“The government is considering weakening laws designed to capture alleged war criminals and torturers who enter Britain, after pressure from the Israeli government, the Guardian has learned.
“The changes would bar individuals from seeking international warrants for the arrest of people suspected of serious human rights abuses. The government has confirmed that Israeli officials have lobbied for changes in the law, which has kept some of their military officials away from Britain in case there should be an attempt to arrest them.
“The proposals follow Israeli anger after an attempt was made to arrest one of their senior retired generals, Doron Almog, at Heathrow last September. He was tipped off that police were waiting to arrest him for alleged war crimes in Gaza. He stayed on the El Al plane and flew back to Israel. The warrant was issued by Bow Street magistrates, central London, after an application from lawyers representing Palestinians who say they suffered because of the Israeli general’s alleged illegal orders.”
After all, say Labour ministers, such laws could “jeopardise international relations.” Human rights lawyer Daniel Machover rightly sees the hypocrisy of the Blair position: “If the UK goes ahead and bends to Israeli pressure, while Israel continues its universally condemned illegal practices, this will sent the worst possible signal to the Israeli army. The British government is completely obsessed with controlling these processes.”
Thankfully, at least one MP is raising her objection: “The obvious concern is the way in which the Israeli government in particular seems to be given quite favoured access to interfere in UK domestic policy.”
Following the arrest of Western-friendly General Pinochet in 1998, there was faint hope that alleged war criminals – no matter their origin – would be treated equally before the law. Alas, Israel is always viewed differently within international circles and this seems to be no exception. Unless “we” are given the same consideration as “them”, charges of Western hypocrisy are both warranted and necessary.