Shamima Begum should not be stripped of her citizenship

British Jews have cause to fear Sajid Javid's decision, writes Stephen Pollard

February 20, 2019 09:21

It is difficult to imagine a less sympathetic figure than Shamima Begum. Petulant, bigoted, a willing witness (at the very least) to some of the most evil deeds of the twentyfirst century and a defender of terrorism, since being tracked down by The Times she appears to have gone out of her way to ensure that no one with even a shred of decency  could feel sorry for her.

I certainly don’t. I have nothing but ill will towards her and imagine most people’s reaction is the same. And on a gut level, the decision of the Home Secretary to remove her British citizenship seems entirely fair. She made her bed, fleeing to IS, and she should suffer the consequences of that decision.

But our laws and society are not, and never should be, run on gut instinct. Tyrannies are run on the gut instinct of the tyrant. Democracies are run on the rule of law. And in that context, Sajid Javid’s decision to remove her citizenship is deeply troubling.

The ostensible grounds are that Ms Begum is, or is eligible for, Bangladeshi citizenship. There is of course a crucial difference between being merely eligible for citizenship and actually being a citizen, but for the purpose of realising the enormity of the Home Office’s mistake the two can be considered the same.

Speaking for myself, I have always liked Sajid Javid. His instincts have always seemed right and he is a good friend to the Jewish community. And I share his instinct that Ms Begum is a wrong ‘un who we would best be shot of.

But allowing the Home Secretary – any Home Secretary – to arbitrarily strip a British citizen of that citizenship is deeply concerning.

And especially so to British Jews. Because it may be that we soon have a Home Secretary whose instincts we don’t like, and who is not such a friend to our community.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

In this week’s political turmoil it might seem less likely than ever that Jeremy Corbyn will take power. But in my view, given the general uselessness of the current government, and its lack of any clue as to how to get its act together, it still remains more likely than not.

Whoever becomes Home Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn will be part of a government that regards our community not as friends but as, at best, an irritant.

And in that context, it is entirely possible – likely, even – that the same power to strip British citizens of their citizenship would be turned on British Jews. And if you think that is scaremongering, here is a specific example.

A recurring theme for the antisemites and anti-Zionists who buttress the Corbynites is the notion that British Jews who enlist in the IDF are the equivalent of terrorists who join IS. The idea is the inversion of the truth, of course – they are fighting to secure a democracy against terrorism. But it is not just the antisemitic mob in Labour who hold that view. Mr Corbyn himself and those around him share it. He made a version of that comparison at the launch of the Chakrabarti report, saying: “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”

This visceral loathing of Israel and those British Jews who support Israel is in their DNA. It is a defining element of their politics. It is, for many of them, a fundamental reason why they are in politics.

It is almost difficult not to imagine a Corbynite Home Secretary at some point announcing that British citizens who serve in the IDF are fighting for a “terrorist state” - and, if they have the power, as a consequence that their British citizenship has been revoked because they are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the law of return.

This is bread and butter stuff for these people. It is what they exist to do. And it is precisely why we need laws to stop the arbitrary exercise of power.

Because it is not always those we agree with who take decisions.

Shamima Begum is not the reason why British citizens should not be arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship. The Home Secretary, whoever he or she may be, is the reason.



February 20, 2019 09:21

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