Has David Miliband changed his spots?

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been providing vital help to vulnerable Palestinian communities ever since the Sabra and Shatila massacre 30 years ago.

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Eyebrows therefore shot up when MAP announced that former foreign secretary David Miliband will be speaking at its Annual Gala Fundraising Dinner tomorrow (Thursday) held in the posh Sheraton Park Lane Hotel.

It seems he’ll be talking about his visit to the West Bank and Gaza.

Miliband will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly grovelled to ’s gangsters for forgiveness for their running the risk of arrest if they set foot in London.

And he’ll be remembered for not having the guts to go visit Gaza, or even Iran while in office.

Back in 2009 Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired general Doron Almog, cancelled engagements in London for fear of being arrested. Israel complained bitterly

Miliband actually apologised to Livni and Israeli Avigdor Lieberman for the arrest warrant issued against Livni. He promised Lieberman to begin working immediately to change the UK laws relating to ‘universal jurisdiction’.  He asked Prime Minister and Justice Minister to find an urgent solution.

But the general election overtook him. Miliband’s grovelling promise was echoed by his replacement, , who announced: “We have had good discussions with Israeli ministers on Universal Jurisdiction where the last government left us with an appalling situation where a politician like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest on coming to the UK…”

He said it was “completely unacceptable… We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation… later this year and I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals”.

Never mind that British law was operating perfectly properly. The warrants were issued to answer well-founded charges. Under universal jurisdiction all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. There should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Applications could be made to a court for private arrest warrants, and this had been happening because the government itself was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragging its feet until the bird has flown.

The beauty of the private warrant is that it can be issued speedily.

Bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority.”

Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.

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Who can forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians during the blitzkrieg known as Operation Cast Lead?

Showing no remorse and with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands, and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of Operation Cast Lead. And speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”

In a sane world no British government minister would undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her.

Yet Miliband’s successor Hague said: “We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily.”

He even tried to make Livni’s monstrous crimes look good by claiming, as reported on the Conservative Friends of Israel website, that “the immediate trigger for this crisis [the war on Gaza] was the barrage of hundreds of rocket attacks against Israel on the expiry of the ceasefire or truce.” It is well known that the ceasefire didn’t expire. It was deliberately breached by an Israeli raid into Gaza that killed several Palestinians with the intention of provoking a response that would re-ignite the violence and provide an excuse to launch Operation Cast Lead, which the Israelis had been preparing for months.

As for , he lives in an illegal squat on stolen Palestinian land and is a wanted criminal on that score alone.

Livni bleated: “It’s about the entire State of Israel and our ability to go on working together against common threats.”

Common threats? The threats Israel faces are caused by its racist expansion, land theft, general lawlessness and hateful attitude towards its neighbours, not to mention the nuclear menace Israel itself poses to others in the region and the Islamic world generally. To suggest we have anything in common with the Tel Aviv regime is absurd.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s office butted in with this arrogant statement: “We will not agree to a situation in which [former prime minister] , [Defense Minister] and [opposition leader and former foreign minister] Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the bench. We utterly reject the absurdity that is happening in Britain.”

Miliband never went to Gaza when he should have done. But he managed to visit Gaza with Save the Children. “I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons,” he said in an article in The Guardian.

Bollox. Hamas were honour-bound to take good care of him. The only danger would have been an Israeli air-strike or a assassin. But those risks go with the job. You can’t be an effective foreign secretary wrapped in cotton wool.

With heading up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What sort of transformation has the groveller undergone that makes him now worthy of an invitation to MAP? Has he become a new White Knight championing the Palestinian underdog against the evil occupier?

I hope so. But I’ll believe it when I actually see evidence that this particular leopard’s spots have well and truly changed.

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under . Read other articles by Stuart.

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