An online petition asking the British government to arrest Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on war-crimes charges when he visits London in September has gone viral, garnering more than 74,000 signatures so far. The petition has already passed the 10,000 signature threshold that generates an official response from the government. And it’s likely to pass the 100,000 signature mark that could trigger a debate in the House of Commons.
The petition states that “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 [sic] for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014.”
The British parliament’s website says that petitions “which reach 100,000 signatures are almost always debated,” but the government may choose to not hold a debate in the Commons “if the issue has already been debated recently or there’s a debate scheduled for the near future.”
While that caveat isn’t applicable in this situation, members of Parliament may decide anyway not to debate this particular petition. The Israeli Foreign Ministry dismissed the petition, calling it “a public relations stunt with no practical significance.”
Israel has come under intense criticism since the 2014 Gaza war. In a report on the conflict, Amnesty International accused Israeli forces of “war crimes and human rights violations” during the nearly two-month long war “that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services.”
The petition to arrest Netanyahu was launched amid growing anti-Israel sentiment in the U.K.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has adamantly denied the report’s claims, objecting that “despite all the buttons, links and videos, nowhere does Amnesty describe the heinous strategy of these terrorist organizations to embed their military operations within the civilian environment, and to fire at the IDF and Israel’s civilian population from behind the civilian population.”
The petition to arrest Netanyahu was launched amid growing anti-Israel sentiment in the U.K. Last spring, the Arts Council of England granted public funds for a ten-city tour of a play, The Siege, about the 2002 stand-off in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which depicted Hamas operatives as the heroes. In July, four British factories had to temporarily shut down in the face of pro-Palestinian sit-ins targeting the manufacture of equipment used on the West Bank security barrier. The likely election of the openly pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah MP Jeremy Corbyn as Labour-party leader only confirms that the British left wing is tilting farther toward virulent anti-Israel tendencies.
And this isn’t the first time that Israeli officials have been targeted for arrest by British anti-Israel activists. The Jerusalem Post notes that earlier this year, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz was a potential target in taking a trip to London. “Israeli media reported that Mofaz was at risk of being detained on possible war crimes charges since Israeli authorities had tried and failed to secure diplomatic immunity for him on his trip,” according to the Post.
That’s not an issue for Netanyahu: A spokesman for the British Embassy in Tel Aviv told the Israeli news site Arutz Sheva that, “according to British law, foreign heads of state enjoy immunity from the legal process, and cannot be arrested or detained.”
But while Netanyahu isn’t in any real danger, the same can’t be said for Israel — a fact that doesn’t seem to trouble many in Britain.
— Mark Antonio Wright is an intern at National Review.