UK government’s lying to Parliament on behalf of Israel must stop
Is it ignorance or a dark conspiracy to hide the apartheid state’s vile crimes and buy it more time to annex the rest of Palestine?
Lying or knowingly misleading Parliament is a serious offence and those who do so can be ruled in contempt of Parliament and asked to resign. The Ministerial Code requires ministers to be truthful and correct any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity while the Nolan Principles, which apply to everyone holding public office, not only demand truthfulness but require them to avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might inappropriately influence them in their work.
Last week Andrew Mitchell (pictured above), Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, laid himself open to just such accusations during his statement to the House of Commons on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. A number of his remarks seemed to bear little relation to the truth.
He opened proceedings by referring to the tragedy of Rabbi Leo Dee’s family and spoke of “the senseless and abhorrent violence that robbed a family of its mother and two sisters… The United Kingdom unequivocally condemns that act of terrorism”.
But he overlooked the fact that the unfortunate rabbi had moved his family to Efrat, an illegal Israeli ‘settlement’ and that transferring Israelis into occupied Palestinian territory is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.
He would have known, surely, that Israel’s so-called ‘settlers’ routinely go armed to beat up and murder native Palestinians, destroy their crops, wreck their homes, and generally make their lives a misery; and they are supported in this by the Israeli government and military as part of their strategy to force the Palestinians out and eventually annex the West Bank. The settlers are unquestionably the terrorists along with Israel’s army of occupation and the regime that directs them. It has been pointed out many times that the presence of Israeli settlers (i.e. squatters) on Palestinian territory is a violation of occupation law and a war crime on the part of the individuals involved.
“… the illegal occupier is the terrorist, the occupied people (i.e. the Palestinians) are the victims and are perfectly entitled to resist the occupier using any means available.”
Ending these violations involves immediate removal of the squatters from occupied land and an immediate end to Israel’s exercise of control, including its use of military force. That’s the basis for peace. The rabbi and his family chose to live on land confiscated (i.e. stolen) from the Palestinians, putting themselves on the wrong side of the law and in harm’s way. It’s hard to believe that Mitchell and his officials weren’t aware of this.
Mitchell went on to say that “the UK remains steadfast in its commitment to work with the Israeli authorities, the Palestinian authorities and all parties in the region and in the international community to bring an end to the terrorism that Israel faces”.
Let’s get it clear, please: the illegal occupier is the terrorist, the occupied people (i.e. the Palestinians) are the victims and are perfectly entitled to resist the occupier using any means available.
“The people of Israel deserve to live free from the scourge of terrorism and anti-Semitic incitement, which gravely undermine the prospects for a two-state solution,” says Mr Mitchell.
The truth is that the Palestinians deserve to live free from the scourge of terrorism by a hostile and lawless occupier. And what realistic prospect is there of this two-state solution the UK Government has promised for decades but done everything to hold back?
“The UK will never waver from supporting Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence,” is another of his misleading statements.
Since when did the illegal occupier have any legitimate right of self-defence against the people it oppresses?
“We say to the Israeli government that although Israel has a legitimate right to defend its citizens from attack, the Israeli security forces must live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law.”
This is self-contradictory in the Israel-Palestine context. Israel violates international law every day, so it clearly has no intention of living up to those obligations. And when Israel’s citizens violate international law inside another nation’s borders (as the settlers are doing) Israel has no lawful right to defend them.
“Let me restate clearly the position of the UK: we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees… A two-state solution offers the best prospects of achieving sustainable peace”.
Why is Mitchell adopting such a position when the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is simply NOT negotiable? The time for negotiations – if Palestine were to agree to talks – is after the illegal Israeli occupation has ended, the gun has been removed from the Palestinians’ head, and a level playing-field is established.
“The Israelis and the Palestinians showed leadership recently when their representatives met in Aqaba… to discuss ways to de-escalate.”
No they didn’t. Immediately afterwards Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was reported saying that the illegal building of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would continue. He tweeted that there “will not be any freeze” on settlement construction and there would be no change to the original planning and building schedule. Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, then said Israel will authorise nine settlement outposts in the coming months and approve 9,500 settlement units in the occupied West Bank: “Contrary to reports and tweets about the meeting in Jordan, there is no change in Israeli policy.” So they are straightaway back on their criminal course.
Dodging the Questions
- Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour) asked about Israel’s transfer of a major part of the occupied territories to its civilian administration: “As a matter of law, that is de facto annexation. What [have you] addressed specifically with the Israeli government on that point?” Mr Mitchell answered: “I cannot give the honourable gentleman details of very recent discussions that have taken place, but he is right in his analysis of the issue, and the British government are doing everything we can to advance that.” Everything? That surely would include imposing sanctions until Israel solemnly abandoned all thought of annexation and moved its occupation forces off Palestinian territory.
- Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party) observed that the collaborative ‘road map’ [see later] recent signed with Israel “makes no mention whatever of human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories [OPT], preferring to concentrate on trade and defence co-operation… Will the minister take this opportunity to acknowledge that Palestinians in the OPT are subject to calculated and systematic mass discrimination? Only by addressing that issue can we move forward to a just and lasting peace?” Mitchell replied: “The honourable gentleman invites me to condemn violence on one side and not on the other.” But the violence, he must have noticed, comes primarily from the occupying power, i.e. Israel, which under law has a duty of care towards the people it occupies.
- Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington, Labour) mentioned that in the run-up to the recent Israeli elections “Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he wanted to annex the West Bank, which would be a loss of 30 per cent of Palestinian territory. Can the government outline how they intend to ensure that the new Israeli government abide by their obligations under international law?”
Mitchell replied: “The honourable gentleman will understand that we press the Israeli government to abide by international law on all relevant occasions.”
But the Israeli government doesn’t give a hoot about what the UK says because we don’t back it up with consequences. Hasn’t it occurred to Mitchell’s department (a) how futile such empty responses are and (b) that Israel’s persistent violations of international al law must carry painful penalties? How does the UK expect to bring the rogue regime into compliance by repeatedly rewarding its crimes with ‘favoured nation’ collaboration agreements?
- Andy McDonald (Middlesborough, Labour) pointed out that “11 Palestinian children are being held by the Israeli military in administrative detention… Children can be held indefinitely without ever being charged, some for more than one year. The government’s current approach has failed to discourage these gross human rights abuses, so will the minister commit to impressing upon the Israeli government the need to end this brutal practice, and reserve the option of sanctions should they fail to do so?”
Mitchell lamely replied: “I am not going to get into the issue of sanctions at this point…” He seems unwilling to talk sanctions at any point, no matter how monstrous Israel’s behaviour.
- Marsha De Cordova (Battersea, Labour) drew Mitchell’s attention to the Israeli High Court rejecting appeals and permitting the Palestinian inhabitants of Masafer Yatta to be forcibly evicted. She said: “That is happening at the same time as legislation in Israel is transferring control of the West Bank to civilian ministries and away from the military. This is in effect annexation, and we know that there are going to be violations of international human rights laws. Can the minister confirm that the government regard the forced transfer of civilian populations in occupied territories, whether in south Hebron in Palestine or in Donbas in Ukraine, as illegal under international law?”
Mitchell replied: “Britain will always urge all governments to abide by their commitments under international treaties and under international humanitarian law.” We’ve seen how pathetically inadequate the UK government’s ‘urgings’ are, and such ludicrous answers are no longer taken seriously.
- Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth, Labour) was concerned about the “unprecedented settler violence towards local Palestinians in Huwara, during which Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, called for the town to be “wiped out”. Has the minister raised concerns with his counterparts about settler violence and the culture of impunity in relation to attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians?” she asked.
The minister’s reply: “The honourable lady is quite right to condemn settler violence, and Britain condemns it in the strongest possible terms.” If that were true, the violence would cease immediately. But the UK’s “strongest possible” condemnation of Israel’s vile behaviour is mutual backslapping and toasting their latest lucrative trade deal – such as the new ‘road map’
- Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East, SNP) noted that “we now have the most extreme right-wing government there has ever been in the history of the Israeli state, including ministers who are openly racist and who deny the very existence of the Palestinian people. Yet, while other countries were using diplomatic pressure to try to curb the Tel Aviv government’s actions, this country and this prime minister invited the prime minister of Israel to London, rolled out the red carpet for him and signed an agreement with Israel that makes no reference to human rights abuses or to the upholding of international law. How does the minister think that, in the space of a generation, the UK has gone from being seen as an honest broker in the Middle East to being an outlier in its support for the Israeli government?”
Mitchell replied: “The very close relationship Britain has with Israel enables us to have conversations at all levels of government… The fact that the prime minister of Israel comes and is seen by our prime minister is a very good way of advancing that dialogue… In Israel, too, there is free and open discussion, with many different opinions put. The view he [Sheppard] takes is also expressed by many within the state of Israel, and that happens because it is a democracy, and we of course respect that.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel is no democracy, as anyone who has read its Nation State laws will know. It’s a deeply unpleasant ethnocracy and racist to the core. As for its claimed ‘close relationship’ with Britain, Israel’s only friends are those it has bought and paid for. It was founded on terror and nobody here in the real world outside the Westminster bubble has any time for it. The minister, and indeed the whole UK government, insult the British people by claiming it speaks for us on matters relating to the disgraceful situation successive UK administrations have created in the Holy Land.
- Finally Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington, Lab) asked: “The government often talk about diplomatic engagement and private representations, but that is clearly not making any difference, so what new approaches or ideas are the government considering to try to move the dial on this issue?
To which Mitchell replied: “Let me make absolutely clear what the position is and remains.” And he repeated the well-rehearsed mantra drilled into all UK ministers: “A negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living side-by-side with a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, should take place…”
Any sign of justice? No, it’s business as usual with the apartheid regime
Several things are wrong with Mitchell’s answer to Smith:
- The heavy bias towards Israel, which he says must be made safe and secure while Palestine is only allowed to be viable, is unacceptable.
- There is no hint of justice or suggestion that international law and UN resolutions will be implemented. Without justice and the rule of law there can be no peace. That is understood by everyone except those batting for Israel’s greed and dominance.
- The minister preaches the usual nonsense pinning everything on a negotiated settlement between an unarmed, impoverished and demoralised people who have been under brutal subjugation for over 70 years and the powerful military intruder that has been doing the subjugating. Besides, Palestinian freedom and self-determination are non-negotiable – and he knows it.
And Mr Mitchell used this parliamentary occasion to trumpet that “on 21 February the foreign secretary signed the 2030 roadmap for UK-Israel bilateral relations… The UK is proud of its deep and historic relationship with the state of Israel. Both countries are committed to a modern, innovative and forward-looking relationship, focusing on shared priorities for mutual benefit.
“The roadmap is the product of detailed negotiations to deepen and expand our cooperation up to 2030, following the elevation of our relationship to a strategic partnership in 2021. It provides detailed commitments for deepening UK-Israel cooperation, including in trade, cyber, science and tech, research and development, security, health, climate and gender.”
Having enmeshed itself so deeply with the terror state, how can the UK government ever pretend to be an honest broker in resolving the crises swamping the Middle East?
“The roadmap also demonstrates the seriousness with which we take the global problem of anti-Semitism,” Mitchell continued. “The UK is proud of being the first government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition.”
If he thought carefully about anti-Semitism, he would realise that Israel’s grasping attitude and sickening behaviour towards its neighbours, and contempt for the rule of law and codes of human decency, are largely to blame.
And adopting the IHRA definition was a foolish move, considering how it was roundly condemned by human rights specialists and eminent lawyers who declared it unworkable and objected to its improper interference with the right to free expression. Even the definition’s lead author, Kenneth Stern, said it was never intended to be used as a hate speech code. Furthermore, over 100 human rights and civil rights organisations warned the United Nations against using or endorsing the definition as it could silence legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and stifle advocacy for Palestinian rights.
Israel is the criterion according to which all Jews will tend to be judged… It would be a tragic irony if the Jewish state, which was intended to solve the problem of anti-Semitism, was to become a factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.
Not my words, but an observation by former Israeli Director of Military Intelligence Yehoshafat Harkabi in his book Israel’s Fateful Hour. His opinion is held by many other Jews and suggests that anti-Semitism is, to at least some extent, a matter for the Jewish people themselves to resolve.
So, are the minister and his officials just ignorant, or is their mis-labelling Palestinians as terrorists and painting the occupying Israelis as victims a cynical attempt to justify the government’s behind-scenes machinations with the apartheid regime and its war criminals? Many have now come to believe that Westminster is a co-conspirator in deliberately prolonging the illegal occupation so that Israel can eventually achieve its land-grab ambition.