Israel/Palestine

Should Avigdor Lieberman Be Banned From The UK?

These are the reasons that Quilliam says he should be:

Lieberman’s views:

 Recommends murder of Palestinian prisoners

In 2003, Lieberman, then Israel’s transport minister, opposed Ariel Sharon’s plans to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, saying “It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”

 Calls for attacks on civilian targets

In 2002, Lieberman reportedly called for military attacks on Palestinian civilian targets, telling a cabinet meeting: “At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centres … at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations … at two we’ll bomb their banks” In 1998, Lieberman said that, if war broke out with Egypt, Israel should bomb Egypt’s Aswan dam which provides essential water and electricity to millions of Egyptians. Both of these attacks would have been illegal under international law.

Calls for trial and execution of Arab-Israeli MPs

In 2006, Lieberman called for Arab members of the Israeli parliament to be put on trial for treason and – if found guilty – executed for meeting with members of Hamas. He said: ”World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in this house.”

Calls for forcible transfer of Arab-Israeli citizens

In 2004, Lieberman said: “If we want to stop the conflict, we must separate the two peoples. The main problem is the Israeli Arabs. I think separation has to include them. I am talking about a land swap as well as a population swap. This seems brutal and sounds brutal, but there is no other solution.” Such a transfer, carried out against the will of those transferred, would be a breach of international law.

Allegations of membership of extreme party

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has also reported that Lieberman was formerly a member of Kach, an Israeli far-right party that is banned in Israel and the US under anti-terrorism laws. The newspaper reported that Yossi Dayan, the former secretary of Kach, had said that he was willing to testify against Lieberman were he to deny the claims.

Some, although not all, of these statements should be sufficient in ordinary circumstances to result in a ban on Liberman from the UK. In particular, I can see absolutely no distinction between this statement, and the the terrorist threats of Hamas and Hezbollah:

According to the report in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Mr Lieberman urged that Palestinians be told to halt all terror activity or face wide-ranging attacks.

“At 8am we’ll bomb all the commercial centres… at noon we’ll bomb their gas stations… at two we’ll bomb their banks,” Mr Lieberman reportedly told the meeting before Peres interrupted to say: “And at 6pm you’ll receive an invitation to the international tribunal in The Hague.”

Shimon Peres was right. The same can be said of the suggestion that Hamas prisoners be drowned. There are no circumstances in which this rhetoric is acceptable. I believe that it does have the effect of stirring up hatred. That is its purpose, after all. 

Lieberman’s position on land and population swaps, though objectionable, I think probably fall into another category. The Israeli government moved all Jews out of Gaza, and senior politicians talk about moving Jews from the West Bank all the time. It would be difficult to argue that merely talking about shifting populations around is, per say, a ground for banning. 

I am unsurprised to hear that he started out in Kach – a racist and terrorist party that is rightly  banned in Israel. 

Should this objectionable man be excluded from the United Kingdom?

The purpose of exclusion is to deny to a person a privilege – that of entering the country – in a manner which marks official disapproval of that person’s conduct. I support that process. 

There are, however, other considerations at play. We have to accept the presence in this country of the leaders and ministers of many states, who say or do objectionable things in one way or another. Wen Jiabao. Hugo Chavez. Bashir Al Asad. Silvio Berlusconi. The list goes on and on. That is because, Britain needs to engage diplomatically in the business of state with the executive of other countries. To exclude those individuals would prevent that business being done.  

Therefore, serving ministers should not be excluded from the United Kingdom, except in the most extreme of circumstances: for example, where we’re dealing with a tyrant on the scale of a Mugabe. 

Therefore, although I’d oppose a visit by Khaled Mashal to the United Kingdom, as the leader of a racist and genocidal political movement, were he to become a member of the government of a Palestinian state, there could be no argument against his admittance on official business to this country.  I’d also change my position Gert Wilders’ exclusion, were he to become the premiere of the Netherlands. 

To be frank, therefore, the time for excluding Avigdor Lieberman has probably passed. Although I would have supported his exclusion before he became a minister, as I did the exclusion of Feiglin, and would support keeping him out after he leaves power – if he continues to incite hatred –  I wouldn’t favour excluding him today.

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