In Foreign Office Questions this week, Foreign Secretary Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP underlined his support for the UK’s unprecedented condemnation of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s stance towards Israel, condemning the “absolutely preposterous” motion against Israel on Friday.
The Foreign Secretary’s comments came in response to a question from CFI Parliamentary Chairman Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles MP, who asked an oral question about the Government’s reaction to Israel’s entry ban on foreign nationals who support the boycott of Israeli goods and services.
Sir Eric asked: “Is there not a need to be even-handed? Many countries have banned people from entering and are indeed deporting people”. He added: “Does not this underline how right the Government were to warn the UN Human Rights Council of its disproportionate bias against Israel”?
The Foreign Secretary voiced his agreement, stating that “My right honourable Friend is absolutely right in his verdict on the UN Human Rights Council”. He said that he thought it was “absolutely preposterous that there should be a motion condemning Israel’s conduct in the Golan Heights when, after all, we have seen in that region of Syria the most appalling barbarity conducted by the Assad regime”.
Mr Johnson emphasised: “I think that was the point the UK Government were rightly making”.
Later in Foreign Office Questions, the Foreign Secretary re-emphasised that he had “made very clear what I thought was the profound absurdity of denouncing Israeli conduct in that region at a time when we are seeing absolute barbarism conducted by the Assad regime against the people of Syria”.
Middle East Minister Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP also condemned the Council’s “hugely disproportionate focus on Israel” in a written answer on Friday, an approach which “does not support human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, nor further the goal of a two-state solution”.
The Foreign Secretary said that the Government “certainly shall” continue to strongly oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, after former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers MP made clear that the “main aim of the boycott movement is to delegitimise the State of Israel”.
CFI Vice-Chairman John Howell MP raised his concerns about the expansion of Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal, following reports that “earlier this month, Iran’s Defence Minister said that Hezbollah is now capable of producing rockets that can hit any part of Israel”, and that “Iran has established rocket factories under the control of Hezbollah”. He asked Minister Ellwood “what steps is he taking to stop Iran’s unconstrained financing of terror?”
The Middle East Minister said that the Government is “looking at these reports very carefully indeed”, underlining that “the involvement of Iran through proxy influences across the region is of huge concern, not least in Lebanon”.
Mr Ellwood added: “I should also say that Hezbollah, which has a political involvement as part of the Government in Lebanon, needs to move forward and be more constructive. It is thanks to disruption by Hezbollah and its blocking decisions in the Lebanese Government that the country was without a president for two years”.
Conservative MP Dr Daniel Poulter said that “The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), has made clear his concerns about Iranian state-sponsored terrorism destabilising the State of Israel and the whole Middle East”.
The MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich asked: “As a consequence, will he please confirm that ensuring it recognises the right of the State of Israel to exist is first and foremost in future engagement with Iran?”
Mr Ellwood emphasised that Iran must demonstrate “that it is meeting 21st-century standards”, and in response to a question from Labour MP Louise Ellman, said that Iran “must desist from having an influence” in the weapons supply of both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. He said that the UK Government had made “very clear” to the Iranian government its opposition to Iran’s financing of terror in the Middle East.