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UK gives Israel virtual licence to massacre Palestinians

8th Jun 2018
UK gives Israel virtual licence to massacre Palestinians

(Photo: Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency )

If any country warranted the odious description of being labelled as a pariah state none is more deserving than Israel. Since its creation 70 years ago, its behaviour has been distinctive and out of line with civilised norms. Successive regimes ruling its seized territories have not only constantly been belligerent but deliberately provocative and outrageous while always pretending to be the victim.

The latest obnoxious crimes committed by Israel were a despotic response to the anniversary of al-Nakba, the day of the Palestinian Catastrophe on May 14, 1948, that led to their dispossession of their homeland when hundreds of thousands were forced to flee and never allowed by Israel to return. As if further humiliation were needed, it was the chosen date by US President, Donald Trump, to open the US Embassy in al-Quds, the holy city of Jerusalem, in defiance of its internationally recognised status. In Israel’s usual contemptible manner, some 62 unarmed Palestinian civilians were mowed down in the massacre and thousands more injured during the symbolic peaceful protests.

Commonly it is the British Government who chastises Turkey over its concern for human rights but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turned tables on Prime Minister, Theresa May, as they stood alongside each other in a joint press conference in London. While the Prime Minister shamefully refused to condemn Israel’s latest slaughter of Palestinians, her Turkish counterpart had no such hesitancy. He accused Israel of “waging terrorism” against the Palestinians and warned that “Israel will not be forgiven” for its crimes. “There is an urgent need to establish the facts of what happened yesterday through an independent and transparent investigation, including why such a volume of live fire was used and what role Hamas played in events,” May said in contrast, setting the tone for the UK’s official response.

Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was even more disdainful, not even bothering to stay in Parliament for an emergency statement, giving the task instead to his Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Birt.

Some MPs even criticised the Government’s response as being weaker than Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which said it was appalled by the “indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli Government and military officials” by using live ammunition against protesters.

Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, questioned how ministers could allow the UK’s “arms trade to profit from mass murder by the criminal Israeli Government” and cited such sales as assault and sniper rifles as well as components for aircraft ammunition being just a small selection of the export licences granted last year. UK arms exports to Israel have reached a record level. Figures from the Campaign Against Arms Trade reveal that last year the UK issued £221m worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel, a huge increase on the previous year’s figure of £86m.

Pulling fewer punches, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, spoke of the “horrific massacre” at the Gaza border. “If we are in any doubt about the lethal intent of the Israeli snipers working on the border, we need only look at the wounds suffered by their victims,” she said. Her understanding was that the bullets used were more suited to hunting “designed to mushroom and fragment, to do maximum internal damage to the animal.”

In response, the British Government repeated Israel’s insidious attempts to blame Hamas somehow for the slaughter, which seemed to have maximum support from the idiosyncratic US President.

As an unbelievable further sop to Israel, the UK Government even chose to abstain in a vote by the UN Human Rights Council to send an international war crimes probe to Gaza, going back on May’s original support. As expected, the US along with Australia, opposed the motion calling for an investigation of humanitarian violations, which was otherwise passed with the backing of 29 countries. London-based anti-poverty charity War on Want described Britain’s abstention with 13 others as “a disgrace.”

Senior Campaigner on Militarism and Security at War on Want, Ryvka Barnard, told the Independent that the UK has gone against a broad international consensus. “Trusting that Israel can fairly and neutrally investigate its own war crimes is an insult to any common sense definition of justice and makes a mockery of the UK’s stated commitment to international law, human rights, and accountability.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Right, said he supported the call for an investigation “that is international, independent and impartial, in the hope the truth regarding these matters will lead to justice.”

It is difficult to understand how ministers can live with their conscience as they give Israel a free licence to massacre unarmed protestors including children and journalists, making the Government once again effectively complicit in Israel’s war crimes. Criticism of Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s belligerent policies is growing within Israel itself. For example, Bradley Burson, senior Editor of Israel’s oldest and most-prestigious daily, Haaretz, even claimed in his newspaper that “It’s Time to Admit It. Israeli Policy Is What It Is: Apartheid.”

During the Parliamentary debate, Birt gave a further clue how far the UK is supportive of Israel at the expense of Palestinian lives, refusing to even condemn Israel’s deportation of Human Rights Watch official when challenged. “The word ‘condemn’ is easy to use; the issue is about trying to get some practicalities out of the situation,” he argued. It is rather ironic that the more outrageous Israel and Trump act Britain still seems to follow on their coat-tails despite how contemptible it may be.

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