Is Britain Grovelling to the Israeli Bully?

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Do Israeli war criminals exercise a malignant power and influence over British policies?

Writing in weekday sister paper The Herald, The Scottish Sunday Herald’s Foreign Editor, David Pratt produces a particularly nasty and vitriolic commentary in the context of British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s visit to Israel and the resulting row over the issuing of arrest warrants on Israeli politicians visiting the UK: It is criminal how Britain grovels to Israeli bullying.

Pratt’s piece relies on two faulty premises: first, that Israeli politicians are, by default, likely war criminals and secondly, that Israel exercises a malign influence and power over Britain’s government and politicians:

When is a war criminal not a war criminal? The answer: when you’re an Israeli. This appears to be the premise the British Government would like us to sign up to, if Downing Street’s latest willingness to dance to Jerusalem’s tune is anything to go by.

Pratt, who has previously featured on HR UK, distorts the circumstances behind the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres (which were carried out by Lebanese Christian Phalangists) to make his point about Israeli “war criminals”:

Looking back across recent history, the roll-call of senior Israeli figures at the centre of such claims gives food for thought. Who can forget the man they nicknamed “the bulldozer”, Ariel Sharon, who, as Israeli Defence Minister in 1982, gave his full approval to an operation that resulted in the massacre of perhaps as many as 2000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut?

Throughout the commentary, Pratt is careful to use the word “alleged” to precede references to Israeli “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity”. But this is clearly a journalistic nicety that cannot disguise his utter disdain towards Israel. After all, according to Pratt, the issue:

has revealed two things. The first is that something is rotten in the State of Israel. The second is that Britain’s wimpish handling of the affair has shown once again that when Jerusalem shouts jump, our own Government is only too happy to ask: how high?

Referring to calls to amend the UK’s universal jurisdiction law, Pratt employs the accusation of an all-powerful domestic Israel “lobby” working against British interests:

Call me cynical, but no doubt the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Jewish state’s other bullying lobbies here in the UK and elsewhere were working overtime to ensure it was ever going to be so.

Pratt attacks Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman claiming that Lieberman’s more controversial policies towards Israel’s Arab minority command considerable public support. In fact, while Lieberman’s party may part of the ruling coalition, there is also considerable public and political opposition to his policies as is natural in a diverse and vibrant democracy that is Israel.

Referring to Lieberman’s proposals for a “population transfer”, it is disingenuous to suggest that Israel recently staged a training exercise to test its ability to quell any civil unrest that might result from such a controversial move. Such policing exercises are based not on any master plan for “transfer” but on continuing incidents of civil unrest in the Israeli Arab sector dating back to 2000.

Pratt concludes:

So just when can we expect the British Government to wake up to the reality of what the State of Israel actually represents: a dangerous and demanding bully that insists in getting its own way and damns the consequences?

Britain’s universal jurisdiction law has been abused by anti-Israeli extremists. As an editorial in The Times (subscription only), published on the same day as Pratt’s screed, points out:

In other circumstances this is a benign and important legal principle. Some countries where terrible crimes have been committed do not have a legal system strong enough to try the perpetrators. This is the reason that Charles Taylor, the former tyrant of Liberia, is now on trial at The Hague. Likewise Radovan Karadzic, the medical quack who led the Bosnian Serb republic while its forces scattered Muslim populations and destroyed Bosnia’s multi-ethnic democracy. If the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995 is not a crime against humanity and an affront to universal standards of justice, then nothing is.

But the Israel-Palestine conflict is not like these cases. It is an intractable conflict between competing and legitimate nationalisms, both of which must be accommodated in an eventual territorial compromise. …

This abuse of the language of justice and human rights should end right now. It in no way advances the cause of diplomatic understanding or a two-state territorial settlement.

Send your considered comments to The Herald – letters@theherald.co.uk

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The above is how Haaretz chose to illustrate the tensions in U.S.-Israel relations. This cartoon by Amos Biderman is offensive ...