Selective policing – El Al, it’s not just an airline, it’s Israel

The British police allowed a suspected Israeli war criminal to return to Israel despite having a judicial warrant for his arrest at Heathrow airport. Major General Doron Almog is a former Israeli commander in Gaza and was wanted in relation to the demolition of 59 civilian homes in Gaza. The British police were expecting him to leave the plane and were waiting in the immigration hall to arrest him. However the Israeli Embassy in London was tipped off and boarded the plane at Heathrow to warn the General not to leave. Apparently the Metropolitan Police were refused permission by El Al to board the plane which returned to Israel with the General.

As the warrant for the General’s arrest was a secret one can only suppose the Israeli authorities must have been tipped off by one of the few people who knew about it’s existence – the lawyers for the Palestinians, hardly likely; the judge who issued the warrant; or someone from the Met Police counter-terrorism department. The police decision not to board the plane was made on the basis of the possibility of Israeli armed guards on the plane and whether or not they had the legal right to do so.

It was confirmed that El Al were refusing voluntary access to the plane and DSU MacBrayne could not get confirmation that he had a legal right to do so. The time scale involved made it impossible to receive the appropriate advice before the El Al flight was due to return to Israel at 15.30 hrs …

“Another consideration being that El Al flights carried armed air marshals which raised issues round public safety. There was also no intelligence as to whether Mr Almog would have been traveling with personal security as befitted his status, armed or otherwise………”

I find it strange that the police did not know the legalities of boarding a non-British airline and even if they didn’t, why could they not have grounded the plane until they found out? I also cannot believe that the counter-terrorist squad do not have any mechanisms in place for dealing with terrorists on planes sitting on the tarmac of a London airport. Would they have responded in the same way if the plane did not belong to an Israeli airline? I doubt it. Imagine if it had been an Iranian plane – no doubt it would still be sitting at Heathrow airport under siege from half of London’s armed police. Heathrow would probably be closed with all flights canceled…..But no, there are are no images of Israeli terror on the front pages this morning but what we do have from the police commander’s report is that “discreet” inquires were made by the police on the reaction of the British Jewish community if Almog was arrested – clearly the British government was more fearful of their reaction than of injustice.