80,000 in UK demand Netanyahu arrest

In rejecting call for Netanyahu’s arrest during an upcoming visit to London, UK makes false statements justifying Israel’s attack on Gaza.

10 Downing Street

Almost 80,000 people have signed a petition at the UK Parliament’s website calling for the arrest of the Israeli prime minister when he comes to London for a planned visit next month.

If the number of signatures reaches 100,000, then the matter will be debated in parliament, according to the petitions procedure.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September,” the petition states. “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014.”

Government responds

But in an official response containing several false statements, the government of Prime Minister David Cameron asserts that Netanyahu enjoys immunity, and justifies Israel’s destruction and killings of Palestinians in Gaza as “self-defense.”

“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 government response states.

“We recognize that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll. As the prime minister said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the UK has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts,” the government notes. “However the prime minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.”

False statements

It adds: “We condemn the terrorist tactics of Hamas who fired rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires. Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, as its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack.”

In fact, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have consistently held to ceasefires while Israel has habitually broken them.

Israel has violated the ceasefire agreed on 26 August last year hundreds of times, according to international agencies, with relentless shooting across the Gaza boundary especially at Gaza farmers and fishermen that has caused deaths and injuries.

The independent inquiry into the 51-day Israel assault on Gaza last summer, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council and published in June, found that Palestinian resistance groups only used tunnels dug from Gaza to attack “legitimate military targets” in present-day Israel.

The UK was among the 41 members of the Human Rights Council that voted to “welcome” and accept the report. (Only one government, the US administration of President Barack Obama, voted against it and five abstained.)

Israeli officials must still find official pretexts for visits to the UK in order to ensure they are covered by diplomatic immunity.

Several Israeli officials have narrowly escaped arrest in the UK in recent years, often with official complicity.

The UK changed its law in 2011 specifically so that Israeli war crimes suspects would have an easier time traveling there.

Going to the ICC

In its response to the petition, the UK government also asserts that it “welcome[s] the fact that Israel is conducting internal investigations into specific incidents during Operation Protective Edge,” the name Israel gave its assault that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 551 children in Gaza last summer.

A year later, there have still been no charges in any case. And, as the UK surely knows, Israel’s record when it comes to investigating itself is to provide its personnel with blanket immunity and impunity for killing Palestinians.

“We have also encouraged the Israeli authorities, as we do all countries, to cooperate with the independent Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the preliminary examination into the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 13 June,” the UK response adds.

“I honestly don’t expect [Netanyahu] to get arrested,” Damian Moran, who launched the petition, told Al Jazeera. But he added that the growing number of signatures is “a clear message to him that there’s a massive amount of people who don’t want him here.”

Welcoming Netanyahu is only one aspect of UK complicity in Israel’s crimes. The UK continues to allow arms sales to Israel despite the carnage in Gaza.

If the ICC prosecutor resists US and Israeli political pressure and brings charges against Israeli leaders, then under international rules even the diplomatic immunity Netanyahu will hide behind in London would no longer protect him.

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Comments

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Prosecuting Israeli leaders for war crimes is certainly a double-edged sword. So too, would Palestinian leaders (that excluded civil cases brought against them like in New York!).

The resolution to the conflict will not come through legal pressure - just look at the history of it and the endless violations of law on every side. ME is a defacto lawless area, everyone just does whatever they want (Hello Iran and UK reopening their embassy).

When the leaders love their children more than they hate each other, there will be peace.

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"When the leaders love their children. ...! .I didn't know that Golda Meir was still alive and posting comments on EI!

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Apologies for the optimism.

My hope is that the leaders will realise that death on every side serves no-one but to perpetuate hatred, fear and death. Violence begets violence.

Legal misadventures will do nothing but entrench these positions. They sue, we sue, who wins?

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With all due respect David, I'm not sure that hinging our hopes on a necessity that political leaders love our children more than the power they derive from nationalist enmity, is optimism. I may not agree with Hillary on much but I do agree that waiting for hearts to change would be better left as a hope, while we act to change the law.

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Cameron should be aware that if ever senior Israeli politicians are brought to the ICC re Gaza, he could also be susceptible to the lesser charge of 'aiding and abetting' their crimes since his support has and is consistent and substantial. Importantly, 'aiding and abetting' can apply to support given AFTER the crime as well as preceding it.

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Ali, your accurate portrayal gives some indication of the extent of Israel's turn of fortunes since Obama's last ceremonial visit to Israel, triumphal as it was. You will recall him solemnly declaring that there is "no light between Israel and the United States." Few people noted then that he was addressing, not the world but, Israel and its "clever" leaders. As the Godfather said: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Israel is now and has always been a mortal enemy to the US, but also to the United Kingdom, which spawned the Zionist race colony in the first place. But its days as an Apartheid race colony are numbered, whatever it does. This much is clear. How the US and European Union deal with it next will be interesting to see.

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1. Clearly Netanyahu will not be arrested. Hopefully he will
feel a quite British chill at best. (The immunity claim is
his best guarantee it seems...)

2. Evidently only Israeli's are permitted actions in so-called
"self-defense" not to mention "peremptory strikes".

The oppressed never are permitted such "luxuries".

Here's to The Resistance as well as the (less) courageous Britons who
spoke in their support.

"Here! Here!!!"

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.