UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

KCL student paper finally publishes article on Husam Zomlot

A student at King’s College London (KCL) has finally managed to publish an article criticising a talk given to Palestinian student societies last year by Dr Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK. It took around three months and legal assistance from UKLFI before the article was published in KCL’s student paper, Roar, on 9 January 2023.

Husam Zomlot

CAMERA on Campus fellow, Saul Levene, argued that Dr Zomlot, the Head of the London Mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), had spread harmful misinformation at an event hosted by Palestinian student societies from several London universities.

Roar had been reluctant to allow the article to dispute the claim that UN Security Council Resolution 478 is binding and to object to the description of Conservative Friends of Israel as a “very powerful and influential group” that had “pressured” Liz Truss to move the British Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Zomlot spoke at the student meeting about the implications of the British embassy in Israel moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the example of the United States. He was wholly opposed to the move, and argued that any embassy in Jerusalem would be illegal under international law.

Despite repeating time and time again the “absolutely illegal nature” of an Embassy in Jerusalem, Zomlot did not state which law this would break. He pointed to Britain’s understanding of Jerusalem as a “unique” city. He also referenced the offence taken by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at States seemingly condoning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem by placing the embassy in the city. As an agreement has not been reached with regards to the territorial status of Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, he argued that placing the embassy in Jerusalem would negate the ability to discuss further terms for peace.

Levene wrote: “Offence does not translate to law, however. Most claims of the illegality of an embassy in Jerusalem usually centre upon United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, which “calls upon… States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City”. However, as argued in “Procedures of the UN Security Council” by international legal scholars, Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws, it is generally accepted that only UN Resolutions added to Chapter VII of the UN Charter are considered binding on nations. Since Resolution 478 was not added to the Charter, it remains a non-binding recommendation.”

Zomlot claimed that lobbying and “transactional politics” underlay former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s intention to review the location of the British embassy. He said that the “very powerful and influential” group, Conservative Friends of Israel, “pressured” Truss to move the embassy.  Levene suggested that this was reminiscent of the age-old, antisemitic “Jewish lobby” trope.

Levene’s article also countered Zomlot’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state, pointing out that 20% of the Israeli population is Arab and that they have full Israeli citizenship with all the rights that entails and that are given to Israel’s Jewish and Christian population. This is evidenced in Arab-Israelis ascending to the highest offices in Israel, in politics (with the Arab-Israeli Ra’am party joining the government coalition in 2021), in law (with Arab judge Salim Joubran appointed vice president of Supreme Court), and in business (with Dr Haj-Yehia chairman of Bank Leumi.).

Levene responded to the objections raised by the Roar editors with the assistance of David Litman at CAMERA and Natasha Hausdorff from UKLFI. His article was eventually published and can be read HERE.