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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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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