Note to reader: We wanted to give you a trigger warning on what you may read below. We have chosen, as with every night of these briefings, to not share horrific images, however we want to alert you as sensitively as we can to the reports coming out of Israel and Gaza.
What to Watch and Read Today
- FOLLOW: CFI Instagram and X
- SHARE: Journalists killed in widely-reported Israeli strike revealed as PIJ terrorists
- READ: PM statement on strikes against Houthi military targets: 12 January 2024
- READ: BDS is a mask for hate
- READ: We must not lose sight of why Israel is engaged in war in Gaza
- READ: South Africa’s case against Israel is a dangerous stunt
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: South Africa’s ICJ case is “completely unjustified and wrong”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that South Africa’s controversial International Court of Justice (ICJ) case alleging that Israel is committing genocide is “completely unjustified and wrong”, “does not serve the cause of peace”, and that “the UK Government stands by Israel’s clear right to defend itself within the framework of international law”.
The UK and U.S., with the support of the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain and Australia, have carried out “targeted strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen” last night. The move comes amid increasing Houthi belligerence and disruption of “international shipping lanes in the Red Sea”, which “must be protected”, according to Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron.
“It is necessary, legal, proportionate and right”, he added – with the strikes following ineffective diplomatic attempts to deescalate the situation, including those of the UN Security Council.
The largest attack to date occurred against HMS Diamond, including 18 drones and a number of missiles. The Foreign Secretary confirmed that there have been 26 “unacceptable” attacks against ships since mid-November.
The Overseas Matters Bill passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The Bill will stop public bodies from delivering their own pseudo-foreign policies in the face of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, whose executive body includes a coalition of terror groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A number of Conservative MPs spoke in support of the Bill during the Third reading – read more below.
Miriam Cates MP wrote in The Critic that “the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement denies the right of Israel to exist, and public bodies have no business supporting it”. She said “BDS is not some cosy do-gooding human rights organisation” but instead represent hardliners. Public bodies that “use their position and taxpayer’s money to go rogue on foreign policy are overstepping their mandate”, added Cates.
CFI Parliamentary Vice Chair Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP wrote in the Jewish News on Thursday that “we must not lose sight of why Israel is engaged in war in Gaza”, detailing her trip to the country last Thursday with CFI where she toured Kibbutz Kfar Aza, met with experts on Hamas’ use of sexual violence and visited the site of the Nova music festival. She said that “those who demand a ceasefire now are effectively asking Israel to surrender unilaterally” and that leaving Hamas would allow for a “repeat” of the “horrors that occurred just over 90 days ago”.
Former Attorney General Michael Ellis KC MP wrote in The Times that South Africa’s case against Israel is a “dangerous stunt” that has “distorted” what he called Israel’s “self-defence to a pogrom-style slaughter of 1,200 of its people” for political purposes. Ellis analysed South Africa’s claims, calling them “devoid of legal merit”. Hamas should be the “only culprit” of “accusations of genocide”, he added, evidencing the terror groups’ pledge to repeat 7 October “until Israel is annihilated”.
Speaking on GB News, Greg Smith MP spoke of his “harrowing” trip to Israel with CFI last week. He told the channel that he saw things which will “haunt [him] forever”, including the formerly thriving Gaza-border community of Sderot, which has become a “ghost town”. He warned of the malign activities of Iran, North Korea and a China in supplying weapons to Hamas.
Israel delivers closing argument at International Court of Justice
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that South Africa’s case launched against Israel is “completely unjustified and wrong” and that “the UK Government stands by Israel’s clear right to defend itself within the framework of international law”, as Israel’s legal team delivered its response this morning to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Israel’s legal advisor, Tal Becker, called the case delivered by South Africa on Thursday “grossly distorted” and “curated”. He added that “if there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel”, condemning South Africa for intending to strip Israel of its right to self-defence against Hamas.
“Under guise of genocide claims this court is trying to stop Israel defending its civilians against an organisation which pursues a genocidal agenda against them”, he said, if the accusations were to be supported. In initial remarks, Becker called South Africa’s allegation a “libel”. “For some, the promise of Never Again for all peoples is a slogan. For Israel, it is the highest moral obligation” he asserted, whilst highlighting the work of Raphael Lemkin, credited with “coining” the term genocide and helping the world recognise that “the existing legal lexicon was simply inadequate to capture the devastating evil that the Nazi Holocaust unleashed”.
He said that South Africa has “now sought to invoke this term in the context of Israel’s conduct in a war it did not start and did not want, a war in which Israel is defending itself against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organisations whose brutality knows no bounds” and who operate in “utter contempt for the law”.
Prof. Malcolm Shaw continued that “not every conflict is genocidal”, which is a “uniquely malicious manifestation and stands alone among violations of international law as the zenith of evil, the crime of crimes, ultimate in wickedness”. He argued that “if claims of genocide were to become common currency of armed conflict wherever that occurred, the essence of that crime would be lost”. The court must strike down the accusations to ensure the integrity of the Genocide Convention, to maintain its promise and the court’s own role as its guardian – Israel’s legal team argued.
“To produce random quotes which are not in conformity with Government policy is misleading at best”, the Professor added, citing IDF orders to differentiate between military and civilian targets, in addition directives from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to destroy Hamas and not the Palestinian people.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he submitted materials in support of South Africa’s case, arguing that Turkey are “the real genocide perpetrators” for carrying out “the Armenian holocaust” and “massacres of the Kurds”.
UK and U.S. conduct strikes against Houthi terror group
The UK and U.S. carried out “targeted strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen” last night, with international support, according to Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron.
The need to defend “international shipping lanes in the Red Sea”, across which 15% of the world’s trade passes, was deemed necessary after the ships came under fire from 26 illegal Houthi led attacks since mid-November, Cameron added. This was restated by U.S. President Joe Biden, who called the action a “direct response” to “unprecedented” attacks by the Houthis, “including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history”.
The largest attack to date occurred against HMS Diamond and US Navy vessels on 9 January, including 18 drones and a number of missiles. Following the attack, coalition forces identified key sites at Bani in north-western Yemen, and at an airfield at Abbs – where drones and rockets were launched at commercial vessels. The Western coalition launched a “carefully coordinated strike to reduce the Houthis’ capability to violate international law”, according to a UK Government statement.
President Joe Biden called the U.S. and British strikes a “defensive action”. The UK Government statement added that they were launched with “particular care” “to minimise any risks to civilians”.
Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands supported the U.S.-led strikes, whilst Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and Iraq condemned the move. The Houthi’s vowed that “America and Britain will have to be prepared to pay a hefty price”.
‘BDS Bill’ passes Third Reading in House of Commons
Communities Secretary Michael Gove led the Third Reading of the Third Reading of the Economic Activities of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill on Tuesday. He said that the Bill – known as the ‘BDS Bill’ upholds a 2019 manifesto commitment in facing the “growing threat of antisemitism” and “making sure that the UK Government speaks with one voice”.
Gove asserted that “public bodies”, “local Government pension schemes” and “local authorities, should not be taking decisions that conflict with UK Government foreign policy” – adding that the Bill will not hinder anyone from expressing their “personal disapproval” of any matter.
He raised the cross-party consensus that “the BDS movement itself is explicitly and regrettably antisemitic”, “deliberately” arguing “that the state of Israel as a home for the Jewish people should not exist”. The “unique focus” of the movement, which “singles out Israel for special treatment”, was exemplified by the Communities Secretary as an example of antisemitism being a “virus that mutates over time”, which was historically “directed toward the Jewish faith”, then “the Jewish people” via racism, and now the Jewish “homeland” by denying the “same right of self-determination” that “we extend to all peoples”.
He emphasised the failure for BDS to apply equal standards to “Syria or a variety of other regimes” and acknowledged the broad, unaffiliated, communal support for the bill, including the Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies of British Jews and Community Security Trust (CST).
CFI Parliamentary Chair (Commons) Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP said that BDS “has been entirely constructed as a weapon against the state of Israel” and that the movement is “riddled from top to bottom with antisemitism”.
“I believe strongly that we should be backing Israel, not boycotting it”, stated CFI Parliamentary Vice Chair Rt. Hon Theresa Villiers MP as she made clear that “we can be in no doubt that the BDS movement is divisive and damaging: it rejects a two-state solution and consistently opposes efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together”.
She restated that BDS “drives antisemitism” and addressed the “racist treatment of Jewish students” that BDS encourages on campus. “It is entirely unacceptable for Jewish students to feel unable to be open about their faith” for fear of “harassment”, Villiers said, recalling scenes she had witnessed in Israel last week as a result of Hamas’ devastating 7 Oct attack, which were “reminiscent of Yad Vashem”.
Former Attorney General Rt. Hon. Michael Ellis KC MP spoke of the Government’s “obligation to pass” its manifesto commitments. Public bodies’ “independent foreign policy agenda” have resulted from “divisive, antisemitic partisan campaigns pursued by the antisemitic BDS movement”, said Ellis, adding that the “the BDS National Committee is a coalition of proscribed terrorist groups, including Hamas”.
The “chilling and racist effects” of the movement are reminiscent of “20th century fascism”, said the former Attorney General, evidencing West Dunbartonshire Council’s 2011 ban on “new book volumes printed or published in the Jewish state”. He also outlined Leicester City Council, Swansea City Council and Gwynedd Council motions which “are inherently discriminatory and a breach of our World Trade Organisation obligations”.
“Nearly 100,000 Palestinians are employed by Israeli companies”, he argued, reviving “higher wages” and “greater protections than elsewhere in the Palestinian economy and its equivalents across the Middle East”. “Speaking as a former Attorney General, I assure the House that the ban will not apply to individuals or private organisations where they are not carrying out public functions. That is testimony to the Government’s respect for freedom of speech”, stated Ellis.
David Simmonds CBE MP spoke of his passion for local Government as a former member of the Local Government Association, and called for “appropriate limits when there are risks” of local policy “causing real, serious division” by interfering “with what is more appropriately national policy”. He had observed “massive amount of BDS lobbying” and paid tribute to the local councillors who usually steered clear of campaigns “beyond their remit and at risk of conflicting with the more broadly expressed objectives of the country”.
Citing the interfaith progress made in his constituency (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner), Simmonds added that, “we need to ensure that BDS, which solely targets the state of Israel, is restricted from inflicting any further damage on our communities”.
Nicola Richards MP called the bill a “landmark”, welcoming its efforts to “promote community cohesion” amid the global spike in antisemitism which has accompanied the “horrendous massacre committed by the Hamas terrorist group”. “Demonstrators filled the streets of London to celebrate Hamas’s attack”, she said, adding that “CST recorded 2,098 antisemitic incidents”. She described recent incidents of hard-line antisemitism and called out publicly funded bodies which give “succour” to “division and extremism”.
“The BDS movement is antisemitic”, she continued – saying it is “against peace and normalisation. It calls for the eradication of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state”. The campaign “unfairly targets Jewish businesses and people” and “inflames tensions and rejects co-existence”.
Having visited “Yad Vashem, Auschwitz and the forests in Poland where thousands upon thousands of Jews, including children, were murdered”, Miriam Cates MP said that she was sure Nazi-style brutality “would never happen again” until 7 October. She condemned “shocking levels of support for Hamas among young people” and Tom Hunt MP said separately that the “core” job of local councils should be “running local services instead of virtue signalling”.
The IDF released an operational recap on Wednesday, and have reportedly taken complete control of northern Gaza.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) recently announced the establishment of a new field hospital in southern Gaza, operated by international personnel with a capacity of “50 beds, personnel of 200 and comprehensive care”. The branch released the steps they had completed in assisting the delivery of increased aid to Gaza, and urged the UN to do more. The Israeli Government body tweeted that “Israel has taken significant steps to minimize harm to Gaza civilians and will continue to do so, while Hamas does the opposite”.
Israel exposed a tunnel shaft located under a desk in what they reported as a “children’s room”.
Journalists Hamza al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria, who were killed in an Israeli strike which was widely covered by international press – have been revealed to be members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, charged with operating drones and leading an electronic engineering unit for the militia.
The IDF released footage of their forces averting a missile strike due to the possibility of children playing football in the strike zone. Each IDF strike must be approved by an independent legal advisor.
Underneath Khan Younis, the IDF discovered an underground network equipped with an air ventilation system, electrical supply and plumbing.