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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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.