The director of Conservative Friends Of Israel, Stuart Polak, has been elevated to the House Of Lords by Prime Minister David Cameron this week. Mr Polak is, as reported by The Sunday Times, also a “key figure” for political consultancy, The Westminster Connection, whose clients include Elbit Systems the Israeli-based defence electronics firm.
Mira Bar Hillel speculated in The Independent in 2014, following the Israel-Gaza conflict, that “It seems likely that Polak’s influence [in Westminster] was a significant factor in the government’s refusal to describe Israel’s bombing of Gaza, including attacks on UNWRA, as “disproportionate”. Although surely this would have been the mildest of adjectives in view of what we have been seeing on our television screens every day.”
This peerage comes in the same week that a petition on the British parliament’s website approached 100,000 signature (89,895 at time of writing) calling for the arrest of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over the actions of the Israeli forces in Gaza during 2014. The petition states:
“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September. Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014”
However the UK government has already dismissed the petition, saying in an official statement on the petition: “Under UK and international law, visiting heads of foreign governments, such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have immunity from legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained” and has defended the actions of Israel in the Gaza conflict, stating: “We recognise that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll. As the Prime Minister said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the UK has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts. However the Prime Minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law. We condemn the terrorist tactics of Hamas who fired rockets on Israel, built extensive tunnels to kidnap and murder, and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires. Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, as its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack.”
At the time, then Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg called on the British government to suspend arms licenses to Israel’s government in light of their actions in Gaza, which he described as having “overstepped the mark” of the country’s right to defend itself and was supported by then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable. Conservative Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs, Baroness Warsi, even resigned over, what she described, as the government’s “morally indefensible” stance, describing it as “not in Britain’s national interest” on the conflict and called the Prime Minister “mealy-mouthed” for refusing to describe Israel’s actions as disproportionate.
The petition put to the government shows the movement of those opposing the deaths of civilians, caused by Israeli aggression, is growing rapidly within the British public, however the government chooses to ignores their concerns by ennobling one of the UK’s leading figures in trying to silence condemnation of Israeli military brutality by gifting Mr Polak with more power and influence as a member of the House Of Lords.