Thursday, 10 December 2009

Tom Harris replies on Gaza and Goldstone

A further exchange with my MP, Tom Harris. (Previous exchange here.)


House of Commons, London SW1A OAA

2 December 2009

Dear Mr Hilley

Humanitarian situation in Gaza

Thank you for contacting me again regarding the response I passed onto you from Ivan Lewis and those on the Goldstone Report.

In your letter, you indicate that you feel that the response from Mr Lewis is not personalised to the concerns you raise. I cannot agree. On several occasions in his reply, Mr Lewis refers specifically to the points you raised. I am afraid that it will not always be the case that the Minister's response is the one you had hoped for. It is for this reason that I will not be writing to him again to ask for further clarification on this issue.

You have also asked for my opinion on the Goldstone report. As you point out, the UK and many other EU countries abstained from the vote to endorse it at the UN General Assembly. The report, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council raises some serious issues, but as Foreign Secretary David Miliband has pointed out it is also flawed. In a letter to the UK's leading Jewish community organisations the Foreign Secretary said:
"I share important concerns about the failure of the Goldstone Report to recognise adequately Israel's right to protect its citizens and pay sufficient attention to Hamas's actions. I am also very clear that the excessive emphasis on Israel by the Human Rights Council is deeply unhelpful...The Goldstone Report does raise some serious issues which should be properly investigated. We have asked Israel to show the strength and rigour of its democracy by establishing full credible and impartial investigations. And we have continued to be absolutely clear in our condemnation of Hamas rocket attacks as a clear violation of international humanitarian law."
It is my understanding that there are also some concerns about the report's propriety. It is for these reasons that I agree that the UK was right not to endorse the Goldstone report. I hope you find this information useful.

Best wishes

Tom Harris MP
Member of Parliament for Glasgow South


9 December 2009

Dear Mr Harris

Thanks for responding to my further letter.

You say:
"I am afraid that it will not always be the case that the Minister's response is the one you had hoped for. It is for this reason that I will not be writing to him again to ask for further clarification on this issue."
I'm rather intrigued by the 'logic' behind this statement. It seems to be saying that Ivan Lewis's differing view (which I, of course, expected) precludes you from putting any further questions to him on my behalf. That's a bland evasion, not a credible reason for dismissing my questions to him.

The same kind of evasion permeates your rejection of Goldstone. Citing David Miliband's own evasive reasons for rejecting the report is merely seeking shelter behind the UK's shameful abstention.

The Goldstone report has been widely commended for its fairness and scrutiny. There's no serious doubt about its "propriety" - as you insinuate, yet fail to explain - among international jurists like Goldstone himself.

It's also worth reiterating that Goldstone has fairly strong Zionist sympathies and accepted the enquiry mandate reluctantly. Yet, he still found Israel to be in serious breach of international laws and liable for war crimes charges. Are we to believe that the "flawed" legal aspects you suggest - again, none of which are elaborated here - justify this blanket rejection of the report?

As you, of course, know, Goldstone has also recommended action against Hamas regarding rocket fire. So, the UK's and your own stated objections on these grounds have no rational basis.

It's entirely obvious that the UK's close relationship with Israel is the central reason behind the refusal to support Goldstone. And your own pro-Israel sentiments are entirely consistent with that alignment. Which, in turn, explains your refusal to put my further question to Ivan Lewis regarding his Labour Friends of Israel membership and (as with Miliband and Brown) the part that affiliation played in rejecting Goldstone.

One year on from the slaughter of Gaza, the Goldstone report offers a comprehensive statement on those crimes and what the international community can do about them.

As my MP, I have you on record as saying that you won't endorse Goldstone and that process of justice. I hope to have your refusal highlighted come the next general election.

Yours sincerely

John Hilley


Plase sign the petition urging the UK government to endorse the Goldstone report.


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