Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”We will always put human rights and the pursuit of peace at the heart of our foreign policy when it comes to Israel and the OPTs”

James Cleverly, Foreign Secretary, House of Commons

Facts

James Cleverly made this remark in response to a question from SNP MP Tommy Sheppard who asked “Whether he has had recent discussions with his Israeli counterpart on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

He was also asked by Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones “What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of recent violence in Israel and Palestine”. The questions came against the background of a wave of settler attacks in the occupied West Bank, the murder of three members of the Dee family, and the incursions by so-called Temple Mount groups in Al Aqsa, one of the three holy sites of Islam. 

Far from putting human rights at the heart of foreign policy, the UK is actually against Palestinians taking Israel to judicial bodies to determine if serious crimes have been committed. Boris Johnson opposed the International Criminal Court having jurisdiction over Palestine. The UK has also voted at the UN General Assembly against seeking an opinion on the legality of the occupation from the International Court of Justice.

Verdict

This cynical readiness to twist the truth has become the defining feature of the contemporary Foreign Office. James Cleverly is a dishonest foreign secretary. However the core problem is institutional rather than personal, and has its roots in the abyss that divides official British rhetoric from actual British practice. Britain’s claim to international legitimacy is based on the proposition that we celebrate democracy, protect the rule of law, support free speech and champion human rights.

To be fair to the British state, it is undeniably the case that it is prompt to raise human rights issues whenever they are threatened by those deemed to be our enemies: Russia, Iran, Syria etc.

However we rarely condemn friends and allies when they commit similar crimes: the United States; Saudi Arabia; Egypt; Israel; the Gulf dictatorships and so on. Indeed when our allies commit war crimes or breach international law we are often quick to use our diplomatic muscle to protect them.

James Cleverly was misleading the House of Commons. According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” 

We emailed James Cleverly’s parliamentary office and the FCDO offering him the chance to respond. The email was received by both but, alas, no reply. 

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