Recruitment of British Citizens into the IDF

Campaign status: ongoing


British citizens are being recruited to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to take part in Israeli military operations in full combat roles through the Mahal volunteer programme.

The Mahal programme is the only volunteer programme that allows non-Israeli nationals to serve in the IOF in full combat and support roles for up to 18 months.

The number of British citizens that have served or are currently serving in the IOF is currently unverifiable. However, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh (an organisation that facilitates immigration into Israel) as of December 2021, 90 volunteers from the UK are serving in the IOF.

Given the range of grave criminal acts and international crimes that are committed in Israel/Palestine by the IOF, it is possible that these Britons could be actively involved in war crimes.

The UK Government’s position on, and approach to, dealing with other British citizens that fight abroad as part of government and non-governmental forces is that individuals should (a) not do so, and (b) could face prosecution on their return to the UK.

Whilst the Metropolitan Police have actively investigated British citizens who have fought in other jurisdictions, to-date, the ICJP is not aware of any Britons who joined the IOF being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

On 1 June 2022, the ICJP requested the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15), which includes the War Crimes Team, to open an investigation into British citizens who have joined the IOF and are alleged to have participated in international crimes under the UK’s counter terrorism legislation. The dossier submitted by the ICJP contains details of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including but not limited to, breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention allegedly committed at times when Britons were serving in the IOF.

The ICJP contends that it is an indisputable fact that members of the IOF have committed or been involved in war crimes. The evidence points to it being highly likely that British citizens joining those forces for extended periods may have themselves committed crimes which are contrary to national counter terrorism legislation and the British Government’s international obligations.

Notably, the ICJP have not been able to identify a single case in which the authorities have:

  1. Investigated whether any British citizen, currently participating in or supporting Israeli military action, has been involved in international crimes and terrorism;
  2. Investigated any person who has entered the UK after potentially participating in international crimes as part of the IOF;
  3. Discouraged individuals from joining Mahal due to the likelihood that they could become involved in international criminal and/or terrorist activity; and
  4. Intervened to safeguard British citizens from radicalisation which would lead to them committing international crimes or terrorist activities as part of the IOF.

Each of these steps has been taken in respect of individuals that travelled to Syria, and some of these steps have been taken in respect of individuals who have or intend to travel to Ukraine. Although there have been petitions to parliament and statements by politicians on the impartial application of this policy regarding Israel and the IOF, as far as we are aware, this is the first legal submission sent to S015 from lawyers demanding that counter-terrorism legislation and policy is applied in a non-discriminatory way.

S015 have since acknowledged receipt of the request and confirmed it is currently being subjected to a scoping exercise.

Press release:

18 July 2022: Press Release: Metropolitan Police asked to investigate British citizens that join the IDF

Media coverage:

2 August 2022: Israeli crimes are ignored as distracted Western leaders lose interest in Palestine (inews)