Jewish community stunned over Lammy’s backing of Bibi ICC case

President Biden and Rishi Sunak both condemn the move… but the shadow foreign secretary supports it


David Lammy in front of the Martyrs Monument in Beirut during a visit to Lebanon. (Photo by OLIVER MARSDEN/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)

 The International Criminal Court’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israel’s leader and defence minister has been roundly condemned by Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and Jewish leaders, though Labour’s David Lammy supported it.

On Monday, British prosecutor Karim Khan KC accused Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant of causing starvation in Gaza. He also announced that he was seeking warrants for three top Hamas leaders.

The US President denounced the move as “outrageous”, saying: “Let me be clear. Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas.” Speaking at a Jewish American heritage event on Monday, Biden added that Israel was not committing genocide.

Commenting while in Vienna, Rishi Sunak condemned the prosecutor’s move as “deeply unhelpful”. He said: “There is no moral equivalence between a democratic state exercising its lawful right to self defence and the terrorist group Hamas.

“It is wrong to conflate and equivocate between those two different entities. What I am very clear is that this will make absolutely no difference in getting a pause in the fighting, getting aid into the region, or indeed the hostages out.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy MP, however, sparked outrage by supporting the case, saying: “Democracies who believe in the rule of law must submit themselves to it.”

Reform Rabbi Jonathan Romain said the announcement from Lammy was an "astonishingly poor decision, adding there was "no way Benjamin Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar are in the same bracket. Hamas launched an attack on defenseless teenagers and the other launched a response to that terror.”

MP Stephen Crabb, Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary chairman, said the statement by Lammy was "deeply troubling" that risked “a schism with our closest allies”.

Lord Austin, a former Labour minister, said: “The ICC’s decision is a complete disgrace. There can be no comparison between terrorists like Hamas attempting genocide and a democracy like Israel defending itself.

“There is no prospect of peace until Hamas are destroyed and this is why we must do everything we can to help Israel defeat the terrorists as quickly as possible.”

He added: “Our government and President Biden have both criticised the ICC and supported Israel. David Lammy and the Labour Party should be doing the same.”

Rabbi Jonathan Hughes said: “David Lammy's support for the ICC's decision to seek the arrest of Israel's prime minister is absurd. Imagine Churchill and Bomber Harris being tried at Nuremberg for the bombing of Dresden.

“As Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated, there is zero moral equivalence between the terrorist leaders of Hamas and the leader of the free and democratic country, Israel.

“Mr Lammy ought to tell us whether it is against international law for Israel to refuse to be wiped off the map."

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that Lammy’s position made him the “odd man out.” Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday, he said that Labour “seems to be saying it supports the ICC in every way” and labelled the decision by The Hague-based court “a mistake”.

US congressmen said they would seek to impose sanctions on the ICC if it issued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, a position backed by former national security adviser John Bolton, who said: “The ICC has proven its fundamental illegitimacy.”

Khan, who was elected to serve as the ICC’s prosecutor in 2021, was advised on the warrants by a panel of international lawyers, including Sir Adrian Fulford, a former lord justice of appeal, British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Clooney, and Baroness Kennedy, a barrister and Labour peer.

Baroness Kennedy currently serves as the honorary patron of London-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), having previously been its president.

In 2021, MAP stopped funding Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian NGO designated as a terror organisation by Israel. HWC was accused of diverting aid money to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which participated in the October 7 attack.

Serving alongside Kennedy as a MAP patron is Dr Swee Chai Ang, a founding trustee of the charity who previously sent a video to her email contacts from former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

Titled “CNN Goldman Sachs & the Zio Matrix” it claimed “the Zionist Matrix of Power controls Media, Politics and Banking” and that “some of the Jewish elite practices racism and tribalism to advance their supremacist agenda”.

In 2014, she told the Daily Telegraph: “I didn’t know who David Duke was, or that he was connected to the Ku Klux Klan. I am concerned that if there is any truth in the video, that Jews control the media, politics and banking, what on Earth is going on? I was worried.”

One Israeli official told the JC’s special correspondent in Israel that the “politically driven” case was destined to fail because it focused on the charge of using “starvation as a method of war”, for which the only evidence was “bombastic” statements by Netanyahu and Gallant in the wake of October 7 (see P12).

“It was unnecessary and is now coming back to bite them,” he said. “It’s exactly what an opportunistic prosecutor can use to satisfy those clamouring to put Israel’s leaders on trial.”

Reacting furiously to the ICC’s decision, Netanyahu said: “As prime minister of Israel, I reject with disgust the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murders of Hamas.

“No pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent us from striking those who seek to destroy us.” Khan’s request, he added, “will cast an everlasting mark of shame on the international court.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove told Times Radio: “Hamas is a terrorist organisation bent on slaughter. Israel is a state, and like all states an imperfect one, but trying to defend its people. Equating the two is just nonsensical.”

He added: “There’s a particular narrative that some are seeking to run at the moment which is intended to hold Israel to higher standards than anyone else – double standards – and to de-legitimise Israel for a host of reasons.”

The Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Gove continued, has killed more Muslims than any other world leader.

“So, when the ICC go after him with the same energy they’re going after Israel, then I’ll feel reassured,” he said.

In a statement, the Board of Deputies said Khan’s arrest warrant application would bring Israel and Palestine no close to a “full and lasting peace”.

“We believe that the ICC Prosecutor’s recent application for arrest warrants with regard to the war against Hamas exhibits an entirely unacceptable attempt at moral equivalence between Hamas – responsible for the October 7th Mass Terror Attacks – and Israel, which has been attempting to uproot Hamas from Gaza,” they said.

“We also note that the Prosecutor’s application appears to absolve Hamas from all responsibility for the current state of the situation in Gaza, entirely ignoring the way the terror group uses its own population as human shields.”

Reform Rabbi Jonathan Romain said the announcement from Lammy was an "astonishingly poor decision".

The rabbi said: "There is no way Benjamin Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar are in the same bracket. Hamas launched an attack on defenseless teenagers and the other launched a response to that terror.

The leader of Maidenhead Synagogue added: "The IDF, even though there have been a few examples of poor behaviour, acts in a way that minimises civilian casualties. Hamas are known to operate out of civilian areas and that makes it very difficult for the IDF. It is politically naive and morally dubious to draw an equivalence in the way Lammy has.

"That is not to say Netanyahu is above criticism, he isn't, and some of the robust criticism of him comes from within the Jewish community."

MP Stephen Crabb, who is Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary chairman, said the move by Lammy was "deeply troubling."

Crabb said: “The UK and its international partners have been absolutely right to condemn the ICC’s controversial move. The Labour Party’s decision to support the ICC in drawing moral equivalence between the democratic state of Israel and a vile proscribed terror group is not only deeply troubling but also risks a schism with our closest allies”

A Labour figure with close ties to the Jewish community said they felt the response from Lammy was "that of a lawyer."

They said: "They nuance is always lost with these things. There are people in the community and outside of it seriously concerned about the conduct of Netanyahu, but that is not to say he should be compared to a leader of a terror organisation and one might expect Lammy to clarify that."

They added Labour should think about their position as the party wants to avoid another "LBC moment".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC Israel had "the right” to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians following the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Ronald S Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said that if the court issued an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders it would undermine the international body’s mission of upholding international law without partiality.

“Since [October 7], Israel has acted to both remove direct threats to its security and to provide long-term protection for its people,” he said.

“The chief prosecutor’s baseless call, which could be characterised as antisemitic and which seeks to stand in the way of Israel’s right to self-defence, runs contrary to the fundamental guiding forces of international law and order.”

While the Jewish state is not a member of the court, the Palestinian territories were admitted in 2015. The ICC claims jurisdiction in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Yoav Gallant hit back earlier this week, however, saying: “The State of Israel is not a party to the Court and does not recognise its authority.”

The request for arrest warrants will now be considered by a panel of ICC judges. If approved, the 124 member states of the court, which do not include America, Russia or China, will be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and Gallant if they enter their territory.

Vladimir Putin, who was issued with an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine, cancelled a trip to South Africa for this reason last year.

MAP said: “The allegations in question were made by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the Health Work Committees (HWC), a humanitarian organisation providing health services in the occupied Palestinian territory with whom MAP previously worked in partnership, supporting a breast cancer clinic in the West Bank, alongside other well-respected international donors including the United Nations.

“As we stated at the time, we were concerned that no evidence was provided to corroborate the allegations. However, in line with good practice, we suspended funding to the project pending our own investigation.

“The investigation found no credible evidence to substantiate the allegations. MAP continues to operate within the terms of our mandate and ensure that everything MAP does is lawful and consistent with Charity Commission regulations.

“In the midst of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, in response to which MAP is mounting the largest lifesaving aid effort in our organisation’s 40-year history, it is regrettable that we are having to spend time writing responses to old and discredited allegations against the organisation.

“Regarding the allegations against Dr Swee Chai Ang, please note that while Dr Ang was one of MAP’s founders and as such is a patron, she is neither a director nor trustee, nor has she been for many years.

“We note that Dr Ang has apologised on more than one occasion about sharing the video. MAP opposes racism in all its forms, including antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, and xenophobia.”

Baroness Kennedy was contacted for comment.

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