A call to criminalizing UK citizens going to fight for Israel

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UK Channel 4 news brought up a point yesterday on its blog by Patrick Worrall that's worth discussion.

Worrall wrote:

Farooq Siddiqui, formerly of the Prevent programme, is calling for the UK to stop criminalising young Muslims who travel to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad.

Security service estimates suggest around 500 Britons have travelled to Syria to take part in the civil war.

Mr Siddiqui asked why the government has threatened to arrest British Muslims who return from Syria while it allows young people to fight for Israel and other countries with impunity.

“If we’re talking about stopping people, Muslims, stopping them from going over to other countries and fighting, why are we not doing that as a blanket for stopping anyone that goes over abroad to fight in other countries?”

Is Mr Siddiqui right to say that young Brits are fighting for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while the Israelis are engaged in controversial strikes against Palestinian targets following the murder of three Jewish teenagers?

He added:

The numbers of volunteers from the UK are small but significant: the IDF told Channel 4 News there are “around one hundred Brits currently serving” in its ranks.

There is a even a support group for British parents of IDF soldiers called Mahal Mums.

We’re not aware of anyone questioning the legality of this arrangement.

In terms of what laws are in place in Britain, he noted:

Unlike some other countries, Britain does not have an effective law prohibiting its citizens from fighting for foreign armies.

There is an obscure piece of legislation still on the statute books – the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 – which ostensibly makes it illegal for British citizens to join the armed forces of a country fighting a state at peace with Britain.

But this proved to be embarrassingly ineffective when prosecutors attempted to stop British volunteers from fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

The lack of any practical ban on foreign enlistment leads to the slightly odd situation where a teenager can travel to Syria to fight for the brutal Assad regime with impunity, but if he sides with enemies of the regime he could face prosecution as a terrorist back in Britain.

Published: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 19:06

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