#DoubleStandard: Legal status of #British dual citizens fighting for #Israel?

[1] FactCheck: what about the Britons who fight for Israel? ~ Patrick Worrall, CHANNEL4NEWS, July 7, 2014. 

Channel 4 FactCheck goes behind the spin to dig out the truth and separate political fact from fiction. 

The claim

“We have British citizens going over to fight in the Israeli army. Yesterday we know they are taking part in the collective punishment of a civilian population. That’s a crime.” Farooq Siddiqui, 3 July 2014

An ex-adviser to the government on tackling extremism in Britain’s Muslim communities raised an interesting point on Channel 4 News in relation to Brits who fight in conflicts abroad.

Farooq Siddiqui, formerly of the Prevent programme, is calling for the UK to stop criminalising young Muslims who travel to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad.

Security service estimates suggest around 500 Britons have travelled to Syria to take part in the civil war.

Mr Siddiqui asked why the government has threatened to arrest British Muslims who return from Syria while it allows young people to fight for Israel and other countries with impunity.

“If we’re talking about stopping people, Muslims, stopping them from going over to other countries and fighting, why are we not doing that as a blanket for stopping anyone that goes over abroad to fight in other countries?”

Is Mr Siddiqui right to say that young Brits are fighting for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while the Israelis are engaged in controversial strikes against Palestinian targets following the murder of three Jewish teenagers?

The analysis

Most Israeli citizens are obliged to do national service of up to two-and-a-half years in the country’s military, and so a significant number of British-born Israelis or immigrants with dual nationality will inevitably join Israel’s armed forces for a spell.

But you don’t have to be a citizen of the Jewish state to fight for the IDF.

The Israeli military runs a programme called “mahal” which allows non-Israeli nationals of Jewish descent to join the ranks of the armed forces for an 18-month tour of duty.

According to the rules, British men under 24 or women under 21 who have one parent or grandparent who is or was Jewish are eligible.

That’s Jewish (you need to prove it by getting a rabbi to sign a confirmation) not Israeli.

Overseas recruits get the same pay and conditions as Israelis and “serve always shoulder to shoulder with regular Israeli soldiers”.

The numbers of volunteers from the UK are small but significant: the IDF told Channel 4 News there are “around one hundred Brits currently serving” in its ranks.

There is a even a support group for British parents of IDF soldiers called Mahal Mums.

We’re not aware of anyone questioning the legality of this arrangement.

Unlike some other countries, Britain does not have an effective law prohibiting its citizens from fighting for foreign armies.

There is an obscure piece of legislation still on the statute books – the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 – which ostensibly makes it illegal for British citizens to join the armed forces of a country fighting a state at peace with Britain.

But this proved to be embarrassingly ineffective when prosecutors attempted to stop British volunteers from fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

The lack of any practical ban on foreign enlistment leads to the slightly odd situation where a teenager can travel to Syria to fight for the brutal Assad regime with impunity, but if he sides with enemies of the regime he could face prosecution as a terrorist back in Britain.

This is because of the broad scope of anti-terror legislation. In the Queen’s Speech last month, the government set out new laws which mean Brits who travel overseas to train for acts of terrorism against any government will be prosecuted as if their actions had taken place in the UK.

In May Mashudur Choudhury, 31, from Portsmouth, became the first Briton to be convicted of engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts after attending a training camp in Syria.

Choudhury wasn’t threatening the UK, he was training to fight Assad – who David Cameron also wanted to target with military action before losing a Commons vote last year.

But a supreme court judgement from last year ruled that the legal definition of terrorism can include “any or all military attacks by a non-state armed group against any or all state or inter-governmental organisation armed forces in the context of a non-international armed conflict”.

So if someone fights in a civil a war against a regime the British government hates – even if they fight for a moderate faction not banned as a terror organisation – they can still be prosecuted as a terrorist.

War crimes?

Mr Siddiqui is not the only person to have accused Israel of war crimes over its recent actions in the West Bank and Gaza in the wake of the killings of three Israeli teens.

Amnesty International has echoed his use of the words “collective punishment”, saying: “Justice will not be served by Israel seeking revenge by imposing collective punishment, or committing other violations of Palestinians’ rights.”

Collective punishment against a civilian population is banned under the fourth Geneva Convention.

But in the absence of any legal case brought against the IDF, the suggestion that Israeli air strikes, arrests, shootings and demolition of buildings constitute “collective punishment” of the Palestinians remains an unproven allegation.

How likely is it that Britons have been directly involved in clashes with Palestinians in recent days? Not surprisingly, we don’t have information on the movements of individual IDF soldiers.

But there is no reason why they would not be involved. The rules of mahal state that overseas recruits are liable to be picked for the same frontline combat units as Israeli conscripts, including infantry, tanks and special forces.

The verdict

It was news to FactCheck, but there are around 100 British nationals serving with the IDF as we speak, apparently with no legal difficulties.

But a Brit who trains or fights with any anti-Assad rebel group runs the risk of being jailed as a terrorist.

If we are worried about young British Muslims heading off to the Middle East to receive military training, should we be equally worried about Jews?

That depends on whether Mr Siddiqui is justified in comparing the experience of serving in a professional army overseas to fighting alongside Islamist militant groups in Syria. Of course this is a politically-charged and highly debatable point.

He insisted in the interview: “It is a fighting force, whether you want to say it’s disciplined or it’s a militia. The effect on the individual, the effect on the combatant is still the same.”

_____________________________________________________

[2] Dual Israeli-British nationals serving with IDF ~ WhatDoTheyKnow.

Fahad Ansari made this Freedom of Information request to Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

This request has an unknown status. We’re waiting for Fahad Ansari to read recent responses and update the status.

From: Fahad Ansari
19 November 2012

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Please provide statistics of how many dual British-Israeli
nationals have served with the Israeli army in operations in Gaza
since 2008.

The Home Office has informed me that you would have this
information.

Yours faithfully,

Fahad Ansari

Link to this

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

22 November 2012

FOI Request, Ref: 1183-12

Dear Fahas Ansari

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. It has been assigned a
unique reference number (above) and has been passed to the relevant
section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will
be in touch with you should your request need clarification.

We received your request on 19 November 2012 and will aim to respond
within 20 working days from that date.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Team
FCO

show quoted sections

Link to this

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
14 December 2012


AttachmentFOI 1183 12 Ansari doc doc.pdf
104K Download View as HTML


Dear Fahad Ansari,

Please see attached response to your Freedom of Information request.

Kind Regards,

Abby

Abigail Bentinck | ADO Israel & Occupied Palestinian Territories | Near
East Department (NED) | Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Tel +44 (0) 20
7008 3452

P Help save paper – do you need to print this email?

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.fco.gov.uk/
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

Link to this

From: Fahad Ansari

18 December 2012

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Foreign and
Commonwealth Office’s handling of my FOI request ‘Dual
Israeli-British nationals serving with IDF’.

The FCO state that it does not hold this information. I previously
requested this information from the Home Office
(http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/du…)
whose response was

“We have carried out a thorough search and we have established that
The Home Office does not hold the information which you have
requested. This information would be held by the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO).”

If the FCO do not have this information, then who does? There must
be a record of it considering the grave implications of British
citizens serving in the armed forces of another state and
potentially being involved in war crimes.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/du…

Yours faithfully,

Fahad Ansari

Link to this

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

18 December 2012

Internal Review for FOI Request Ref 1183-12

Dear Mr Ansari

Thank you for your request for an Internal Review of your FOI Request Ref
1183-12.  It has been passed to the relevant department within the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you with
an outcome.

We received your request on 18 December 2012 and will aim to respond
within 20 working days.

Yours sincerely

Information Rights Team

FCO

show quoted sections

Link to this

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

18 January 2013


AttachmentInternal Review FOI 1183 12.pdf
135K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Ansari,

Please see attached response to your request for an internal review of FOI
request:1183-12

Kind Regards,

Abby

Abigail Bentinck | | Near East Department (NED) | Foreign and Commonwealth
Office

P Help save paper – do you need to print this email?

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.gov.uk/fco
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

Link to this

We don’t know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you areFahad Ansari please sign in and let everyone know.

Things to do with this request

Anyone:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office only:

_____________________________________________________

[3] Western governments urged to ban dual nationals from serving in IDF ~ MIDDLE EAST MONITOR, Thursday, 31 July 2014.

Western governments, including those in America, Britain and across the EU, are being urged to ban their citizens holding dual Israeli nationality from serving in the Israel Defence Forces. The call has been made after it was revealed that an estimated 5,000+ dual-nationality citizens are fighting with the IDF in the war against the people of Gaza.

The figure came to light after Western media reports mourned the death of such servicemen. Positive coverage, alleges the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR), gives support to the Israeli government, which is the aggressor and occupier in Gaza responsible for the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.

The AOHR said that the IDF has admitted that 4 of its soldiers with US citizenship have been killed and named them as Max Steinberg, 24, from Los Angeles; Sean Carmeli, 21, from Texas; Jordan Bensemhoun, 22, from Lyon; and Guy Boyland from New Zealand. All four were in the feted Golani Brigade. Israel, it is claimed, has been pushing these soldiers to the front line deliberately because their deaths do not cause the same domestic uproar as those soldiers whose parents live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Apart from the US and EU citizens (of which 100 are British), there are 150 South Africans serving in the IDF at the moment.

According to AOHR, the number of dual-nationality soldiers serving in the Israeli army as announced by a US organisation called Friends of the Israel Defence Forces is inaccurate and contradicts the figures released by Israeli sources. US media quoted the organisation as claiming that more than 750 US citizens serve in the IDF. Friends of the IDF is very active in the US and raises funds to support the Israeli occupation army. In March 2013 alone, it collected more than $27 million tax-free.

Many mercenaries are also recruited by Zionist organisations such as Sar-El, claimed AOHR. They serve in the IDF for short periods of one to six months, especially during holidays. Sar-El has more than 33 branches around the world. It has been pointed out that Western media praise such organisations without condemning the breaches of international laws and conventions committed by the IDF, including alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a report published on the CNN website on 24 July, US soldier Daniel Flesch, 26, said that he joined the Israeli army in 2010. In a Skype interview during the Israeli attack on Gaza, he said that he wanted to actually fight back against those “who think Israel and the Jewish people should not exist.” He added that he joined the army to fight against what he perceived as a growing level of anti-Semitism in America. CNN did not even question the legality of serving in the Israeli army but instead invited all those who travel to serve in the Occupied Lands to “share” their stories with the station. The channel added that the figures of those who served in the Israeli army during the aggression on Gaza was not known for certain but was on the rise.

Britain’s Daily Mail has published very emotive stories and photographs of dual nationality soldiers killed in Israel’s war against civilians in the Gaza Strip. Critics note that they are regarded as heroes instead of soldiers in the service of a rogue state whose army has killed more than 1,300 Palestinian civilians and wounded thousands more, many of them women and children. None of the international reports about the deaths of such soldiers have questioned the morality or legal implications of people serving in an army responsible for alleged war crimes.

The AOHR accused the media of producing articles which encourage recruits to join the IDF. This, it claims, is unprofessional and makes the newspapers complicit in Israeli crimes.

The double standards of such journalism highlights the hypocrisy of governments which prosecute others, particularly Muslims, who go to fight for causes in other countries. TheDaily Mail, noted the AOHR, often brands British citizens who go to fight in other countries as terrorists. Their homes are usually searched by security forces and other family members are arrested; some of the fighters have been put on trial upon their return to Britain and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. US citizens who fight for Israel are also treated very differently to those who choose to fight for causes unpopular with the US government. This, claimed the rights organisation, demonstrates that the US government approves of its citizens fighting in the Israeli army. It pointed out that former US peace envoy Martin Indyk actually served in the IDF himself; he is not alone among US officials in doing so.

The AOHR UK called upon the US and EU countries to close down the organisations which recruit citizens for service in the Israeli occupation army and bring back those citizens currently serving there. Should they refuse to return, they should be stripped of their citizenship, it insisted.

______________________________________________

[4] Status of Any British Citizens Serving In Israeli Military ~  JULY 31, 2014.

In the light of Robert Fisk’s recent article on the potential of British citizens serving in the Israeli military, I have written the following letter today to the Home Secretary.

Dear Home Secretary,

I have provided below a link to an article written by Robert Fisk, the much respected journalist and expert on the Middle East.

Here is the link to the Robert Fisk piece:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-not-just-radicalised-islamists–what-about-foreign-fighters-who-flock-to-the-idf-9634260.html

You will see that in this article he raises the question of the possibility of British passport holders fighting in the Israeli military or on behalf of the Israeli state in recent conflicts.

I am aware of the Government’s policy of detaining and prosecuting those British citizens travelling to fight in the current Middle East conflicts.

I am writing to ask if you are aware of how many British citizens are currently fighting with, or are intending to join, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in and around the Gaza Strip?  Will you be making the necessary arrangements to assess the numbers involved?

Will you in your capacity as Home Secretary be advising all British citizens publicly that engagement with the IDF in the current onslaught on the population of Gaza puts them at strong risk of being held personally responsible for the war crimes currently being committed in the form of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, or firing that knowingly risks the lives of non-combatants, and the imposition of collective punishment, all of which are unlawful in international law?

Will you be explaining to them that association with those who are intentionally targeting civilians for political ends, or participation in such acts, would involve them in an association with or engaged in, the perpetration of acts that meet the statutory definition of terrorism in the UK?

Will you be warning any British citizens considering engagement with the IDF that, in line with established British Government practice (e.g. the deprivation of British citizenship from, to date, at least 40 UK passport holders who have been involved in the Syrian civil war), such engagement may put their British citizenship in jeopardy?

Given the seriousness of the current situation in Gaza and the apparent escalation of the Israeli attacks on Palestinians, I urge you to address these questions promptly so that any British citizen currently participating or planning to participate in these attacks is warned of the potential consequences and thus may be deterred from acting in this way.

Yours

John McDonnell MP

______________________________________________

 

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