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British government expulsion of Israeli diplomat does not go far enough

April 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

The British Government announced earlier today that it is to expel a senior Israeli diplomat following the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in January, generally believed to have been carried out by Israel’s secret service, Mossad. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called Israel’s “mishandling” of British passports “intolerable”.

MEMO welcomes this development. However, many feel that this does not go far enough given the gravity of the crimes that have been committed. The expulsion of the diplomat, who has yet to be named, is the diplomatic equivalent of a slap on the wrist and only addresses the issue of the cloned British passports, not the murder itself. Tim Marshall, the Foreign Affairs Editor of SKY News, said today that the government is not taking any action over the murder but simply over the issue of the fraudulent documents. He said, “The Government believes they have compelling evidence that those passports were cloned, probably by some arm of the Israeli state. This is not a direct accusation by the UK that they have implicated Israel in the assassination. What Britain is saying is, they have evidence that the passports were cloned and they take it so seriously they are going to expel an Israeli diplomat.”

While there is no doubt that the British Passport is a symbol of British sovereignty and that any attempts to jeopardise the lives of British passport holders or to clone, fake or otherwise tamper with British passports is something that must be taken extremely seriously by the British authorities, the other key element in the whole crime – an act of murder – is being ignored.

Given that the murderers are possibly individuals with dual British-Israeli nationality and have used British passports in order to perpetrate their crime, it is surely a duty of the British government to investigate the matter thoroughly and see that justice is done. Although the murder did not take place on British soil, which may rule out a call for the extradition of the suspects, the British authorities surely still have a very important stake in uncovering the true identities of the killers. If the assassins were British citizens, it goes without saying that this should be a matter of grave concern to the British government; alternatively, British nationals may have been set up by the Israeli secret service. Either way, the British government should be a little more responsive.

Whichever way you look at it the British government cannot simply wash their hands of the case by expelling an Israeli Diplomat. This should be the starting point, especially given that the Israeli government is refusing to cooperate with any investigation. The government should insist on an official investigation into the matter, including a call for those alleged to be involved to be brought to London to take part in that investigation.

The British government has a duty to pursue justice wherever and whenever British citizens are involved in criminal activity, either as criminals or victims. Our government has been extremely slow to fulfil its international obligations in terms of prosecuting Israeli war criminals or getting involved in any meaningful way in terms of pursuing justice for Palestinians, but now that an Israeli agency is being directly accused of murder with the aid, wittingly or unwittingly, of British citizens, now is the time for the government to be more assertive with a country described as a “strategically” by Mr. Miliband earlier this year.

When crimes have been committed on British soil in the past, such as when ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London, the government had no problem in creating a diplomatic uproar with the Russian government. Will the government do that against Israel, or will Israel’s secret service get away with murder, again? Is the British government prepared to protect its citizens and uncover the truth? Or are strategic allies treated as above the law? So many questions, but very few answers.