Moving the goal posts for Israel
MPs will vote today on the Police Reform Bill, which contains a plethora of proposals concerning election of police commissioners, setting up a police reserve force, alcohol licensing, drugs enforcement and banning permanent protests in Parliament Square.
But this massive Bill also contains one clause which has been inserted at the request of a foreign government.
Clause 151 would give the Director of Public Prosecutions a veto over whether an arrest warrant could be issued for war crime suspects.
This would essentially allow the government of the day a political veto over what is a legal question.
War crimes are closely defined under international law and all legal administrations have a responsibility to apply the law strictly and impartially.
Yet Israel believes that different rules should apply to itself or that conduct which would be a war crime in any other circumstance should not be viewed as such when committed by the zionist state.
And the British political Establishment supports Tel Aviv on this issue, which is why David Cameron and Gordon Brown undertook to propose this measure after former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a visit to London to dodge a war crimes arrest warrant.
The Israelis were furious because, in common with the European Union and the US, they believe that war crimes are committed only by Africans or by countries at odds with the western allies.
Tel Aviv complained of being “singled out” for special treatment. The opposite is the case.
The demand to arrest Livni for the well-documented crimes carried out by Israeli forces in their merciless assault on Gaza was a bid to ensure that Israel is bound by the same international law as other states.
Such a principle would also have implications for people such as George W Bush and Tony Blair, who have drawn a line under their own war crimes, moving on to build their personal fortunes.
There are obvious problems to applying the law equally to rich and militarily powerful states, as there are to powerful and wealthy individuals in society, but MPs have a responsibility not to collaborate with squalid political manoeuvres such as clause 151.
People across the world can see the continued indifference of Nato and its allies to the Palestinians’ plight.
Washington formally conceded last week that it lacked the will to force Israel to end its illegal colonisation of the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem.
European Union foreign affairs commissioner Cathy Ashton echoed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s weasel words, expressing regret that Israel “has not been in a position to accept an extension of the settlement moratorium.”
On behalf of the EU, she rejected constructive proposals from 26 former EU and member-state leaders, including a ban on false labelling of settlement products, and paid lip service to a non-existent US-led peace process.
In doing so, she implicated the EU in the ongoing Israeli war crime of collective punishment against the people of Gaza, where the infrastructure, including drinking water provision, remains in ruins because of Israel’s callous blockade.
If MPs allow clause 151 to pass unchallenged, they too will be colluding in Israeli war crimes and providing the means for war criminals to come and go freely in Britain.
At the very least, MPs should read the Palestine Solidarity Campaign briefing on this issue – www.palestinecampaign.org/universal-jurisdiction – before casting their votes.