"If European leaders are serious about preventing international fighters crossing their borders, or returning home with weapons training and a grudge to bear, they should pay equal attention to all European fighters taking part in conflicts across the Middle East. European governments have a moral duty towards Palestinians. They have to stop the flow of European killers deliberately involved in crimes against humanity."
Israel's genocidal campaign in the Gaza Strip is entering its second week. The death toll has risen to more than 600, with thousands more injured and displaced - alongside arbitrary arrests, the demolition of family homes and a policy of apartheid towards Palestinians both in the West Bank and within the state of Israel. What's more, these war crimes are directly supported by the recruits from Europe and the United States that land at Ben Gurion airport throughout the year...
Before the creation of the state of Israel, thousands of western volunteers were recruited by the Zionist movement - in a process named Mahal or volunteers from abroad to take part in Zionist military operations in Palestine during the British Mandate...
Mahal recruitment did not end with the creation of the Israeli state. It continues to this day. Thousands of volunteers, from more than 40 countries, stream to Israel to serve in all branches of the Israeli military - many in combat units. The online Mahal recruitment programme ostensibly aims to "defend" Israel and strengthen the connection of these volunteers to the Israeli military. Non-Israeli nationals of Jewish descent can join the ranks of the armed forces for an 18-month tour and be in the same front-line combat units as Israeli conscripts, including those operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Around 100 British nationals are currently serving in the Israeli army. It's a significant number. British mothers even have support groups to exchange experiences of having a child serving in the Israeli military.
In 2009, Baron Ahmed of Rotherham asked Britain's House of Lords, the UK parliament's upper chamber, whether any British citizens were serving in the Israeli military or its reserves.
Lord Malloch-Brown, minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded, "Other than press reports, the UK government does not possess information about whom the Israeli government have called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or the Israeli Defense Reserves, including any dual nationals. Only the Israeli government would have this information... Anybody who has broken the fourth protocol of the Geneva Convention deserves to meet justice in some court or another." So much for the oversight of the British intelligence and security services.
In April 2014, a British parliamentary report outlined - in 246 pages - counterterrorism approaches towards British Muslims fighting in Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Nowhere did it mention the threat of indoctrinated British citizens returning home from serving in the Israeli military. Nor did it mention that serving in an occupying army remains a crime in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870, which criminalises British citizens who serve in the armed forces of another country.
The Mahal network spans the globe. Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli were two US citizens enlisted in the Israeli military. They were taking part in the Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of at least 70 Palestinian civilians in Shujayea when they came under fire. The US State Department announced their deaths on July 20. And yet recruitment continues...
In November 2013, a Ukrainian citizen that had served for six years in the Israeli army stated nonchalantly on a Ukrainian television show that she had killed Palestinian children with full immunity from European and Ukrainian law - since Israeli law does not apply when Palestinian children are killed.
Israel is applying outright treachery in its recruitment of young Jews worldwide, through tens of programmes. Israel Experience is a Zionist project that aims to create new allies for Israel. It targets western youngsters from the age of 13, recruiting them for what appears at first to be a programme of fun and amusement. But these children end up in a simulation, spending between one and six weeks exposed to guns, reproducing military manoeuvres and receiving "educational" classes on Zionism and the Israeli military...
The power dynamics of European countries is a game of constant duplicity. Western intelligence services turn a blind eye to citizens that decide to wear the Israeli military's uniforms and occupy Palestinian lands and resources, and commit war crimes in violation of international law.
Apparently, in the eyes of Israel and its western allies, having Jewish roots is adequate justification to defend an illegal occupation of territories - while it is unacceptable for Palestinians to resist the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements and theft of land and water resources. In its recent offensive on Gaza, Israeli troops have shown no respect for human lives and have breached the laws of armed conflict, indiscriminately attacking civilians and targeting civilian homes and institutions...
If European leaders are serious about preventing international fighters crossing their borders, or returning home with weapons training and a grudge to bear, they should pay equal attention to all European fighters taking part in conflicts across the Middle East. European governments have a moral duty towards Palestinians. They have to stop the flow of European killers deliberately involved in crimes against humanity.
Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an experimental laboratory for its high-tech weapon industry and chemicals. It is the obligation of the international community to sanction Israel, and enforce a military embargo in light of the Israeli violations of human rights.
Full article by Hanine Hassan in Al Jazeera 22 July 2014
Hanine is a PhD candidate at Columbia University. Her research focuses on the long-term effects of humiliation as a tool of oppression by Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Follow her on Twitter: @Hanine09