Israel, Mossad and the British passports controversy

Will anyone condemn extrajudicial killings?

The Dubai/Hamas assassination/Mossad story continues to dominate the news. Gordon Brown has promised a "full investigation" into how fraudulent British passports were allegedly used by the killers of a senior Hamas commander in Dubai.

The national newspapers went big on it this morning, too. The Independent's front-page headline was:

The moment Mossad agents got their man?

The Daily Mail front page went with:

Terror of innocent Britons named as assassins

It also included a reference to a "Mossad hit squad" in its standfirst.

The Guardian avoided a Mossad reference in its front-page headline:

Dubai killers stole identities of UK citizens

Here's the funny thing: in most of the coverage, the shock and outrage seems to concern the stolen passports and identities, and not the unlawful killing itself. As Paul Lewis and Julian Borger wrote in the Guardian:

The Israeli government would not comment tonight on allegations of its involvement in Mabhouh's killing, which, if confirmed, would trigger a diplomatic row with Britain, and the other three European nations whose passports were used: Ireland, Germany and France.

So as long as suspected Israeli assassins avoid using passports issued by western nations as part of their illegal and murderous activities abroad, that's fine. We can carry on with our lives. Turn a blind eye. The Israelis, of course, have form when it comes to assassinations abroad.

Let me ask you this: can you imagine the reaction if members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard were suspected of assassinating an Iranian dissident living in Dubai, or an Israeli politician or general visting a foreign country?

But Israel's long-standing policy of "targeted killings", or assassinations, is tolerated by the "international community". Western nations have, in a sense, become complicit -- in fact, under Bush and Obama, the US has emulated the illegal and bloody practice in its own so-called war on terror.

Why? Because Israeli assassins, or US assassins, kill terrorists. Baddies. Wanted men. Really? That makes it OK? So which member of the international community will be sending a hit squad to Israel to "take out" that wanted terrorist, Yitzhak Shamir?

UPDATE: Robert Fisk has written an interesting piece on possible "collusion" by western intelligence agencies in the killing.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.