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:
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: