All posts by jmb82BBp

Call off the Paris conference

by Rafael L. Bardaji and Richard Kemp

Article published by Israel Hayom, 12 January 2017

It is easy for the world to blame Israel for all its problems. It is easy for many leaders to blame Israel for the failure of the peace process with the ‎Palestinians.

It may be easy, but it’s not correct. In fact, it’s a ‎serious mistake.‎

It’s also easy to think that the international community, multilateral organizations ‎such as the United Nations, or international conferences can impose a solution ‎on the parties and, voila, conflicts will be resolved. But if the parties aren’t ‎willing, if the conflicts aren’t ripe enough, there’s no possible solution. In fact, ‎lasting peace, true peace, can only be the result of direct negotiations between ‎the parties involved and the agreements they freely reach.‎

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need more plans or ‎conferences such as the one to be held in Paris on January 15. What it does ‎require are two truly committed parties ready to negotiate.

Unfortunately, that’s ‎not the case. For a few years now, those responsible in the Palestinian ‎Authority have chosen not to sit down and negotiate with the Israeli government. Instead, they have launched a unilateral campaign so that it will fall to the ‎international community to impose recognition as a sovereign state without ‎their having to make the typical concessions that negotiations entail.‎

The planned Paris conference was born out of good will, but it comes at a very bad ‎moment. On the one hand, Resolution 2334, recently adopted by the UN ‎Security Council, has endorsed the Palestinian narrative that the core of the ‎problem comes down to a geographical issue: the settlements in the West Bank ‎and the 1967 borders. Yet this interpretation does not hold water. Every time Israel ‎has
swapped land for peace, it has only earned more terrorism. The most striking ‎and visible case is the Gaza Strip: since Israel carried out its unilateral ‎withdrawal in 2005, Hamas has ruled in that territory with total impunity and the ‎attacks on Israel have only continued. Thousands of rockets and missiles have ‎been launched from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel.‎

It is easy to believe that the conflict can be reduced to an issue of territories. But that’s ‎false. The reality is different.

The real problem is that the Palestinians don’t want ‎to give an inch of what the Israelis want, namely, that they recognize Israel as ‎the Continue reading

Obama and the UN’s outrageous assault on Israel’s legitimacy

Article published in The Times of Israel on 27 December 2016

By Rafael L. Bardaji and Richard Kemp

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli house building in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is itself illegal, unjust and immoral. It will undermine, not advance the cause of peace and lead to increased hatred, violence and death in Israel and even beyond.

East Jerusalem and the entire West Bank constitutes disputed territory rather than being occupied, as the UN falsely insists. The final status of these lands must be mutually agreed in bilateral negotiations between the parties, in accordance with the legally-binding Oslo Accords which the Security Council now treats with contempt.

In her speech following Friday’s resolution, US Ambassador Samantha Power reaffirmed her country’s policy of blocking ‘any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security’.

But her failure to block Resolution 2334 does exactly that. The Palestinian leadership has already hailed the Security Council vote as a victory for them and a defeat for Israel. Historically every such ‘victory’ has emboldened them to increase violence against Israel. This resolution, and Israel’s entirely warranted refusal to implement it, will undoubtedly be used to justify escalating hatred, violence and killing.

It is exactly this type of attitude by international bodies such as the UN and EU, political leaders and human rights groups, that has led to round after round of Palestinian brutality in the West Bank and in Israel proper and to terrorist attacks launched from Gaza, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon.

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Article published in the Daily Telegraph, 22 December 2016.  © Richard Kemp

With a lack of logic that few of Sergeant Alexander Blackman’s army of supporters will understand, Lord Chief Justice Thomas said he recognized the “unprecedented nature” of the case yet insisted on adhering to his own idea of precedents in not releasing him on bail.

The judge is right to fast-track Sergeant Blackman’s appeal, which may be heard as early as January or February. But the Criminal Cases Review Commission, after an 11-month investigation, has decided there is a real possibility that Blackman’s murder conviction will be quashed on appeal.

This means they believe he has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and will be freed. The judge should therefore have released him now pending his appeal, unless he was worried about Sgt Blackman reoffending or absconding.

Blackman is not an urban drug dealer jailed for premeditated murder of someone who owed him a few hundred pounds. He is a brave, upstanding Royal Marine who volunteered time after time to put his life on the line for his country and made a serious error of judgement under the stress of combat. It doesn’t take years of experience on the bench at the High Court to work out that he is not going to reoffend or flee his bail.

I have grave doubts about the real motives behind the way he has been treated, which fits into an unprecedented pattern of victimization by their own government of British troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Blackman is the first member of the British Armed Forces ever to be convicted of murder on the battlefield. His conviction resulted from a defence that – astonishingly – did not include any consideration of the extreme battle stress that he was undoubtedly suffering after several bloody combat tours in quick succession.

This is the principal reason why the Review Commission believe his conviction is likely unsafe. It is blatantly obvious to anybody, with or without experience in battle, that combat stress must have been a major factor in his horrific behavior in Helmand Province. But it apparently did not occur to his legal team, appointed, let us not forget, by the Ministry of Defence.

Why did the judge at his court martial allow Blackman’s defence to proceed on this basis in 2013? Why did the Court Martial Appeal Court not spot this incredible flaw when they rejected his conviction challenge in 2014? Continue reading

Royal Marines in Afghanistan

Our soldiers must never again be hung out to dry

Published in The Daily Mail, 7 December 2016. © Richard Kemp

Justice is finally being done. It’s outstanding news that after three years of unremitting nightmare for Sgt Alexander Blackman, the authorities appear to have seen sense.

Even at this stage, it cannot be a foregone conclusion that his conviction for murder on the battlefield will be dropped, but that is the only sane outcome. It is the one the public demands, through its momentous backing for the Daily Mail’s campaign.

He should be released from prison immediately. If there are any legal means for him to be given bail pending his release, it should happen today. The courts should move immediately. Get him out now.

If there was any justice, Sgt Blackman should spend Christmas with his family. That would be a great morale boost not only for them, but for the many supporters he has in the Armed Forces — as well as millions like me who are sickened to see a brother in arms treated so treacherously.

He should not be in prison at all. This case should never have come to a court martial. The charges could have been dismissed by a senior military officer — and if none of his superiors had the courage to do that, the Defence Secretary should have ruled he was not to be tried.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission declared yesterday that Sgt Blackman may have been suffering from ‘diminished responsibility’ due to stress and battle fatigue.

I could have told them that. In fact, I said it loudly and often, and so did many others. Our voices were ignored — the sound of common sense and, on the ground, military experience, silenced by political correctness.

Having studied the case, I know he was not acting in character when he shot a Taliban insurgent — a man who could well have been dead already when Sgt Blackman fired.

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Trump and International Security

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 14 November 2016. © Richard Kemp

Since Donald Trump’s election, media-fuelled panic has engulfed Europe, including over defence and security. We are told that World War III is imminent, that Trump will jump into bed with Putin and pull the US out of NATO. Such fantasies are put about by media cheerleaders for European political elites, terrified that Trump’s election will inspire support for populist candidates in the forthcoming elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

In fact, it is the EU, not Donald Trump, that threatens to undermine NATO and the security of the West. In recent days, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen have suggested that Trump’s election should give greater impetus to a European defence force.

This has been an EU aspiration for many years. Citing Trump is just a cynical pretext for speeding it up. It is already well advanced and has gained greater focus since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The EU army is a vanity project, seen by many European leaders as a necessary instrument of the ever-closer union they desire. Speaking at a meeting of the European Defence Agency in Brussels the day after Trump’s election, Ms Mogherini suggested that the EU needs ‘the full potential of a super power, in the field of defence and security.’

To the economically atrophied EU, a defence union also has the potential for enormous financial savings. The intention will be to aggregate national military capabilities under what will no doubt be described as rationalization and efficiency. This will bring swingeing cuts to European defence capability. It will also severely reduce flexibility and the redundancy which is so vital to military forces that have any expectation of combat in which attrition and multiple simultaneous threats might occur.

The byzantine EU bureaucracy, combined with timidity in so many European nations, will ensure its army could never be deployed in anger. An EU defence union will also present a direct threat to NATO, competing for funds, building in duplication and confusion, and setting up rival military structures. In her speech, Ms Mogherini even spelt out the need for a single EU headquarters for military missions, which she likened to SHAPE, the NATO command centre. Continue reading

Enduring courage spans generations

Article published in the Colchester Gazette, 10 November 2016. © Richard Kemp

ONE of the most moving letters I have ever read was sent from a young Colchester man to his parents 100 years ago.

“I am writing this letter to you just before going into action tomorrow at dawn,” he began.

“‘I am about to take part in the biggest battle that has been fought in France.”

He went on to explain: “My idea of writing this letter is in case I am one of the costs and get killed. I do not expect to be but such things have happened and are always possible.

“It is impossible to fear death out here when one is no longer an individual but a member of a regiment and of an Army.

“What an insignificant thing the loss of, say, forty years of life is compared with them. It seems scarcely worth talking about.

“Well goodbye, my darlings, try not to worry about it and remember that we shall meet again quite soon.”

He wrote that letter at 8 pm on Friday June 30th, 1916. The next day was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The British Army suffered by far the greatest casualty rate in its history – 20,000 killed and 40,000 missing or wounded on that one day alone. Among them was the author of that letter, killed as the battle began at dawn.

He had been a pupil at my own school, Colchester Royal Grammar. Two other former pupils and a teacher from there were killed that day. In all, 79 old boys and masters of the school died in the First World War. A remarkable number from a school with only 200 on the roll in 1914.

Many today would dismiss this young man’s sentiments as mere jingoism, claiming after 1914 the initial enthusiasm to defend their country had been extinguished and soldiers were unwilling cannon fodder driven to their deaths by heartless politicians and incompetent generals. Continue reading

Balfour Declaration, November 2016

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 6 November 2016. © Richard Kemp

This week we enter the centenary year of the Balfour Declaration. This document, signed on November 2, 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, was the first recognition by one of the world’s great powers – in fact at the time the greatest power in the world – of the right of the Jewish people to their national homeland in Palestine.

It was the single most significant step taken in restoring Jewish self-determination in their historic territories. Under the San Remo Resolution three years later, the Balfour Declaration was enshrined in international law, leading inexorably to the 1947 UN partition plan and ultimately to the proclamation of the State of Israel by David Ben Gurion on May 14, 1948.

As Britain, Israel and the free world begin to mark this monumental anniversary, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demands an apology from the UK.

The man whose constitutional tenure as Palestinian leader expired seven years ago, yet remains in place. The man who raised funds for the 1972 massacre in Munich of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes. The man who misused millions of dollars of international aid intended for the welfare of his people. The man who dismissed as a ‘fantastic lie’ the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

This man demands an apology. Of course he does. And in demanding that Britain apologise for a 99-year-old statement supporting a national home for the Jewish people, he exposes his true position, and the true position of all factions of the Palestinian leadership: that the Jewish people have no right to a national home; the Jewish State has no right to exist. According to Abbas, Palestine, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, belongs to the Arabs and only to the Arabs.

At a dinner held by the Zionist Federation in London on April 12, 1931, Sir Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner in Palestine Continue reading

Is Britain Destroying its Military to Appease Enemies?

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 25 October 2016. © Richard Kemp

Last week General Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff and the UK’s most senior military officer, made an extraordinary allegation. Speaking on the BBC, he said that elements of the British establishment in Whitehall think their own soldiers are “bad,” and terrorists are “freedom fighters.”

Lord Richards’s assertions have far-reaching significance both within the UK and more widely, affecting the US, the prosecution by the West of the war on terror, and British relations with the State of Israel. Yet they have gone largely unnoticed.

Lord Richards was talking about the ongoing legal campaign against British troops who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – the first time in history that any government has turned on its own armed forces in such a way.

1,492 cases of alleged abuse in Iraq are under investigation, and over 600 in Afghanistan. Most of these cases involve allegations against multiple servicemen, so the number of troops under scrutiny can be counted in the thousands. We are not talking here about minor misdemeanours but the most serious forms of abuse including rape, torture and, in Iraq alone, 235 accusations of unlawful killing.

Some soldiers have been under constant investigation for more than 10 years. Some have been acquitted during preliminary investigations or at court martial, only to be dragged back to face repeated legal inquiries and judicial hearings. In some cases, there have been as many as five investigations into a single incident.

Thousands of men who have volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country, and who have been involved in the most traumatic events imaginable, including seeing their close comrades torn apart beside them, have been forced to re-live their experiences over and over again under intense legal scrutiny. Families have broken up, jobs have been lost, lives have been ruined. In some cases, soldiers have attempted or contemplated suicide.

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A terrible dilemma for any soldier in battle

Article published in The Mail on Sunday, 16 October 2016. © Richard Kemp

In action in the western desert at the height of the 2003 Iraq War, Sergeant Colin Maclachlan and his SAS comrades were fighting under the internationally agreed laws of war. Those laws make clear that killing wounded enemy soldiers is always illegal.

According to the first Geneva Convention of 1949 they must be ‘respected and protected in all circumstances’, and ‘any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited’.

So much for the law – what about military reality? Sgt Maclachlan’s SAS patrol had been hammering Iraqi vehicles with machine gun fire and missiles packed with enough explosive to destroy the heaviest battle tank.

As you would expect, some of the survivors were horrifically wounded, one with three limbs blown off. According to the book, you treat the wounded and evacuate them to an aid post or hospital. But there was neither anywhere near.

The SAS could not spare a vehicle to drive them across the desert and nor would the battle situation have allowed it. Calling in a helicopter would have compromised their mission.

Those who could be treated with field dressings and tourniquets to stem their bleeding would have to be made as comfortable as possible and left to their own fortunes or taken prisoner.

So far so legal. But what about the three who were bleeding to death in agony, begging to be put out of their misery?

Amidst the violence and horror of the battlefield, British soldiers have confronted that dilemma down the centuries. And not just with the enemy.
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At last, a PM who stands up for Our Boys – and shame on Cameron and Blair for doing nothing

Article published in The Daily Mail, 4 October 2016. © Richard Kemp

Sometimes in war there are no good decisions — only a difficult collection of bad ones. The soldier’s challenge, often with no more than a split second to make the choice, is to pick the least dangerous.

I have faced such impossible situations in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. I’ve had to act when, whatever I did, I might face heavy criticism — for instance, when my unit captured Al Qaeda terrorists in 2003.

Execution was out of the question. It would be morally repugnant to me and completely against the laws of war, however convenient it might have been as a solution. Handing the men over to the Americans, perhaps to face extraction to Guantanamo Bay, was not an option.

I could have put them in an Afghan prison, though that was tantamount to setting them free. Or I could use British troops to hold the prisoners, even though we lacked the necessary facilities and my men were desperately overtaxed already. Any extra burden of responsibilities could threaten their own lives.

Ask yourself what you would do, and you’ll realise there was no right choice — some options were in a grey area, others were plainly wrong. I was lucky: with more than two decades of soldiering under my belt, I could figure out a solution.

Get that choice wrong, and I would be breaching the human rights of those Al Qaeda terrorists and murderers. It sounds ridiculous, but that is the truth of the matter. I might have faced years of investigation and harassment by Left-wing lawyers demanding heavy punishment for me and compensation for their clients.

It’s even possible that my case could have ended up at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, where war criminals are tried.

This is not fanciful. It is the sickening reality that faces hundreds of British troops.

Take the case of former Guardsman Martin McGing (interviewed in this edition of the Mail), who was just 19 when he was ordered to restrain looters in Basra, Iraq, during the chaotic days following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
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