by Stuart Littlewood
A petition calling for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to be arrested for war crimes when he arrives in London next week is nearing 100,000 signatures. If it reaches that magic figure it must be considered for debate in Parliament.
The Government has dismissed the petition with an official statement that says: “Under UK and international law, visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained…
“The UK is a close friend of Israel and we enjoy an excellent bilateral relationship, built on decades of cooperation between our two countries.”
And, in a two-finger gesture to right-thinking citizens, our self-declared Zionist prime minister, David Cameron, has just appointed the director of Conservative Friends of Israel, Stuart Polak, to the House of Lords.
Polak is a partner in two Westminster based lobbying firms and has also been busy on Israel’s behalf beyond these shores. EFI (European Friends of Israel) was officially established by Polak and others with the stated aim to ‘unify’ the various pro-Israel groups within the national parliaments of EU countries by co-ordinating their activities.
According to the Telegraph, Polak “regularly takes leading Conservatives on trips to Israel to educate them. The sceptics invariably return, if not indoctrinated, fully onside.” Polak is believed to have led over 50 delegations of politicians to Israel. And according to the Sunday Times “As well as heading CFI, a significant party donor, Polak is a key figure in The Westminster Connection (TWC), a political consultancy. Clients of TWC include Elbit Systems, Israel’s defence electronics giant.”
The Jewish Chronicle says his elevation to the peerage “marks the high point of Mr Polak’s 35 years campaigning for Israel and encouraging the leaders of Britain’s political right to back the country”.
So who is he going to work for in Britain’s House of Lords? He provides the answer himself: “The aims and objectives of CFI are simple to understand, we support the Conservatives and support our democratic ally Israel. Something we proudly have tried to fulfil throughout the last 26 years. The Prime Minister has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the House of Lords which will enable me to continue to advocate for Israel.”
Nothing about advocating for Britain as he lounges on the red leather cushions of the Upper Chamber. By classifying himself as an agent of a foreign power he has saved us the trouble.
‘Welcome’ sign for war criminals replaces solemn ‘no hiding place’ pledge
A few years ago Israeli top brass, including Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired general Doron Almog, cancelled engagements in London for fear of being arrested. Israel complained bitterly. The then British foreign secretary David Miliband apologized and, according to press reports, promised to begin work immediately to change UK laws that enabled the issue of arrest warrants against Israeli officials and others accused of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.
The principle of Universal Jurisdiction places all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. Applications were often made to a court for private arrest warrants because the Government here was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragging its feet until the birds had flown.
Livni bleated: “It’s about the entire State of Israel and our ability to go on working together against common threats.” What common threats? The threats Israel faces are caused by its racist expansion, land theft, general lawlessness and hateful attitude towards its neighbours, and by the nuclear menace Israel itself poses to others in the region and the Islamic world generally. To suggest we have anything in common is an insult to Western intelligence.
Netanyahu’s office injected this characteristically arrogant statement: “We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak and [opposition leader and former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the bench. We utterly reject the absurdity that is happening in Britain.” And the Israeli ambassador in London had the cheek to chastise the British foreign secretary, telling him it was time the British government took action.
Miliband obligingly called the warrants intolerable and obediently asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw to find an urgent solution.
But a general election swept the Labour lot away and brought in Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition. At a CFI reception the new foreign secretary William Hague told the 400 guests that the previous government had left him with an appalling situation where a politician like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK. “We will put it right through legislation… The Justice Secretary will bring into the House of Commons adding to legislation going through the House of Commons later this year and I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals”.
Tzipi Livni, let’s remember, was largely responsible for the terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians in 2008/9. With the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands, and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of Operation Cast Lead (the murderous blitz she had unleashed). Showing no remorse and speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”
Who’d have believed a British government minister would undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of loathsome Livni? But Hague said it was “completely unacceptable” that someone like Livni felt she couldn’t visit the UK. “We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily.”
At the same time he was telling everyone: “The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice.”
The bringing of a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority.” The beauty of the private warrant is that it can be issued speedily. Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.
And that’s precisely what we’re up against – a capricious, corrupt and biased administration that wants to let ‘friendly’ war criminals off and protect them from arrest while they visit Britain. The Government argues that foreign politicians, no matter how blood-soaked, should never be made to feel unwelcome and that the current law impedes Britain’s ability to use its diplomatic powers. So now the Director of Public Prosecutions considers each application at the arrest warrant stage.
As protestors point out, this is a recipe for political interference and delay, which will enable suspects to slip away – the “inertia and partiality” Wilberforce warned about.
Thus the overriding principle in international law that no-one, regardless of nationality, should feel able to commit war crimes with impunity, is being sacrificed so that the likes of Tzipi Livni and her vile comrades, other Israeli psychopaths and now the execrable Netanyahu, need not fear arrest if they come here.
Mountains of evidence of Israel’s war crimes are just waiting to be tested in court. The UK, like all other countries that think themselves civilised, is under an obligation to enact legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for grave breaches of the Geneva Convention. In other words, there should be no hiding place for the world’s nastiest criminals.
Israeli impunity rules OK
Professor Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur, summed it all up most eloquently: “The idea of Nuremberg after World War Two was that crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes are also offences against the whole of international society…”
The law that was applied to surviving German criminals of World War Two would not be respected unless those who sat in judgement upheld it in relation to their own behaviour. “Universal jurisdiction is part of the struggle against impunity for the Israeli military and the country’s political leaders,” said Falk. “That impunity has been possible both because Israel itself doesn’t impose accountability on those who perpetrate violations of international criminal law and because the US, and to some extent European countries, have given a geopolitical insulation to Israel in relation to its responsibilities as a sovereign state.”
The UN’s Goldstone report and the international law panel appointed after the Gaza flotilla incident also raised the issue of impunity and accountability. Falk felt that the most effective way of implementing international law was now through the activism of civil society and through national legal institutions. Universal Jurisdiction is a good tool for the job.
But Britain’s ruling class has blunted it.
See where where Israel’s impunity, which Cameron is so eager to preserve, continues to lead us. The latest UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) report on the chronic condition of Gaza and the West Bank reveals that….
In 2014, the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory witnessed the first recession since 2006 and the second consecutive decline in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. In addition, the number of Israeli settlers has quadrupled since the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995; presently they outnumber Palestinians in Area C, which represents 61 per cent of West Bank area. During the first four months of 2015, Israel once again withheld Palestinian clearance revenue, which represents 75 per cent of total revenue. The ensuing liquidity crisis slowed economic activities and will weigh down GDP growth in 2015. The Gaza Strip endured the third conflict with full-scale military operation in six years, coming on top of eight years of economic blockade. Reconstruction efforts are extremely slow relative to the magnitude of devastation, and Gaza’s local economy did not have a chance to recover. Socioeconomic conditions are at their lowest point since 1967.
The very detailed report goes on to say:
Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time or meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza, rendering their economic well-being worse than the level of two decades previous. The most recent military operation compounded already dire socioeconomic conditions and accelerated de-development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed.
Israel making Gaza “unliveable”
Among the report’s most frightening conclusions are these….
If the current blockade and insufficient levels of donor support persist, even with a reversion to the status quo that prevailed before the latest military operation, Gaza will become economically unviable and the already grim socioeconomic conditions can only deteriorate. The likely outcome will be more conflict, mass poverty, high unemployment, shortages of electricity and drinking water, inadequate health care and a collapsing infrastructure. In short, Gaza will be unliveable as emphasized by the United Nations (2012)
The Palestinian people need to secure their human right to development under international law far more than they need donor aid. They are a well-educated and creative people who are more than capable of self-sufficiency if allowed to produce and trade normally with the rest of the world. However, self-sufficiency in Gaza is impossible under conditions of blockade and periodic destruction of infrastructure and private assets.
The only “friends” Netanyahu and his thugs have in Britain are embedded in the Establishment élite, and we all know why. The rest of the population are disgusted with the Israeli regime, fed up with fighting its wars in the Middle East and angry at repeatedly paying not only for the endless destruction by Israel of Palestine’s infrastructure but also what amounts to a hefty subsidy towards Israel’s never-ending illegal occupation. Those who have visited Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories know perfectly well that the Israelis share none of our values. So if Zionist Cameron wants to meet his “friend” Netanyahu he should do it outside the UK and refrain from offending the British people and in particular our Muslim brothers and sisters.
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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