Britain's policy on Israel a total mess

By Robin Shepherd, March 31, 2011
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The bizarre, contradictory mess that is British foreign policy towards Israel was on display yet again last week with that great stage of fools, the United Nations Human Rights Council, providing the setting.

It rarely makes a difference what's on the charge sheet these days. If it's about slamming Israel, Britain's usually either turning a blind eye or heartily voting in favour.

For the record, the motion in question concerned the Mavi Marmari pro-terror flotilla in which nine jihadists died after violently attacking Israeli soldiers who had boarded the ship to prevent it from getting to Gaza.

Even the wording was idiotic. The resolution regretted "the non-co-operation by the Occupying Power, Israel, with the independent international fact-finding mission on the Gaza flotilla incident." (My italics.)

Gaza hasn't been occupied for years and, when it concerns Israel, international "fact-finding missions" are about not finding the facts and inventing calumnies to be put in their place.

Nonetheless, there were our boys at the Human Rights Council, standing shoulder to shoulder with, among others, such paragons of international virtue as China, Cuba, Russia and, my particular favourites given what is going on right beneath our noses, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The US was the only country in the world to vote against, illustrating once again that even under Obama it is the only true friend Israel really has.

But it's not just the abandonment of any semblance of basic decency in Britain's foreign policy towards Israel, it's the fact that it is totally incoherent. Here's Foreign Secretary William Hague, one week previously, discussing the recent seizure by Israel of an arms shipment to Gaza from Iran: "If, as the evidence suggests," he said, "this was indeed an arms shipment from Iran… it would be another flagrant and unacceptable breach of UN Security Council Resolutions by Iran and further evidence of Iran's intention to disrupt stability in the region."

So let's put all this together. The Foreign Office does understand there's an issue here over ships bound for Gaza to support Hamas. Since Israel cannot know for sure what is on these ships, it knows that basic principles of self-defence mean Israel has the right to board them. It has seen the video of jihadists attacking Israeli soldiers on the Marmara, and it therefore knows that this is the reason for the loss of life. Tragic, to be sure. But all perfectly straightforward. No case to answer.

So then Britain votes with the dictatorships at the UN to slate Israel and say that it does have a case to answer, even though it knows it doesn't. Marvellous.

Robin Shepherd is director, international affairs, at the Henry Jackson Society

Last updated: 12:06pm, March 31 2011