Seeking Change in UK Foreign Policy

In the afternoon briefing on Wednesday 3rd March, we were addressed by a number of MPs and Peers who are concerned about the UK’s record of voting against Israel at the United Nations.

Robert Halfon said he is greatly concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism; commenting that it is quite extraordinary the Labour Party had to be castigated over this recently. The Government wants to appoint a free-speech champion, but pro-Israel speakers are excluded from universities by security concerns.

Baroness Ramsay said lobbying MPs on behalf of Israel is vital and our topic this year is very important. As a strong supporter of the United Nations (UN) she is dismayed about the constant singling-out of Israel, saying UNESCO has passed 46 resolutions against it, just one against Syria and none against other countries.

Christian Wakeford described how he and others raised concerns about the UN with James Cleverly last week. Israel is being investigated in detail while atrocities committed in other countries are being ignored. We are missing significant opportunities with Israel currently – Israelis are world leaders in many areas of activity.

Mary Robinson MP

Mary Robinson said incitement in the education curriculum remains an important issue with the Palestinian Authority. She noted that we’ve all been concerned about education in the UK during COVID-19 restrictions, we should be concerned about the Palestinian children too.

Ian Paisley expressed the frustration of many when he asked what the UK Government was thinking of when it condemned Israel more often than Iran and other autocratic regimes. Interestingly, he also noted that support for a two-state solution is dropping among the population in Israel.

John Howell noted that Russia and Turkey are the countries which have most cases before the European Court of Human Rights; yet they don’t feature strongly for criticism in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Baroness Deech said the International Criminal Court decision that it can rule about the ‘Palestinian territories’ ‘drives a coach and horses’ through its founding principles. She is also concerned about the Durban follow-up conference in late September, saying MPs should boycott it.

Lord Monroe Palmer

Lord Monroe Palmer asked what other countries in the Middle East have the religious freedoms that Israel has? Along with matters like this, he said, the Abraham Accords are never mentioned in the condemnatory UN resolutions.

Theresa Villiers expressed appreciation for the booklet produced on the subject, saying it presents the issues in very clear terms. She finds it frustrating that the UK abstained on a resolution condemning Israel in the UNHRC just because it was moved from Agenda Item 7 to Item 2.

Steve McCabe MP

Steve McCabe said we should be under no illusion that some nations are using the UN to spread hatred against Israel – which is nothing short of a perversion of the UN principles. With our seat at the Security Council, Britain should be at the forefront of reforms.

Stephen Crabb believes Britain and Israel are natural friends and allies. The relationship is stronger than it has ever been, across many fields of activity. It pains him that the UK’s voting does not match that friendship. Britain is sometimes guilty of helping the negative perspective on the UN.

Bob Blackman noted that, totally against logic, one UN resolution supported calling the Temple Mount in Jerusalem ‘Haram al-Sharif’. Along with other MPs he is looking for the UK to vote against all anti-Israel resolutions in the UN General Assembly too. He emphasised that Iran must not be allowed to gain the ability to use nuclear weapons.

Matthew Offord mentioned the extent of the threat from Iran, in that the Iranian official who plotted a bomb attack in Paris could also have killed some British MPs who were in the city at the time.

Lord Austin rounded off the afternoon with the observation that, out of 380 million Arab people living in Middle Eastern countries, it is only the ones in Israel who have the right to vote in free democratic elections. Noting that there is great diversity in the Knesset and in Israel in general, he said the ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is an insult to Israel and to the black South Africans who suffered genuine apartheid.

Overall, we were much encouraged by all this support for our appeal to the UK Government for a change in our voting policy at United Nations meetings.