that nuclear material, facilities or other items to which safeguards were applied in Israel remained in use for peaceful activities. The UK accepts these conclusions. We have a regular dialogue with the Israeli Government on civil nuclear and counter proliferation issues. [my italics]
What does Mr Burt, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, mean by including Israel among the “non-nuclear weapons states”? Is he seriously telling Parliament and the world that Israel has no nukes?
He sidesteps the taboo subject of Israel’s hundreds of nuclear warheads, which have never been subject to international safeguards, while he and his colleagues enjoy their sport of punishing Iran, which is properly signed up to the NPT and has no nuclear weapons.
Burt, being a former officer of the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, is a rabid admirer and supporter of that racist entity, as are Hague and Cameron. All three, according to theyworkforyou.com, voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war which, for the majority of the British public, was the acid test of how far they can be trusted in government.
My understanding of the Israeli nukes situation is that in 2009 the IAEA again called on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, open its nuclear facilities to inspection and place them under comprehensive IAEA safeguards. And again Israel declined.
The IAEA’s report ‘Israeli nuclear capabilities’ http://www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC54/GC54Documents/English/gc54-14_en.pdf states: “The IAEA applies safeguards in Israel pursuant to an INFCIRC/66-type safeguards agreement of 4 April 1975 concluded between the IAEA, Israel and the United States of America (INFCIRC/249) which was extended by a Protocol of 28 September 1977 (INFCIRC/249/Add.1). The Agreement relates to an agreement of 12 July 1955 on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy between the Governments of Israel and the USA. Israel has not concluded an Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement.”
The Agency’s verification of Israel’s activities, unlike those of States with a comprehensive safeguards agreement, is limited to the materials, equipment and facilities Israel chooses to specify in its safeguards undertakings. The IAEA concluded in 2009 that the items specified by Israel were for peaceful purposes but made clear that it was unable to list all the nuclear facilities which could be subject of safeguards if a comprehensive agreement were in force.
Quite obviously, in the case of Israel the IAEA’s monitoring has been woefully insufficient. On 7 April 2010 the Director General wrote to all IAEA member states, including Israel, about a resolution adopted by the General Conference on 18 September 2009. The letter said the resolution expressed concern about Israeli nuclear capabilities and called on Israel “to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards”. It also urged the IAEA Director General to work with the concerned States towards achieving that end and report on the implementation of this resolution to the Board of Governors and the General Conference.
Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, in his response, called the resolution “politically motivated” and said it attempted to divert attention from the real proliferation challenges of the Middle East, namely non-compliance by Iran and Syria with their NPT obligations. According to him the resolution was incompatible with basic principles and norms of international law. “It is the sovereign right of any state to decide whether it consents to be bound by any particular treaty,” he wrote.
Imagine if Iran had said that…
While claiming that Israel values the non-proliferation regime and acknowledges its importance, Liberman said that “attempts to single out Israel… harm the professional standing of the IAEA” and that co-operation with the resolution was “unjustified”. He wanted it removed from the IAEA’s agenda.
Misleading Parliament is a serious offence. The Foreign Office minister ought to withdraw any suggestion that Israel has no nuclear weapons. I have asked Mr Bellingham to obtain a much fuller reply addressing the weapons issue. He says he will “see what further question can sensibly come out of this and table it in due course”.
A second PQ, asking why the British government hasn’t made friends and developed trade with Iran instead of declaring economic war and plotting a shooting war, seems to have gone missing.
It’s all so reminiscent of the unpleasantness in 1953 when Dr Mossadeq refused to do Britain’s bidding. Will we never learn?
Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting: www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued a career in industrial marketing.
More recently he worked as a freelance and with innovation consultancies. Psychology degree Exeter University, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor 1993-97 and on the Police Authority. Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Since retiring has been a newspaper columnist and produced two photo-documentary books. He is a regular contributor to a number of internet news magazines.
Stuart’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, tells the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. It can now be read on the internet by visiting RadioFreePalestine.org.uk.
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