Gerald Kaufman: The Coalition is complicit in Israeli war crimes – “God forgive them”
Mr Cameron said that his and the Conservative Party's friendship with Israel ‘thrived in opposition... and will be strengthened in government’. He concluded: "You have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible."
As Mr Cameron was making this speech, Gerald Kauffman, the Hamas representative to the Labour Friends of Palestine, was speaking in the Chamber on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. As Robert Halfon observes, Mr Kauffman’s ‘hatred for Israel knows no bounds’:
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): What my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) has said about the attacks on the strength of the police and about the cuts in police budgets particularly affects us in Greater Manchester, where we have an absolutely excellent local police service that will be severely damaged by what the Government propose.
I wish, however, to concentrate on clause 151, which has been smuggled in to fulfil a Conservative election pledge made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle during the general election, namely the change in the administration of universal jurisdiction in this country. There is no need whatsoever to change the law. To obtain an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal, it is essential to surmount a high hurdle, and that rarely happens. Such applications are made rarely, and are granted even more rarely. This change in the law would never have been proposed if it were not for the case of Tzipi Livni, the war criminal daughter of a terrorist father, who was scared off coming to this country because of the danger of an arrest warrant being issued for her. She was jointly responsible for the slaughter in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in which 1,400 people were killed, including 300 children, in a war in which 14 Israelis were killed, some by friendly fire. It is bizarre that a major change in our criminal justice system is being made at the demand of one of the most discredited regimes in the world.
Mr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman specifically identifies Tzipi Livni and talks about the accusations that have been levelled against her, but I am sure that he will agree that, as Foreign Minister, Livni would not have had either direct or ultimate command responsibility for any of the alleged atrocities. Will he concede that what he has just told the House is incorrect?
Sir Gerald Kaufman: Of course not. Tzipi Livni is a war criminal and, what is more, she issued a vocal and extreme statement in support of the attack on the Gaza flotilla. She is not wanted in this country —
Mr Offord: She is in my constituency.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Order.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: Without the change in the law she would not dare come here. The Israeli Administration are one of the most discredited regimes in the world, and have persisted in committing war crimes, right through to the lethal attack on the Gaza flotilla on 31 May.
Robert Halfon: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Sir Gerald Kaufman: I shall give way in a moment. Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention —[ Interruption. ]
Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members should know better. I do not want a debate going on across the Chamber from sedentary positions. If Members want to intervene, they should do so in the correct manner.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: The fact is that Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention every single day. It has just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements — that in itself is a contravention of international law.
Robert Halfon: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I must say that his hatred for Israel knows no bounds. He explains exactly why universal jurisdiction needs to be changed — it is being used as a political football by people such as him who have hidden agendas.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: There would have been no proposal to change the universal jurisdiction law if Tzipi Livni had not been scared away from this country after committing appalling war crimes against the people of Gaza. It is as simple and as plain as that.
As I said, the Israelis have just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements. The Israeli regime uses its powers of arrest without charge arbitrarily. Two Members of the Knesset, including the Deputy Prime Minister, were scared away by the law, but 30 members of the Palestine National Council are currently held by the Israelis without charge. That is not a threat of arrest, but an actual arrest.
Last month, when I was in Jerusalem, I visited three PNC members who are taking refuge from arbitrary arrest by the Israeli police with the international Red Cross. I met and heard the testimony of young Palestinian children who were assaulted by Israeli police — they showed us their scars and bruises — as a result of the arbitrary and illegal way in which the Israeli police treat Palestinians, including Palestinian children. When we met the Foreign Minister of Jordan in Amman, he told us that he had to offer diplomatic shelter to the President of Palestine because when they were driving along one after the other, the President was continually halted at Israeli checkpoints. For all those crimes and many more, the Israelis are answerable to no one. Now, one of the few sanctions on those crimes will be removed. As a result of the Bill, Israeli politicians will be literally allowed to get away with murder.
That comes at a time when the ground is shifting. As I said, the pledge on the measure was made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle in order to get Jewish votes in the recent general election, but there is an upheaval in the Jewish community, as a result of which the across-the-board support for anything an Israeli Government do is no longer available.
Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend referred to what people said during the general election. Does he recall what position every single Liberal Democrat MP took before and during the general election?
Sir Gerald Kaufman: I am well aware what they said, because week after week, I sat in the Chamber at business questions, when the current Deputy Leader of the House rose without fail to say how heinous and unacceptable it would be for the Labour Government to change the law on universal jurisdiction, and how the Liberal Democrats would be totally opposed to any such change. We have an obligation to remind the electors of Oldham East and Saddleworth of the broken Liberal Democrat pledge of 3,000 more police on the streets, and of their broken pledge to oppose any change in the law on universal jurisdiction. Those things will not go by unnoticed.
As I said, an upheaval is taking place in the Jewish community. The attitudes of leading Jews who have been vocal champions of Israel are becoming deeply critical of the current Israeli Government. One of the most active and vocal supporters of Israel has accused them of being in the process of turning Israel into an “apartheid state”.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) pointed out, the hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats on universal jurisdiction is unlimited, as on so many matters. Week after week, their spokesman rose and vehemently opposed a change in the law for which he will vote tonight, just as Liberal Democrats voted last week in blatant breach of their election pledges.
Whatever change in the law the Government introduce for the most craven reasons, Tzipi Livni and her ilk will remain unwelcome in this country. What worries me is that without a valid and operable legal sanction — one currently exists, but the Bill will repeal it — and without the legal deterrent that the Bill removes, disapproval of the presence in this country of Livni, Netanyahu and their cronies will take forms that I and many others deplore.
Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman is at the extreme in his views on Israel? Many of us consider them abhorrent, and Front Benchers on both sides of the House have expressed their support for clause 151. It is interesting that he has used the debate on the Bill as a vehicle to display his political views rather than to debate justice. Does he agree that arrest warrants should be issued when there is insufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, because that is at the heart of this matter of justice, not his political views?
Sir Gerald Kaufman: The hon. Gentleman may wish to behave like a creep to his Front Benchers — I was elected to Parliament not to creep to my Front Benchers, but to speak on behalf of my constituents. Indeed, I persuaded the previous Prime Minister to abandon his proposal to change the law on universal jurisdiction. I went to see him and persuaded him that the proposal was mistaken, and he did not proceed with it. If my Front Benchers do not want to agree with me, that is their business. I state a view that I have stated consistently in the House for very many years, and I shall continue to do so, because it is the Israelis who are in trouble, the Israelis who are turning Israel into a pariah state, and the Israelis who will be overcome by demographic changes — they will be outnumbered by the Palestinians — and this Government are an accomplice to what they are doing. God forgive them.