Following the Middle East Monitor's report on Tuesday 7th July that Israeli Major General (ret.) Danny Rothschild – was due to speak in the Houses of Parliament later the same day despite there being a record of human rights abuses under his watch in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it appears that the General took flight and left the country, fearing arrest.
The MEMO article outlined some of the various offences that took place while Rothschild was in charge of military affairs in the OPTs, including inter alia the murder of Palestinian children. He has also called for the assassination of elected Palestinian leaders; and the promotion of structures being created in Jerusalem that will further the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. MEMO called for Rothschild's immediate arrest and expulsion from the UK and for the freeing of Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah who has committed no crime and yet is currently sitting in a British prison cell.
Danny Rothschild's mysterious non-appearance at the parliamentary programme was explained away by Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who opened the meeting by saying that the General was unable to attend "due to personal reasons" before handing the floor over to Rothschild's colleague, Deputy Director of the Herzilya Institute for Policy and Strategy, Tommy Steiner. MEMO contacted the Henry Jackson Society, a pro-Israel think-tank which had co-hosted the General's visit, and it was confirmed that Rothschild had indeed left the UK at some point after his talk at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on Monday but before his scheduled talk in Parliament on Tuesday, flying back to Israel due to a "personal matter".
Later, an article in the Jerusalem Post claimed that "Danny Rothschild was forced to cut his trip to the UK short following reports from the Israeli embassy in London that pro-Palestinian groups plan to ask the county court for his arrest, Army Radio reported Wednesday." Further, "The attempted arrest of Rothschild was allegedly in response to the arrest of Raed Salah last week, Army Radio said."
According to Haaretz newspaper, Rothschild, "hurried out of the country, taking the Eurostar to France – so as to avoid passport control at Heathrow – and flying home Tuesday night." This, apparently, came about following a warning from the Israeli embassy that "he was in danger of being arrested if he stayed in the country".
Rothschild's flight from justice took place just days after Knesset Member and former Defence Minister Amir Peretz also fled from Britain on Saturday 2nd July following a warning that at some point during his stay in London he was to be issued with an arrest warrant on suspicion of committing war crimes during the Lebanon war in 2006.
The juxtaposition between the cases of these two Israeli officials who could potentially face arrest warrants in the UK for alleged war crimes and yet were welcomed into Britain by the government, and the case of Sheikh Raed Salah who is being held in a high security prison by the British authorities despite having committed no crime whatsoever is extraordinary. Home Secretary Theresa May has said that her decision to ban Sheikh Raed is based on his "unreasonable behaviour" but she has refused to specify what that behaviour is and yet still felt comfortable enough to imprison him.
In stark contrast, May felt no such need to intervene in Danny Rothschild's visit despite the evidence against him. If nothing else, this is yet more proof of why the laws on Universal Jurisdiction are so vital in this country and why current attempts to change the law must be challenged.
As the law in Britain stands at the moment, an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal can be sought through a local magistrate. The government's (and, to be fair, the previous Labour government's) proposal to change the law relating to universal jurisdiction will mean that all applications for arrest warrants will have to go through the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) instead of a magistrate. Whilst the DPP is not strictly speaking a political appointment, in reality the incumbent usually seeks advice from the Attorney General on legal matters and the latter is an elected MP, so there are more opportunities for decisions to be influenced by political concerns. Theresa May's action against Sheikh Salah suggests that the British government is incapable of judging cases objectively when it comes to Palestine and Israel and that it will always seek to demonise and criminalise the actions of Palestinians – with or without evidence – but are more than happy to overlook actual crimes – even war crimes – committed by Israelis.
International law holds military commanders to account for actions carried out under their command, so even if it were to be argued that in some of the most serious cases Danny Rothschild may not have committed criminal acts personally, he could still be held responsible for what his subordinates have done. Furthermore, as a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Britain has a duty to search for people who may be guilty of war crimes in order to help facilitate their arrest and prosecution. As noted in the International Committee for the Red Cross commentary to Article 146 of the Convention, "The obligation on the High Contracting Party to search for persons accused to have committed grave breaches imposes an active duty on them. As soon as a Contracting Party realizes that there is on its territory a person who has committed such a breach, its duty is to ensure that the person concerned is arrested and prosecuted with all speed." As the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg so eloquently put it: "[c]rimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced."
Someone must be held accountable for the horrific violence and oppression perpetrated against the Palestinian people over the decades under the watchful eyes of people like Major General Danny Rothschild. Instead of the British government wasting their time and taxpayers' money chasing down and arresting well-respected Palestinian leaders and human rights campaigners on the basis of allegations in the pro-Israel tabloids (allegations which Sheikh Raed Salah denies), it should focus on the real war criminals – Israel's military and political elite who are responsible for the shedding of a great deal of innocent Palestinian blood while committing war crimes and alleged crimes against humanity.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.