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Back Activities Alert Archive Action Alert: Ex-Israel Adviser appointed to head Foreign Office Legal Department

Action Alert: Ex-Israel Adviser appointed to head Foreign Office Legal Department

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An ex-Israeli government adviser has recently been appointed to head the British Foreign Office\'s legal department

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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07 March 2006

Action Alert: Ex-Israel Adviser appointed to head Foreign Office Legal Department

IHRC urges all campaigners to contact the Foreign Office to call for the removal of an ex-Israeli government adviser who has recently been appointed to head its legal department.


1. Background

The British Foreign Office has appointed a controversial Israeli government adviser, Daniel Bethlehem QC, to one of its most sensitive posts as head of the legal department.

Daniel Bethlehem's previous history indicates a pro-Israeli bias which should not taint any legal adviser for the British government. In 2002, Bethlehem's advice led the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to block a UN inquiry into the Jenin massacre. Bethlehem warned in a memo for the Israeli government that if the inquiry\'s findings \"uphold the allegations against Israel - even on a poor reasoning - this will fundamentally alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian leadership and may make it impossible for Israel to resist calls for an international force, the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state and the prosecution of individuals said to have committed the alleged acts.\"

Bethlehem also took the lead for the Israeli government at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004 to defend the “apartheid wall” being built through the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Interestingly, the Foreign Office published a lengthy CV for Bethlehem listing 27 international disputes in which he has been involved but omitting Jenin.

Bethlehem will be now responsible for advising Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on a host of issues such as Guantanamo Bay, the occupation of Iraq and the legality of any pre-emptive strike against Iran. Indeed, Bethlehem\'s view on attacking Iran may be suggested by his evidence last year to the Commons foreign affairs committee. Although an Israeli pre-emptive strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 was judged to be illegal, a good case could have been made for it both then and now, he said.

Campaigners for justice must act now to ensure that the British government will not be influenced by legal advisers who are clearly biased in favour of a nation which routinely breaches her obligations under international law.


2. Suggested Action

Contact the Foreign Office and request the removal of Daniel Bethlehem from his post as head of its legal department. Point out that it is wholly inappropriate for someone with such a bias to be in that position and that his appointment sends out the wrong signal on how seriously Britain takes its own obligations under international law, particularly after the controversy over the legal advice given to the British government on the legitimacy of pre-emptive strike on Iraq.


Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Tel.: +44 020 7008 1500
Fax: +44 20 7839 2417
Email private.office@fco.gov.uk

IHRC urges campaigners to write their own letters. A sample letter is pasted below for your convenience.


[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]


Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH


Dear Mr. Straw:

RE: Appointment of Daniel Bethlehem to Legal Department of FCO

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the appointment of Daniel Bethlehem as the head of the FCO's legal department.

As you are aware, Mr Bethlehem has previously been employed as an adviser to the Israeli government. After the Israeli massacre in Jenin in 2002, Mr Bethlehem warned the then Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon that any UN inquiry into the events could result in it becoming impossible for Israel to resist calls for an international force, the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state and the prosecution of individuals said to have committed the alleged acts.

This advice resulted in Israel refusing to cooperate with the UN inquiry and thus obstructing the course of justice.

Mr Bethlehem also represented the Israeli government at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004 to defend her construction of the vast steel and concrete barrier dubbed the “apartheid wall” being built through the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

Mr Bethlehem's previous experiences will almost definitely taint his viewpoint on international affairs, particularly those which concern his previous employer, Israel. I am most concerned as to how he will be in a position to give independent advice over the issue of any possible attack on Iran. In evidence last year to the Commons foreign affairs committee, Bethlehem said that even though an Israeli pre-emptive strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 was judged to be illegal, a good case could have been made for it both then and now.

It is wholly inappropriate for an individual with such a distinct bias to be appointed to such a sensitive position, particularly after the controversy over the legal advice given to the British government on the legitimacy of pre-emptive strike on Iraq. I urge you to remove Mr Bethlehem from his position without any further delay.

I look forward to hearing from you soon about this urgent matter.


Yours Sincerely,


___________________

[Your Name]





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Holy Qur'an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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