UK citizens who fight in Israeli army should be prosecuted, Baroness Warsi says

Britons can currently join the IDF through the 'Mahal' program

Friday 31 March 2017 14:15 BST
Baroness Warsi speaks during the World Islamic Economic Forum
Baroness Warsi speaks during the World Islamic Economic Forum

British citizens who volunteer for the Israeli army should be prosecuted like others who fight for foreign forces, according to Baroness Warsi.

The former Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said people should only be legally allowed to fight for the state they are a citizen of.

It is currently possible for anyone to join the Israel Defence Force (IDF) through the “Mahal” program if they meet specific background and age requirements.

But while people fighting for various foreign forces have faced prosecution upon there return to the UK - including some who claim to have been opposing the Assad regime in Syria - those who temporarily join up with the IDF have not.

Baroness Warsi said the UK government's current policy on the issue was not “brave enough”.

“If you go out there and fight for any group, you will be subject to prosecution when you get back. If you go out and fight for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, I presume, under our law, that is okay. That can’t be right,” Baroness Warsi told the Middle East Eye.

“The only reason we allow the loophole to exist is because of the IDF, because we are not brave enough to say if you hold British citizenship, you make a choice.

"You fight for our state only. That has to go out strong."

She also added that current debates focus on demanding loyalty from British Muslims, but that the same rule should apply to all.

“We don’t talk about it in relation to other communities. We accept that other communities hold multiple identities. Let's just shut down this loophole. If you don’t fight for Britain, you do not fight,” she added.

“I fundamentally believe that our policy towards Israel is flawed.”

Stuart Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel disagreed and called her comments misguided.

“To equate the actions of the Israel Defense Force and non-state actors that can include vile terror groups such as Islamic State [Isis], is misguided,” Lord Polak told the Times of Israel.

“This blasé attitude is both careless and shows a total lack of understanding of the only true democracy in the Middle East."

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