We won’t apologize for Balfour Declaration, UK tells Palestinians

The British government has emphatically refused to apologize for the publication, a century ago, of a document that legitimized the creation of a future Jewish state, saying instead that it is proud of the role Britain played in establishing Israel.

In February, the Balfour Apology Campaign, run by the Palestinian Return Center rights group, launched a petition on the British parliament website calling on Britain to “openly apologise to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration. The colonial policy of Britain between 1917-1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation.”

Last week the UK Foreign Office posted a response to the petition, which has so far gained some 13,400 online signatures. If the petition passes 100,000 signatures by May 3 it will debated in parliament.

“The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG (her Majesty’s Government) does not intend to apologise,” the response began. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”

Signed on November 2, 1917 by the UK’s then foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, the declaration announced his government’s intention to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in the Land of Israel.

It was seen as giving the Zionist movement official recognition and backing on the part of a major power, on the eve of the British conquest of the then-Ottoman territory of Palestine.

Former Israeli Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, and other speakers at a Houses of Parliament event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, November 29, 2016 (Courtesy)

“The Declaration was written in a world of competing imperial powers, in the midst of the First World War and in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire,” the statement continued. “In that context, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.

“Much has happened since 1917. We recognise that the Declaration should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination. However, the important thing now is to look forward and establish security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through a lasting peace.”

The response reaffirmed Britain’s support for a two-state solution with Jerusalem “as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.”

In October, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported the start of a year-long campaign to commemorate 100 years since the “crime” of the Balfour Declaration.

Calling the declaration a “colonialist project,” Taysir Khalid, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the new Palestinian effort was intended “to remind the world and particularly Britain that they should face their historic responsibility and to atone for the big crime Britain had committed against the Palestinian people.”

Addressing the United Nations in September, Netanyahu attacked the PA over the plan, characterizing it as another example of Palestinians refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The first in a series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration was held in the British Houses of Parliament in November and was attended by a number of British lawmakers, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev and former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, in a September greeting ahead of the Jewish New Year, hailed the Balfour Declaration as an expression of the “UK’s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.”

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US, Britain, France hold Assad regime responsible for Syria gas attack

The White House on Tuesday confirmed a “reprehensible” and “intolerable” chemical attack had taken place in Syria and pinned the blame squarely on Bashar Assad’s regime.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said US President Donald Trump had been briefed extensively on the attack, and suggested it was in the “best interest” of the Syrians for Assad not to lead the country.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible,” Spicer said, saying the administration was “confident” in its assessment that Assad was to blame.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the attack “bears all the hallmarks” of the Syrian government.

Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that he was “horrified” at the reports of the attack and said Assad’s government has repeatedly used chemical weapons in the past.

His comments followed reports from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which put the death toll from the attack at 58.

Johnson said his government “will continue to lead international efforts to hold perpetrators to account.”

French President Francois Hollande also blamed Syrian leader Assad for what he termed a “massacre.”

“Once again the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility for this massacre,” Hollande said in a statement.

“Those who support this regime can once again reflect on the enormity of their political, strategic and moral responsibility,” Hollande added.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg, April 3 2017. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a Foreign Affairs meeting in Luxembourg, April 3 2017. (AFP/JOHN THYS)

Despite the accusations, the Syrian military vehemently denied it was behind the strike.

“The army command categorically denies using any chemical or toxic substance in Khan Sheikhun today,” said a statement carried by the state news agency SANA.
“It stresses that it has never used them, any time, anywhere, and will not do so in the future,” it added.

The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun left dozens struggling to breathe and displaying symptoms such as foaming at the mouth and vomiting and fainting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A hospital in the town where doctors were treating victims of the attack was also bombarded, an AFP correspondent said.

France called earlier Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the attack.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura also called for the perpetrators to be held accountable for the “horrific” attack.

De Mistura urged “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability.”

Speaking on the eve of a conference on Syria’s future, he said “every time we have a moment in which the international community is capable of being together — 70 countries tomorrow — there is someone, somehow, that tries to undermine that feeling of hope by producing a feeling of horror and outrage.”

But, he added, “we are not going to give up.”

The UN’s Commission of Inquiry for Syria said that it had begun investigating the incident.

“Reports suggesting that this was a chemical weapons attack are extremely concerning. The commission is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this attack including the alleged use of chemical weapons,” said a statement from the UN experts who are probing potential war crimes committed during Syria’s civil war.

The condemnations followed those of others in the international community.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the chemical weapons attack was “inhuman” and could endanger peace talks based in the Kazakh capital.

“President Erdogan said that this kind of inhuman attack was unacceptable and warned it risked wasting all the efforts within the framework of the Astana process” to bring peace to Syria, presidential sources said.

The sources did not indicate who was to blame for the attack, describing it as a “chemical weapons attack directed at civilians.”

Syrian mourners pray next to bodies lying in the back of a pick up truck outside a makeshift morgue following reported air strikes by government forces in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on April 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Abd Doumany)

Syrian mourners pray next to bodies lying in the back of a pick up truck outside a makeshift morgue following reported air strikes by government forces in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, on April 3, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Abd Doumany)

Turkey has been a major foe of the Assad regime in Syria throughout the Syrian civil war, repeatedly accusing Damascus of war crimes. Russia has helped Assad by providing military and diplomatic support, including air strikes and ground forces.

But in the last months Ankara has deepened ties with Assad’s ally Russia, co-brokering a ceasefire that until now had drastically reduced the levels of violence.

Russia’s military said its planes did not carry out any strikes near Khan Sheikhun.

“Planes of the Russian air force have not carried out any strikes near Khan Sheikhun of Idlib province,” said a statement by the Russian defense ministry.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the attack as “monstrous” and added: “I have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.”

Ayrault said “chemical weapons” had been used in the attack and that it was “more proof of the savagery that the Syrian people have been subjected to for so many years.”

UK’s Labour suspends Livingstone for year over Hitler-Zionism comments

LONDON — The UK Labour Party on Tuesday suspended former London mayor and senior party official Ken Livingstone for one year for comments about Hitler supporting Zionism that a disciplinary committee found “grossly detrimental” to the party.

Jewish groups, who had been calling for Livingston to be expelled, called the move “deeply disappointing” and said it would erode the fractured trust between the party and its Jewish members.

“Given that Ken Livingstone has been found guilty, we are deeply disappointed at the decision not to expel him from the Labour Party. A temporary suspension is no more than a slap on the wrist,” the Jewish Leadership Council said in a statement.

“Livingstone’s antagonistic attitude towards the Jewish community has been longstanding and has had a huge impact on Jewish people,” the group said. “This decision makes us question if the Labour Party wanted to repair its historic and long-standing relationship with the Jewish community.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “Relations between the Labour Party and the Jewish community have reached a new all-time low,” said President Jonathan Arkush.

The Labour Party panel that decided Livingstone’s fate technically leveled him with a two-year suspension, one year of which has already been served, according to the Guardian.

He was charged with “engaging in conduct that in the opinion of the National Executive Committee was prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party.”

A year ago, as the Labour Party was grappling with a series of gaffes deemed anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic, veteran leftist Livingstone, a member of Labour’s National Executive, claimed that Adolf Hitler was initially a supporter of Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”

Livingstone also charged that for decades in the UK there had been a “well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticizes Israel policy as anti-Semitic.”

London's mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone during a visit to Hamley's toy shop. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Ken Livingstone (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Last week, he caused fresh uproar by claiming that German Zionists received assistance from the SS and were close collaborators of the Nazi regime.

Livingstone’s case was heard by three members of an 11-member Constitutional Committee. Two lawyers, one retained by him and one by the Labour Party, cross-examined him and a number of witnesses: Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, the only Jewish affiliate to the Labour Party, and five members of the activist group Jews for Justice for the Palestinians (JfJfP), described by Livingstone as “leading Jewish members of the Labour Party.”

This was slammed by the mainstream Jewish community who have said that JfJfP is not representative of Anglo-Jewry. However, lawyer Michael Mansfield, representing Livingstone, tried to persuade the panel that the views of “Livingstone’s Jews”, who included a 93-year-old Berlin-born Holocaust survivor, Walter Wolfgang, were as equally representative of Jewish feelings as those of the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Labour Movement.

Livingstone, who had expected to be expelled from the party and had planned to fight expulsion through a judicial review, seemed pleased with the verdict, calling it “pretty fair,” the Guardian newspaper reported.

“Have I said anything that wasn’t true? All the Jewish activists who spoke on my behalf yesterday, all actually confirmed what I said was true.”

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (YouTube screenshot)

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (YouTube screenshot)

While the suspension is seen as a blow to the man who been a member of Labour for half a century, the Jewish Labour Movement reacted to the verdict with dismay, saying it was “a betrayal of our Party’s values,” and allowed for “a revolving door for repeat offenders.”

“It simply can’t be acceptable that there can be some kind of revolving door policy, that you can revise the history of the Holocaust, duck out of the party for a year — and then come back,” said Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement. He described the suspension as “a betrayal of our party’s values” and called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to make a hard and fast ruling of “zero tolerance” on anti-Semitism.

Paul Charney, chairman of Britain’s Zionist Federation, said: “The fact that Ken Livingstone remains a suspended member of the Labour Party and was not expelled at today’s hearing serves only to drive a larger and more robust wedge between our Jewish community and the Labour Party. The comments made by Mr Livingstone regarding Hitler and Zionism bear no resemblance to the truth and are a disgrace to the values he and his party apparently hold.”

Added Charney, “Where Labour had an opportunity to make clear that antisemitic slurs made by Livingstone have no place within our society, they instead showed that when it comes to Jews, liberal standards are readily set aside.”

UK withholding diplomatic visa from incoming Palestinian envoy — Abbas

Britain has so far refused to grant a diplomatic visa to the newly appointed Palestinian Authority representative to the United Kingdom, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday.

In an interview with the Pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, Abbas admitted the UK had thus far held off on granting Maen Areikat, the former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in Washington, the same status as his predecessor in London Manuel Hassassian, in what appears to be a sign of ambivalence over Areikat’s diplomatic status.

“We asked the British government to treat the new envoy as it had treated the previous ambassador. It should not change its treatment as that would mean bad will and misconduct from Britain, and we will have a position and reaction to that,” Abbas said, after being asked if it was true that Areikat had not been given the sought-after documentation.

When asked if he knew the British were attempting to reduce the diplomatic standing of the PA’s envoy to London, Abbas responded: “The British are trying to scale back and are trying to put restrictions and obstacles. But we told them that we want to be treated like before, to deal with the new ambassador just like the former ambassador.”

Former head of the Palestinian delegation to Washington, Maen Areikat. (screen capture: YouTube/CNN)

The Palestinian office in London was upgraded into a diplomatic mission in 2011.

“The consultations are not over yet. I do not think it is a big problem,” Abbas added.

However, when asked if the PA would act in kind against Britain, Abbas responded: “All possible options will be open to us.”

Abbas did not explain why the British were withholding a diplomatic visa for Areikat.

The British consulate in Jerusalem did not respond to an inquiry on the matter.

The diplomatic dust-up comes as Palestinians have threatened legal action against the British government if it does not retract its intention to celebrate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration, a document signed on November 2, 1917, by foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour, announced his government’s intention to facilitate “a national home for the Jewish people” in the Land of Israel.

Abbas said during the interview with Al Quds al Arabi that the PA was continuing with its plans to sue over the declaration.

Palestinian officials have long branded the Balfour Declaration a “crime,” and last July officials in Ramallah announced plans to sue the British government over the document, viewed in Israel as an important step toward the country’s creation.

Lord Arthur Balfour and the Balfour Declaration (Wikimedia commons)

Abbas has spoken out against the centennial celebration of the document at nearly all of his recent major international speeches, including most recently at the Arab Summit in Jordan last Wednesday.

He has also called on the UK to apologize for the declaration and do so by recognizing the state of Palestine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his British counterpart, Theresa May, in London on Monday, February 6, 2017 (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an official visit to the UK in February that an invitation he received from British Prime Minister Theresa May to attend November’s centenary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration in London “speaks volumes” about Jerusalem’s relationship with Downing Street.

“While the Palestinians want to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration, the British prime minister is inviting the Israeli prime minister to an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration. That speaks volumes,” Netanyahu said.

UK, France, Germany slam Israeli announcement to build new settlement

The UK, France and Germany on Friday condemned the Israeli security cabinet’s unanimous approval on Thursday to build the first officially sanctioned new settlement in the West Bank in more than 20 years.

The new settlement late was approved late on Thursday for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost, which was razed last month after the High Court of Justice ruled that it was built on private Palestinian land. The new settlement will be built next to Shilo.

The cabinet on Thursday also announced the approval of tenders for some 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank — housing units whose planned construction, among some 5,500, was first announced in January.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement: “These announcements are contrary to international law and seriously undermine the prospects of two states for two peoples. As a strong friend of Israel, and one prepared to stand up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, I urge Israel not to take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goal of peace and security and make it harder to achieve a different relationship between Israel and the Arab world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2017 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Johnson added that he was “disappointed that Israel plans to expropriate additional West Bank territory as ‘state land’, and press forward with plans for almost 2,000 housing units in spite of significant international concern.”

The French Foreign Ministry said Israel’s announcements were “extremely worrying” and that Paris “firmly condemns these decisions that threaten peace and risk exacerbating tensions on the ground.”

“France reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law, notably under Resolution 2334 of the UN Security Council. It calls on Israel to respect its international obligation,” the statement read, in reference to the controversial resolution passed in December, with a US abstention, which labeled Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “illegal.”

A German government spokesperson cited by Haaretz said that “the federal government expects the Israeli government to clarify which solution they are pursuing for a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Germany will not recognize any change in the 1967 lines, which has not been agreed between the parties.”

According to Haaretz, the three European nations published their condemnation statements in close proximity and timed the statements to come out at the same time.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit also condemned the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to build a new West Bank settlement, saying on Friday that the move “clearly showed that Israel isn’t a true partner for achieving peace, and is captive in the hands of radical settlers.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech during a press conference in Istanbul, February 10, 2017. (AFP/OZAN KOSE)

Earlier Friday, the United Nations also expressed its disapproval of the newly planned settlement with a spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres saying the secretary-general expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the announcement.

“The secretary general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security. He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The Palestinians reacted furiously to the plans.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Friday that the Palestinians will “hold Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government fully responsible for the consequences of such violations.”

“We send a clear message to the US administration, the United Nations and to the European Union: Peace is not going to be achieved by tolerating such crimes,” he added.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the move showed the government was pushing ahead with “their systematic policies of settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, showing a total and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights.”

The White House, meanwhile, warned Israel against “unrestrained” settlement activity, cautioning that “while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace,” according to an official.

PM Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2017 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

But the Trump administration did say it welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement Thursday, after the approval of the new settlement, that Israel will curb construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture to US President Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday that any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them.

Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, Netanyahu told his ministers.

After UNHRC adopts 5 anti-Israel resolutions, UK vows to oppose all future such moves

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted five resolutions critical of Israel on Friday, despite opposition from the US and an unprecedented critique from the UK.

Britain supported two of the five resolutions, but threatened to vote against any future such motions against the Jewish state because of the “bias” by the UN body.

“We are putting the Human Rights Council on notice,” Britain warned in a statement. “If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.”

The 47-member council passed five resolutions on alleged Israeli human rights abuses: 1) a vote on “Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan” passed with 26 in favor, 3 against and 18 abstentions; 2) a resolution called “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of International law in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” garnered 30 votes in favor, 2 against and 15 abstentions; 3) 43 members voted for a resolution called “Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” while 2 voted against and 2 abstained; 4) the resolution “Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem garnered 41 votes in favor, 2 against and 4 abstentions; 5) a resolution condemning Israeli had 36 in favor, 2 against and 9 abstentions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

The Unites States and Togo consistently voted against the five resolutions.

The UK broke with the other European countries, voting “no” on the resolution condemning alleged human rights abuses in the Golan Heights. It voted in favor of two of the resolutions “according to long-standing policy” and “serious concerns” about Israeli settlement activity, demolitions and the use of administrative detention, and abstained on two others.

The UK mission to the UN issued a statement saying that while it voted “no” on the Syria resolution, this did not signal a recognition of Israel’s annexation of the territory in 1981.

The British mission also blasted the UN body as biased and overly focused on Israel.

“Nowhere is the disproportionate focus on Israel starker and more absurd than in the case of today’s resolution on the occupation of Syria’s Golan,” the UK statement read.

“Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda; it is Israel.

“We cannot accept the perverse message sent out by a Syria Golan resolution that singles out Israel, as Assad continues to slaughter the Syrian people,” it said.

“Israel is a population of eight million in a world of seven billion,” the statement said. “Yet since its foundation, the Human Rights Council has adopted 135 country-specific resolutions; 68 of which against Israel.

“Justice is blind and impartial. This selective focus on Israel is neither.”

The UK also reminded the Council that it must “recognize the continuing terrorism, incitement and violence that Israel faces. According to the Quartet’s report last year, there were 250 terrorist attacks, leading to the deaths of at least 30 Israelis. Renewed Hamas efforts to rebuild their tunnels are a grave concern. The scourge of anti-Semitic incitement and glorification of terrorism continue. And for as long as terrorists are treated as martyrs, peace will prove distant.”

“Israel is the only country permanently on the Human Rights Council’s agenda,” the UK added in reference to Agenda Item Seven, a permanent fixture requiring the Council to discuss three times each year any alleged abuses of human rights committed by Israel against Palestinians.

Israel is the only country-specific issue that has a permanent place on the Council’s agenda, an opening for discussion about the Jewish state that often sees anti-Israel invective delivered at Council meetings from Arab and Muslim states.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the UNHRC “has become the most notorious branch of the BDS movement. It’s time to put an end to this anti-Israel campaign,” in reference to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, and said the body’s resolution on Syria was “ridiculous.”

UNHRC blamed Israeli sovereignty in the Golan for the suffering in Syria. Ridiculous.

The same Council that provided a platform for terrorists’ families today called to boycott the only true democracy in the Middle East.

This Council has become the most notorious branch of the BDS movement. It’s time to put an end to this anti-Israel campaign.

Ahead of the votes, the US on Monday issued a strong rebuke of the UNHRC and boycotted a discussion about the alleged human rights abuses committed by Israel. The US has also threatened to withdraw entirely from the UN body over its focus on Israel.

“The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven: ‘Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,’” acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement.

Toner said that the item threatens the credibility of the Council.

“Today’s actions in the Council are yet another reminder of that body’s longstanding bias against Israel,” he said. “No other nation has an entire agenda item dedicated to it at the Council. The continued existence of this agenda item is among the largest threats to the credibility of the Council. It does not serve the interests of the Council to single out one country in an unbalanced matter.”

Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Last month, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called out the Human Rights Council for “breathtaking double standards” and “outrageously biased resolutions” against Israel, during a press conference after her first meeting with the UN Security Council.

Last week Tillerson sent a letter to nine nonprofit groups in which he explained that the United States may quit the Human Rights Council unless it makes reforms, Foreign Policy reported.

In the meantime, Tillerson said, the US would reiterate its “strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

Tillerson wrote that the US was concerned as well about membership in the council of countries accused of human rights violations, such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Should US President Donald Trump’s administration opt out of the UNHRC, it wouldn’t be the first to shun the body.

When the UNHRC was created out of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission in 2006, then-US president George W. Bush refused to join the new group, believing that it would lack credibility and that, like its predecessor, it would allow human right violators to become members.

In 2009, president Barack Obama reversed that decision, hoping to improve the UNHRC.

Netanyahu and UK’s Boris Johnson spar over settlements

Visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu butted heads publicly on Wednesday over whether Israeli settlements hinder the peace process.

Speaking before Government Press Office cameras ahead of their meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu welcomed Johnson and said he looked forward to visiting London later this year to celebrate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, which laid key diplomatic groundwork for Jewish statehood.

Johnson recalled the time in his youth when he worked in a kibbutz and joked about his “not-very-substantial contribution to the Israeli economy back then.” On a serious note, he went on to say that Prime Minister Theresa May and the rest of the UK government are “rock-like supporters of Israel.”

“What we want to see is an Israel that is at peace with its neighbors,” said Johnson, who had just come from meetings with Palestinian officials in Ramallah. “I should remind you that the policy of my government is for a two-state solution, which is what we want to achieve and help to bring about in a modest and humble way. And obviously we want to help remove the obstacles to that.”

He then briefly changed the topic, stating that Israel has “an absolute right to live in security, and the people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism. That’s our absolute priority.”

Jerusalem and London cooperate in various areas to “ensure the stability of the entire region,” Johnson said, only to return to the thorny issue of settlements. “And of course we must also try to remove obstacles to peace and progress, such as the settlements, which you and I have discussed before.”

The foreign secretary then addressed plans between Israel and the UK to negotiate a new free trade agreement, following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union last year. He hailed growing bilateral commercial ties: “We have the fastest growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel. We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you. But you’ve also greatly contributed to our economy.”

Netanyahu spoke up again, saying that he and Johnson evidently agree “on most things but not on all things.” The reason peace has been elusive for 100 years is not the settlements, he insisted. “It’s the persistent refusal to recognize a nation state for the Jewish people in any boundaries. If you want to solve a problem, go to the core of the problem.”

Posting a photo with Netanyahu from the encounter later on his Twitter account, Johnson called his conversation “friendly & frank.” He also related that the discussion focused on the two-state solution, trade and “concern over illegal settlements.”

Friendly & frank talks w/ PM @netanyahu in . Discussed Two States solution, trade & concern over illegal settlements

Earlier on Wednesday, Johnson had toured settlements with the leftist group Peace Now.

Here is UK Foreign Secretary @BorisJohnson checking out what he calls “illegal settlements” in the West Bank with leftist Peace Now group https://twitter.com/PeaceNowIL/status/839494791859666946 

He also traveled to Ramallah for meetings with the Palestinian leadership.

“The policy of our government in the UK is absolutely unchanged,” Johnson told reporters in Ramallah, standing next to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on a podium near a “State of Palestine” seal.

“We remain committed to a two-state solution, to that vision, for the resolution of this conflict. You know, I really think it is possible,” he said.

Johnson criticized Israeli settlement building in his comments in Ramallah, but also spoke out against Palestinian violence.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

“There is of course the need for the Israeli people to feel that they can live in security without the fear of terrorism and violence,” he said.

During an interview with Israel’s Channel 10, he indicated that the US administration was concerned by Israel’s recent expansions of West Bank settlements.

“So I think the very clear message that I got from the press conference between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and President Trump [on February 15] is that I think there is anxiety in the White House, as there has been for a long time, about the pace of settlements and illegal settlements on the West Bank.”

The UK has “not deviated from our traditional view that a two-state solution is the way ahead,” he said. “We really want to encourage that. And we do think that settlements are illegal and get in the way of it.”

The Waffen-SS Living in Britain: Hitler’s Officers are Still Alive in the UK after being Allowed Entry after WWII

Officers in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen-SS are living in the United Kingdom and drawing government pensions, it has been revealed.

(Daily Mail corrected)

Two Ukrainian members of the Galizien division have admitted their commissions in the unit but denied any illegal activity during the Second World War.

The Waffen-SS was formed in 1933 as a militant organisation that was initially only open to people of Aryan ancestry until 1940 when the rules were relaxed during the war and people of other ethnicities were allowed to join or were conscripted.

 

It was condemned as “criminal” in the post-war Nuremberg Trials. There are thought to be around 25 Waffen-SS officers and soldiers still living in Britain today.

According to The Sun, Myron Tabora, 90, of Lichfield, Staffordshire, and Ostap Kykawec, 92, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, were both lieutenants in the Galizien.

Retired engineer Mr Tabora told the paper: ‘I never fired a rifle. I went to the Austrian front but I didn’t know of any men committing crimes.’

Mr Kykawec added: ‘I never fought the British and Americans. I fought the Russians. We didn’t take part in any crimes.’

Heinrich Himler inspecting Galizien troops, oversaw the Waffen SS for Hitler

But Jaroslaw Wenger, 93, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, admitted he ’rounded up’ partisans and ‘took them to the German army police’, but said he did not know what subsequently happened to them.

The men were tracked down by a jew named Dr Stephen Ankier – who has traced the soldiers across the UK and the world.

Dr Ankier made international headlines after he discovered one of the unit’s commanders, Michael Karkoc, living in Minnesota in the USA.

In 2014 One member of Karkoc’s ULS company, a great-grandfather living in a quiet Lancashire street, was named as a former soldier in an SS-led unit during the Second World War.

Mychajlo Ostapenko has lived in Britain for more than 65 years – but documents discovered by Ankier reveal that he served in the feared 31st Punitive Battalion.

When contacted by The Mail on Sunday in 2014, Mr Ostapenko said he could not remember joining the battalion and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

The Galizien division was formed in 1943 and was initially made up of Ukrainian volunteers but later expanded to include Czechoslovakian and Dutch recruits. It also included former camp guards.

Ukranian members of the Volunteer Waffen-SS Division “Galizien”

It was never found guilty of war crimes by any court or tribunal but was falsely accused of slaughtering civilians in Polish villages.

Jewish supremacist Dr Stephen Ankier has criticised British involvement in a war crime inquiry into the Galizien following the war.

He said: “According to war crime inquiry studies British screening during 1947 of the Waffen-SS and Galizien Division held in Rimini was woefully inadequate. Although the Galizien has never been found guilty of war crimes, accusations have persisted for years that they were responsible for atrocities against civilians in Huta Pieniacka and in Nizna Boca. For these Ukrainians, fighting for Nazi Germany rather than Soviet ‘Bolshevik’ Russia was the lesser of two evils. Their hope seems to have been to finish on the winning side and then to gain an independent Ukraine. But being a fragile old man must never be a reason to gift an amnesty to a murderer.”

Scotland Yard reopened an investigation into the division in 2006, but it is understood to have since been closed.

It is believed the UK allowed around 8,000 members of the Waffen-SS Galizien Division to re-settle there after they surrendered, with around 25 still living today.

Tony Blair’s new mission: To change UK minds on Brexit

February 17 at 10:58 AM
LONDON — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched a campaign Friday to persuade the U.K. to rethink its decision to leave the European Union, saying those who want to remain should rise up and make their wishes known.

Blair argued that the Conservative government’s drive to leave the EU “at any cost” will hurt future generations and damage the unity of the country itself.

Last year’s vote to leave the 28-nation bloc was “based on imperfect knowledge” and Britons made their decision without knowing the true terms of Brexit, he said in a speech in London.

“As these terms become clear, it is their right to change their mind,” said Blair, the former Labour leader. “Our mission is to persuade them to do so.”

Blair’s intervention reflects the bitter divide that has gripped Britain since the June 23 referendum. While 51.9 percent voted to leave the EU, the terms were not specified and Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has been reluctant to discuss her plans fearing it will hurt the U.K.’s bargaining position.

Many in this country of 64 million have expressed disquiet at the potential consequences.

“They will say we don’t represent the people. We do, many millions of them, and with determination, many millions more,” Blair said. “They will claim we’re dividing the country by making the case. It is they who divide our country – generation from generation, North from South, Scotland from England, those born here from those who came to our country precisely because of what they thought it stood for and what they admired.”

Blair spoke on behalf of Open Britain, which is campaigning for the government’s Brexit legislation to be amended to ensure that Parliament has “proper scrutiny” over any deal May negotiates with EU leaders. Among the group’s goals is for Britain to remain part of the bloc’s single market, guaranteeing unfettered access to 500 million people.

May has offered only broad outlines of her strategy, with reducing immigration a priority. She has argued that she must keep the Europeans guessing about the U.K.’s negotiation position, but pressure for details has been building as she prepares to invoke Article 50, which will trigger Britain’s departure from the bloc.

While supporters oppose any attempt to slow the drive toward Brexit, calling that undemocratic, Blair argued that the people have a right to change their minds. The leave campaign benefited from a mood of revolt stemming in part from changes in the global economy, but such opinions aren’t set in stone, he said.

“The Brexiteers were the beneficiaries of this wave. Now they want to freeze it to a day in June 2016,” he said. “They will say the will of the people can’t alter. It can. They will say leaving is inevitable. It isn’t.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how much support Blair may have in creating a wave of sentiment against May’s plans. The once-popular Labour Party leader suffered a fall from grace after he supported the United States in its intervention in Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed the speech, telling the BBC that people should “rise up and turn off the TV” when Blair comes on.

Blair was well aware he would be criticized and didn’t spare his own party in his critique, declaring Labour to be ineffectual and a “facilitator of Brexit.” He also challenged sections of Britain’s media for what he described as a relentless pro-Brexit stance.

Blair said he plans to build alliances across party lines to create a movement that has the weight and reach to fight back.

“This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair,” he said. “But the time to rise up in defense for what we believe.”

ANTI-ISRAEL BDS MOTIONS STOPPED AT UK/NORTHERN IRELAND UNIVERSITIES

 

The City University in London and Ulster University in Northern Ireland rejected in February motions to boycott the Jewish state.

A spokesman for the City University sent The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday a student union statement overriding a motion supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

 

In November, the student union passed a pro-BDS motion. Yusuf Ahmad, the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Student Union, wrote, “The Union is happy to support all students in drafting motions submitted to a General Meeting, Referendum or Student Council to try and avoid cases where the Union Board of Trustees would need to override a decision. “

He added, “The Union is a registered charity and is required to remain compliant with all relevant legislation. Upon receiving legal advice the Union Board of Trustees decided that the existing wording of the motion was not compliant with legislation and therefore it could not remain a policy of the Union. The Board of Trustees took no view on the merits of the motion’s subject.”

Michali Belovski, the head of a Jewish City student group at the City University, told the London-based Jewish Chronicle, she was “proud that Jewish students and our allies came together to vote against the motion, ensuring by their sheer number that the vote did not go ahead.

“We also very much appreciate certain other non-Jewish students at City who have showed their support in various ways, including taking time out of their busy schedules to vote and spend time understanding our perspective.”

The pro-BDS motion was proposed by Tasnima Uddin and Sharmin Siddiqa in November.The proposal said the student union should raise awareness about BDS on campus.

According to the motion, “Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestine and, discriminating against Palestinian citizens and denying Palestine refugees the right to return to their home.”

The City University pro- BDS motion was blocked because of an apparent violation of anti-discrimination laws.

The United Kingdom is ground-zero for the academic BDS movement in Europe. Student union groups at the University of Vienna and Leipzig University in Germany passed resolutions in 2016 opposing BDS and termed the movement anti-Semitic.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that a BDS motion at the Ulster University in Northern Ireland was defeated. A Post query to the Ulster University was not immediately returned.