[The Conservative party’s full page advertisement spread in the Jewish Chronicle can be found at the footer of this article]
By Omar Radwan
In the run-up to the British General Election on 6th May, the Conservative Party has taken out a full page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle, aimed at the Israel lobby. The advertisement outlines a series of pledges from the Conservatives; each pledge is accompanied by a statement from a leading Conservative politician. David Cameron’s statement is from June 2009, five months after the war on Gaza in which the Israelis killed 1400 people, a third of them children: “If I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on her… I passionately believe in the right of Israel to exist, to defend itself and to live in peace and security”. The UN’s official report into the war accused Israel of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
The first pledge in the advertisement says that “universal jurisdiction will be amended at the earliest opportunity to enable Israelis to visit the UK”. Basically, this means that as soon as he is elected, Cameron will make Britain a playground for Israeli war criminals. The whole controversy around universal jurisdiction began when former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a leading architect of Israel’s war against Gaza, was forced to cancel a trip to Britain after a London magistrate issued a warrant for her arrest on war crimes charges. The warrant was issued under the Geneva Conventions Act, which says that any person who has committed a violation of the Geneva Convention must be arrested if they enter Britain, no matter where in the world this violation took place. This is the principle of universal jurisdiction which the Tories want to change, solely for the benefit of the Israelis. After the arrest warrant was issued, an embarrassed David Miliband said that the government would look at changing current UK legislation in order to protect visiting Israelis from war crimes charges. To date, however, there have been no changes to British law, which is not in any case controversial and simply outlines Britain’s responsibilities under the Geneva Convention. Similar legislation exists in many other countries. It seems, however, that if, or when, Cameron becomes prime minister the laws will be changed. A quote from Edward Garnier, the Shadow Attorney General, confirms this: “The Tories will change the law if this government doesn’t. There is support for this from David Cameron and William Hague downwards. Our courts will not be used as the venue for street protest.”
This quote speaks volumes about the contempt that the Conservatives have for the Muslim community in Britain and in the wider world. Calling to account alleged war criminals who may have the blood of women and children on their hands is, according to Mr. Garnier, mere “street protest”, an expression which is meant in this context to convey an image of radicalism and hooliganism.
The Conservatives’ Jewish Chronicle advertisement promises that “hate groups and hate preachers will be banned from the UK”, quoting David Cameron on the subject: “Is our Government doing enough? My answer is no. Hizb ut-Tahrir is still not banned. And then there are the decisions that in my view completely fly in the face of common sense. They blacklist an American shock jock. But they let in anti-Semites like Ibrahim Moussawi with open arms. These people should not be allowed to spread hate in our country.” What this quote means is that under a Conservative government, there will be even more restrictions on the rights of Muslims to freedom of expression and association, while those who wish to spread hatred against Muslims will be free to incite as they wish.
In 2005, following the London bombings, Tony Blair’s government announced its intention to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite this group’s condemnation of the atrocity. Blair was later advised against a ban, because the group was non-violent and banning it would be counter-productive. The group is still legal in Britain, but it is a fringe group in the Muslim community, with very limited support, and its ideas are outside the mainstream of Muslim politics. However, in a democracy, one would assume that any group which does not advocate violence would be permitted to operate openly, and Cameron’s continued call for a ban suggests that he does not respect the rights of Muslims to freedom of expression. This is doubly evident when Cameron talks about Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim scholar who is respected widely across the Muslim world and who has spoken out in favour of tolerance and inter-faith dialogue, and against extremism. He was however, banned from the United Kingdom following a campaign of vilification by the media, mainly because of his defence of the rights of the Palestinians to resist Israeli occupation by all necessary means, as was Ibrahim Moussawi, who is a spokesman for Hezbollah. Cameron’s statement about these two men, who have already been banned from the United Kingdom, is unnecessary except as a signal to supporters of Israel that he will always be a loyal ally against Muslims who speak out in favour of Israel’s enemies. On the other hand, the “American shock jock” who Cameron wants to welcome to Britain is a true preacher of hate. He is the appropriately named Michael Savage, whose anti-Muslim rants on US radio which consist of obscene attacks on the Qur’an and Muslims have not only called for the deportation of all Muslims from the United States but also for the killing of “100 million Muslims”. Cameron has shown, with his statement, the depths of his contempt for the Muslim community.
The Conservatives make two pledges on foreign policy in the Jewish Chronicle advertisement. First, they promise to “ramp up the pressure on Iran through the effective implementation of a strong sanctions programme”. Like the other parties, the Conservatives make no mention of Israel’s nuclear weapons when they discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. However it seems that sanctions will not be the end of the story. A quote from William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, is illuminating: “If we win the election, alongside Afghanistan, Iran will be right at the top of the list”. This is a hint that the Conservatives want to drag Britain into another quagmire in the Middle East – which is music to the ears of Israel and its supporters. Second, they pledge that they “will not engage with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah”, quoting David Cameron: “There are some in the West who see some sort of equivalence between Israel and Hamas. I do not. Israel is a democracy – Hamas want to create a theocracy. Israel strives to protect innocent life – Hamas target innocent life.” A quick look at the casualty statistics of the Gaza war would show David Cameron who really targets innocent life in the Middle East, but the lives of the 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, killed by Israel as it deliberately targeted schools and hospitals in Gaza mean nothing to Cameron when it comes to garnering support from the Zionist Israel lobby. His pledge not to engage with Hamas, which won democratic elections in Palestine in 2006, and Hezbollah, which has widespread support and parliamentary representation in Lebanon, flies in the face of the advice of a parliamentary foreign affairs committee which said in July 2009 that the policy of boycotting Hamas was a failure and that the UK government should talk to Hamas, given the support that organisation enjoys among Palestinians. The former Conservative foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram, said the same thing much earlier, in 2007.
With this advertisement, the Conservative Party has contradicted its own policies and has embarked on a disturbing bias towards Israel, at the same time revealing its contempt for the Muslim community. It may be that the party has been hijacked by a special interest group. It has, for example, accepted substantial donations from Poju Zabludowicz, a billionaire who has also financed illegal Israeli settlements and has a residence in one of the settlements on occupied land. While the Conservatives have published this shameful advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle, they have not taken out advertisements in the Muslim media or addressed any of the Muslim community’s concerns in their electoral advertisements. These advertisements usually end with the words, “Vote for change. Vote Conservative.” It is quite obvious what the change will be unlimited support for Israel and its crimes and yet more discrimination against the Muslim community.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.