Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“…to say that that country, that leadership, that armed forces, have the intent to commit genocide, I think that’s nonsense, I think that’s wrong”

Lord David Cameron, Foreign Secretary, Sky News

Facts

In an interview with Trevor Phillips on Sky News, Foreign Secretary David Cameron stated that he believed it was “nonsense” to claim that Israel “have the intent to commit genocide.”

In December 2023, South Africa filed a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) arguing that Israel is intentionally engaging in “genocidal acts” in Gaza.

The 84-page document provides impressive evidence that Israel’s actions are “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent (dolus specialis) to destroy Palestininans in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

The document includes precise examples.

In a press conference to foreign media in October 2023, President Isaac Herzog stated that “it’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware[,] not involved. It’s absolutely not true. … and we will fight until we break their backbone.”

Another example comes from Nissim Vatiru, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Member of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, who tweeted in October “we all have one common goal — erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth. Those who are unable will be replaced.”

Outside of the ICJ case, other groups and organisations have been addressing the question of intent. 

Craig Mokhiber, the former Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, described the situation in Gaza as a ‘text-book case of genocide’ in his widely-cited resignation statement

Verdict

Cameron appeared not to be aware of the numerous expressions of genocidal intent uttered by Israeli politicians, military figures and others. As Foreign Secretary, Mr Cameron has a duty to know what’s going on – especially in countries to which Britain sells arms. 

We emailed Lord David Cameron’s office and the FCDO offering them the chance to respond. We received no response.

Client Journalism

Trevor Phillips did not demur when the Foreign Secretary to said it was “nonsense” to think Israel has “the intent to commit genocide.” Phillips let Cameron get away with this claim without contradiction, despite substantial  evidence that senior Israeli figures have been guilty of genocidal talk.

For further examples of Israeli genocidal discourse, see pages 59-67 in the South Africa case

To be fair to Phillips, he is far from alone. Indeed, as far as we can tell, no British journalist challenged any member of the government over Israeli genocidal statements, until Mishal Hussain did so during a BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, roughly 100 days after the assault on Gaza began. Up until that point, as far as we can tell, mainstream British journalists had failed to confront British politicians with examples of genocidal language used by Israeli ministers and others.

For a critical analysis of Phillips’ interview technique, see Owen Jones.

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For readers who wish to make up their own minds, below is the transcript of part of the Cameron conversation with Philips:

Trevor Phillips: A couple of quick questions about related but separate issues. This week you suggested to a parliamentary committee that Israel might be guilty of war crimes. 

David Cameron: I didn’t say that.

TP: Well, OK. Let me ask you this way then: do you agree with the South Africans that Israel has a case to answer before the International Court of Justice.

DC: No, I absolutely don’t. I think the South African action is wrong. I think it’s unhelpful, I think it shouldn’t be happening. Of course, I’m not a lawyer, but they’re talking here about genocide. They’re taking this case on the basis of genocide. To prove that, you have to prove that there was intent. Now, I take the view that Israel is acting in self-defence after the appalling attack on the 7th October. But even if you take a different view to my view, to look at Israel – a democracy, a country with the rule of law, a country with armed forces that are committed to obeying the rule of law – to say that that country, that leadership, that armed forces, have the intent to commit genocide, I think that’s nonsense, I think that’s wrong. 

TP: But you can’t know that. You can only judge on the basis of what they’ve done.

DC: You can judge on the basis on what they have done, and how they’ve acted, and why they’re acting. To say there’s an intent to commit genocide, I do believe that’s wrong. 

TP: Alright.

Published 28 Jun 2024
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