Tag Archives: matthew richardson

Daniel Machover’s dangerous game of Lawfare against Veolia and Israel.

Zena from "Palestine", Daniel Machover, Yael Kahn listening to an activist at ULU last night.

Zena from “Palestine”, Daniel Machover, Yael Kahn listening to an activist at ULU last night.

First, the drama bit.

I was sitting quietly before the start of last night’s Excluding Complicity with Israeli War Crimes meeting at University of London Union (ULU) when I was approached by the Israeli anti-Israel activist Yael Kahn. Kahn wanted me to leave saying:

“We don’t want you. You’ve been undermining people’s meetings. You interfere with people’s freedom of speech. We don’t want you here. Goodbye to you. We don’t want you. You are here for one purpose; to interrupt and to undermine people. I’ve seen you many times. I’ve seen you in action many times. You’re not invited.”     Listen here: Yael Kahn asking me to leave.

Once I told her that I wasn’t leaving as it was a public meeting and that she should have arranged the meeting in her home she shuffled off to chair the event instead.

It’s incredible that these Israel haters are supplied with a room paid for by the British taxpayer at a British university and presume they can exclude anyone they don’t like (the advert states the meeting was “sponsored by ULU”).

The main speaker was Daniel Machover, described as “Solicitor, the UK expert on Human Rights, Israel and Veolia”. Jeremy Corbyn MP was also supposed to speak but failed to show up.

Machover presented his lengthy legal opinion on how to exclude Veolia from the public contracts given out by local authorities. Veolia deals in waste management and construction and has been building the Jerusalem Light Railway, which, Machover says, is in breach of the Geneva Convention and UN resolutions because it serves “illegal Israeli settlements”.

The main UN resolution Machover relied on was that passed by the UN Human Rights Council in April 2011 and called The grave human rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (see clip 1 below).

At that time countries on the UNHRC included Libya, Bahrain, Ukraine, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Qatar. All have brutal human rights records so for Machover to cite such a resolution proves the weakness of his case.

Machover also seems to be adopting the similar failed tactic of Michael Mansfield QC. At an event at Amnesty International in November 2010 Mansfield gave a legal opinion on the defence anti-Israel activists could employ if they entered the shops or offices of companies doing business in the “illegal Israeli settlements” and were arrested.

With such advice in mind anti-Israel activists Matthew Richardson, Gwendolen Wilkinson, Jessica Nero and Christopher Osmond entered the Ahava shop in Covent Garden and succeeded in shutting it down for a few hours while making their protest but they were subsequently landed with criminal convictions for aggravated trespass.

Happily though for Mr Mansfield his chambers picked up the business as the four defendants were represented by barristers from Tooks.

Similarly, Machover seems to be pushing local councillors to exclude Veolia from local authority business but for all his lengthy quoting of local council law to support his view he still has to overcome the same hurdle that the four convicted anti-Ahava activists failed to do; the legality of “the settlements”.

Machover said last night:

“Let me make it clear. Settlements that are built in east Jerusalem or the rest of the West Bank are illegal under international law. There is absolutely universal consensus about that. The British government says so, the American government says so…this is entirely uncontentious territory.”

Apart from the fact that the American government doesn’t “say so” how would Machover explain the decision of the judge in the Ahava case outlined above that Ahava, with its factory on the West Bank, was “trading lawfully”?

Machover’s advice could have extreme financial consequences for local councillors who incorrectly exclude Veolia from a public contract, as Machover himself acknowledged. The local councillors could leave themselves open to being personally surcharged millions of pounds for any loss to Veolia like Dame Shirley Porter was in the 1990s “homes for votes” scandal.

Councillors could be made bankrupt, but Machover couldn’t resist encouraging them anyway last night with this:

“It’s very problematic. It’s very expensive litigation that Veolia could mount. Obviously they’re a very significant company with much more resources than most local authorities. But if they’re prepared to stand up to other bodies…they should be prepared to stand up to a big bully like Veolia. I understand their fears because they don’t want to use council taxpayers’ money on a bad legal case. But, I repeat, I don’t think it is a bad case. So local authorities who have the courage of their convictions should proceed. And I genuinely think that it’s not straightforward as to whether Veolia would actually take it to court.” (see clip 2)

Yael Khan then tried soothing everyone’s nerves by claiming that there had been, apparently, no challenge by Veolia after it lost a £1bn contract in South London, although I doubt that loss had anything whatsoever to do with her and her colleagues.

It’s possible that Veolia, itself, would not have to sue. A concerned resident could possibly have locus standi to instigate proceedings to have councillors surcharged.

Finally, we heard from Zena who had just arrived from “Palestine” that morning. She told us how evil “the settlers” are and how their actions are having a detrimental effect on the health of the Palestinians. (see clip 3)

Just like other Palestinians who have come over here and made the same claim they all look very well to me. Maybe they’re just the lucky ones….

Clips and photos:

The welcoming party on the door at University of London Union last night.

The welcoming party on the door at University of London Union last night.

Clip 1 – Machover outlines his weak case against Veolia:

Clip 2 – Machover encourages councillors over Veolia despite major concerns:

Clip 3 – Palestinian Zena’s view on “settlers”:

Clip 4 – Conclusions of Zena and Machover. Zena calls for boycott:

Clip 5 – Jewish Anti-Zionist Network activist calls for boycott of Hewlett Packard:

A Canterbury activist from anti-Israel Conservative MP Julian Brazier's constituency.

A Canterbury activist from anti-Israel Conservative MP Julian Brazier’s constituency.

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Ahava Four guilty of aggravated trespass. Judge: Ahava “trading lawfully”

Four anti-Israel protesters were today found guilty of aggravated trespass by District Judge Ian Baker.

They were each given an 18 month conditional discharge (as long as they are not guilty of any further offences in that time no further action will be taken).

Costs of £250 were awarded against each defendant.

The convictions relate to two separate occasions at Ahava in Covent garden, London.

The first occasion, involving Gwendolen Wilkinson and Matthew Richardson, was on 2nd October 2010.

The second occasion, involving Jessica Nero and Christopher Osmond, was on 22nd November 2010 (this was the view from outside Ahava on the day).

Both occasions involved similar actions by the defendants. They entered Ahava and locked themselves onto a concrete block leading to Ahava having to close down and lose business.

However, both occasions led to slightly different charges.

In relation to events on 22nd November the District Judge found the defendants guilty under S69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for knowing that a direction to leave land had been given under S69(1) and they failed to leave that land as soon as practicable. For the direction by the police officer to be valid the prosecution must prove that he had a reasonable belief of the commission of aggravated trespass or obstruction of a lawful acvitity.

The District Judge found that the direction to be valid as the officer “saw a shop apparently trading as shops should do”.

Also, as the defendants had created a situation where their own leaving was “impracticable” the test of practicability did not apply to them. Otherwise, trespassers could take “ever more extreme steps to frustrate the powers of the police under S69”.

Events on 2nd October were prosecuted under S68. The elements of the offence were:

1. a person trespasses on land
2. where persons are engaged in a lawful activity
3. and does anything intended to obstruct or disrupt that activity.

The DJ said that as there was no suggestion that Ahava or its employees were occupying the premises illegally the case against the defendants was made out.

He said that the employees were “acting lawfully in accordance with their terms of employment” and could not be considered accessories to any alleged offences. The defendants disrupted the normal activities of the employees by what they did and so the case against them was made out.

The DJ did consider alleged criminal activity by Ahava, which could have made even the employees’ activities illegal, but could not come to any proper conclusions as follows:

The defendant’s claims of illegality because “everything Ahava does at the shop is unlawful because of its actions in the OPT” is behaviour “in relation to which the Metropolitan Police have declined to take action…At this statge, it constitutes little more than a line of reasoning…Until such time as Ahava UK is prosecuted….I can do no more than accept that its a shop trading lawfully”.

And on labelling the DJ said that “The goods come from the Dead Sea and are so labelled. The Dead Sea is not a country….I am strengthened in this view by the fact that no law prohibits the sale in the UK of goods produced in the OPT by Israeli companies”.

Even if he was wrong on all this the DJ felt the defendants acted disproportionately citing that we are a democratic country with many democratic procedures available but “they are not free to act in the way they did on this occasion”.