London, 7th December 2023 – The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has once again written to the Foreign Secretary calling for urgent clarity on the legality of Britons fighting for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
In the UK, the media was awash with stories of British Israelis leaving to join the IDF, with some reporting that hundreds, if not thousands, of Britons were already on the ground, fighting in Israel and Gaza. Some may be there through the Mahal Programme, a volunteer programme which allows non-Israeli nationals to serve in the IDF in full combat and support roles for up to 18 months.
Many of these Britons may already be complicit in potential war crimes and crimes against humanity and could face future prosecution should these matters go to trial. The Government has made it clear that British citizens should not travel to fight in Ukraine, and those who do could be committing a criminal offence.
The Foreign Office’s official guidance unequivocally states: “If you travel to Ukraine to fight, or to assist others engaged in the war, your activities may amount to offences under UK legislation and you could be prosecuted on your return to the UK.” It is unclear why similar clarity has not been provided in relation to Israel and Gaza.
ICJP’s request is the third one to the Foreign Office in just over a month, which follows an initial request for clarity on the 3rd November and a follow up request on the 22nd November. The second request also put the government on notice of the serious risk of genocide being committed by Israel in Gaza.
The latest request comes only days after it emerged that 19-year-old Briton Benyamin Needham died while fighting for the IDF. He is the second British national confirmed to have died while fighting for Israel since in the last two months. It is now clear that Britons are putting both their freedom and their lives at risk due to their potential involvement and complicity in Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron faced his first Foreign Office Questions in the House of Lords. No questions were taken from the ballot in relation to Israel and Gaza, meaning that the Foreign Office’s position remains unclear. A response to ICJP’s latest letter would provide much needed clarity on this issue.
Notes to Editors:
- The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
- Please follow the links to see the first and second letters to the Foreign Office.
- For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected].