‘If Israel’s Tzipi Livni is not a war criminal, why does she refuse to defend herself in court?'

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. © Andrew Kelly
Israel is treating British law with contempt because it doesn’t think Tzipi Livni would get a fair trial, if it ever got to that, Professor Kamel Hawwash, vice chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told RT.

READ MORE: UK police summon Israeli ex-FM Livni over alleged war crimes during Gaza conflict

The UK and Israel have found themselves on the brink of a diplomatic spat after British police summoned Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni for questioning over alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The move provoked a furious response from the Israeli government, which said it is greatly concerned by the UK's "political abuse".

However, the matter was later dropped after the UK granted Tzipi Livni diplomatic immunity.

RT: Why do you think the police did this?

Kamel Hawwash: What we have here, is someone who was in office during a war on Gaza in which over 1,400 people were killed by Israeli weaponry. Collective punishment is no justification for killing them. And this woman was part of the cabinet which approved this, and then went around the world telling everyone what a wonderful operation it was and that it was necessary to protect Israel…The UK has a law - Universal Jurisdiction - which still, despite the change, allows people here to bring cases against suspected war criminals. That is actually a very honorable and moral thing we have here. Unfortunately, though, the Foreign Office shamefully decided to waste the time of a foreign minister… because they had to arrange an ad-hoc meeting for him or her to sit with Tzipi Livni in order for them to issue diplomatic immunity. If Ms. Livni is not a war criminal, why didn’t she accept and agree to defend herself in a court of law and that would be the end of it if she is exonerated. Of course, if she is found guilty, then she should pay for her crimes.  

RT: Why in your opinion is the UK trying so hard to retain relations with Israel? What makes Israel an important ally?

KM: The UK has a long tradition of saying that Israel is an ally. And that is fine. As long as that ally isn’t conducting illegal acts, isn’t in illegal occupation, doesn’t abduct children in the middle of the night, doesn’t put them up in front of military courts. It is not a normal state which is just doing normal business. It is a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ state where you have a part where there is some form of democracy there, start-up businesses do very well and you can understand people wanting to work with it. But what we must say to Israel is “We want to work with you, but only when you stop your illegal acts and especially when you stop murdering children in the middle of the night in Gaza.”

RT: Why is it any of the UK’s business? Isn’t it something for the UN to be looking at?  

KM: Universal Jurisdiction exists as a law in this country. A similar law exists in Spain and other countries. Citizens of a particular state, if they have recourse to law… and asked that someone who is suspected of committing war crimes somewhere else is questioned, I think we should all support it. Because surely none of us want war criminals to be walking the streets of Britain. So that’s what it is about, it is about saying “Don’t come here if you are a war criminal because if you do come here, the law allows us to question you.” And as I said, if she is not guilty, she will be found not guilty. That shows you that Israel treats British law with contempt because it obviously doesn’t think that Tzipi would get a fair trial, if it ever got to that.

Mick Napier from the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign says it is strange “the Israelis should express surprise and outrage at this because for the last decade this has been a running issue in Britain.”

One Israeli general landed at Heathrow airport and had to sit in his El-Al aircraft, which took off while the Metropolitan Police were waiting at immigration to arrest him. An arrest warrant had already been issued”, he continues.

“On this occasion, Livni was only invited to a questioning. But in 2009, there was an arrest warrant actually issued for her.  and she had to be given diplomatic immunity that time. And Israeli Avi Dichter, one of the heads of intelligence, had to cancel a visit here,” he added.

According to Napier, “they [Israelis] are really afraid of is after the Pinochet experience, where even though Pinochet, the Chilean dictator, was a very good friend of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he was arrested by the British police and he was not allowed to leave the country for 18 months because of the crimes he had committed in Chile. So, Israeli senior officers have been warned by their own government wherever they travel in Europe that they need to take special precautions…”

“The question is, ‘How long can the authorities in Britain protect their Israeli allies from very hostile public opinion’… To be seen to be protecting Israeli war criminals is not good for votes, there are no votes in it, and I think this crisis will continue,” he told RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.