The Appalling Sir Daniel Bethlehem 101

This is Sir Daniel Bethlehem, a man who is to me an embodiment of the appalling moral vacuum at the heart of the British establishment.

Sir Daniel in a public international lawyer who has specialised in Middle eastern issues, and has always found it to be his genuine and considered legal opinion that the law supports the neo-conservative agenda for the Middle east.

Bethlehem first came to the attention of the general public as the man who advised the Israeli government that it was legal to build their “security” wall slicing through the West Bank and disrupting Palestinian communications and access to fields and water resources. Bethlehem was then the counsel to the Israeli government at the resulting case before the International Court of Justice.

The International Court of Justice – along with the vast majority of reputable international lawyers – disagreed with Daniel Bethlehem, and Bethlehem and the Israeli government lost the case. The Israeli government however disregarded the court’s judgement and continued its illegal activity.

Nowhere can I find evidence that Bethlehem has condemned the Israeli government for flouting the authority of the court before which he appeared. His commitment to the institutions of public international law appears somewhat partial.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a department of Legal Advisers who are closely integrated and involved in virtually everything the FCO does; I must have consulted them at least 60 tims in my own career. They are extremely distinguished individuals and a major source of scholarly articles on all aspects of public international law. They include some of the most respected experts in international law in the world.

The FCO legal advisers – of whom there are approximately 20 – agreed unanimously that the proposed war in Iraq would constitute an illegal war of aggression. As Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw’s response was to push for the removal of the chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood (the No. 2, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned in disgust). Straw then, against all precedent, recruited a chief Legal Adviser from outside the FCO corps, one of the few public international lawyers in the UK prepared to argue that the Iraq invasion was legal.

Who did Straw choose? The Israeli Government’s trusty adviser, Daniel Bethlehem. Forget that his arguments for the Wall of Terror had been dismissed by the ICJ, the important thing for Straw was that Bethlehem was On the Right Side. He was prepared to argue the Iraq War was legal; that made him better qualified than any internal candidate.

Inside the FCO Bethlehem continued to be On the Right Side. This fascinating document contains the following extract of a minute from Matthew Gould, Private Secretary to Straw and Adam Werritty and Mossad’s point man in the FCO, to Daniel Bethlehem. The intention is to bolster Bethlehem’s attempt to keep from the UK courts the details of the torture by the CIA of Binyam Mohammed, and British complicity therewith.

Discussions of 12 May 2009
[Email note of meeting by Matthew Gould, Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign
Secretary, addressed to Daniel Bethlehem dated 13 and 14 May 2009. The note of 14 May
responded to a request for clarification.]
Note of 13 May 2009
“1. On 12 May the Foreign Secretary raised the Binyam Mohamed legal case with Hillary
Clinton. Clinton was accompanied by Dan Fried (Assistant Secretary, State Department)
and Tobin Bradley (NSC); the Foreign Secretary by Nigel Sheinwald, Ian Bond and me.
2. The Foreign Secretary said that the Court had questioned the continuing non-release of
the US documents in the case given (1) the arrival of the Obama Administration, and (2) the
release of the 4 DoJ memos. The Court had said it could not see how, in the light of the
publication of these memos, anything in the US papers could be regarded as sensitive.
3. The Foreign Secretary said that the British Government would continue to make the case
that it continued to be an inviolable principle of intelligence co-operation that we did not give
away other peoples secrets, and that doing so would cause serious harm to the UK/US
intelligence relationship.
4. Clinton (who was clearly well aware of the case and the associated issues) said that the
US position had not changed, and that the protection of intelligence went beyond party or
politics. The US remained opposed to the UK releasing these papers. If it did so it would
– 4 –
affect intelligence sharing. This would cause damage to the national security of both the US
and UK.
5. Bradley said that this was also the position of the White House. They appreciated that this
left the British Government in a difficult position…

It is worth noting that yet again Bethlehem advised that the law supported the perpetrators of the most vile abuses of human rights, and yet again the most senior courts were to disagree with him.

It comes therefore as no great surprise that, having now left the FCO, Bethlehem is currently Legal Adviser to the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Sir Daniel Bethlehem – pillar of the British Establishment and a serial servant of evil. Sir Daniel Bethlehem advises that the invasion of Iraq was legal, the cover-up of complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohammed was legal, the Israeli Wall was legal, and the repression in Bahrain is legal.

Young lawyers take note; if you want to have a sword rested on your shoulder by an odd horsey woman, make sure your view of legal right never supports the oppressed, never defends the victim. There is a fat living in evil.

101 thoughts on “The Appalling Sir Daniel Bethlehem

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  • Mary

    A friend sent this which is behind the Ha’aretz paywall. I have not used para breaks to save space.

    Haaretz 14.02.13

    Israel’s dark deeds

    It is still possible to make people disappear even in the Israel of 2013. On whom can Israelis rely to report how many there are and who are they?
    And what about Arabs and Palestinians, who don’t have an investigative reporting TV program on Channel 2? How many of them have been made to disappear and have disappeared, “committed suicide” and died?

    By Gideon Levy

    Many thanks to Australian television, which has reminded us of what a dark state we are living in. Many thanks to the three Israel-hating members of the Knesset – Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) – for saving its honor. And many thanks to a handful of media outlets and human rights organizations for trying to do their job despite everything.
    All the rest should now be ashamed. They should be feeling profound shame for having betrayed their responsibilities, thereby committing a far greater act of betrayal than the implied act of treachery ascribed to citizen Ben Zygier. But more than that, they should also be forced to face and account for the imbecilic role they play in the Israeli regime. Alongside the organizations of darkness was the collaborating judicial system, the newspaper editors who were keen to bring back the days of the disgraceful editors’ committee, the newspapers and the broadcast channels that only two days ago were trying to suppress the affair – all the agents, lawyers, jailers, censors, police and investigators who knew and kept quiet.
    A person was made to disappear in Israel – not the first and apparently not the last person, and maybe not the only one at this time, either – and they acted as though they didn’t have the slightest idea. This raises very big questions. The State of Israel tried to flip another switch off and bring down more darkness. Who are the Electric Corporation employees compared to those operators? When the late electricity workers union boss Yoram Oberkowitz turned off the switch, we all at least knew about it (and raised an outcry). When Mossad director Tamir Pardo does it, Israelis don’t even know. Most of them, presumably, would not make any noise even if they did know. That’s how it is when the religion is security and hush-hush is the ritual. That’s how it is when in the name of these idols it is permissible to do anything here: to assassinate, to make people disappear, to torture and imprison.
    There will be a day when it becomes clear just how much good was cultivated in the shadows and how much damage and terrible rot grew there. How many of these dark deeds were essential and how many were no more than infantile adventures of those who love this genre, those who run the country, who are addicted to these deeds and think the public doesn’t even deserve to know.
    Little is known about the affair, too little. But even the spotty details that are known cannot justify the disappearance of a person. Nothing can justify it. Zygier was an Australian, the circumstances of whose life and death are hidden in the fog. Maybe he committed suicide, maybe he was murdered. Maybe he committed treason, maybe not. And how will we know? Will we continue to rely on what they tell us? Is it conceivable that we will not know? Most likely there are others like him. And how will we know how many there are and who they are? On whom can we rely to report to us?
    Okay, an Australian, and an investigative program in his country. And what about Arabs and Palestinians, who don’t have an investigative reporting TV program on Channel 2? How many of them have been made to disappear and have disappeared, “committed suicide” and died?
    After all, even in Israel, disgracefully, there is no truly subversive investigative program. And there is a court system and a censorship system which, in their gall and stupidity, withhold from citizens information that was broadcast on Australian television.
    The thought that there is a handful of Israelis who have their finger on the switch, and on the prison lock, and only they decide what the public will know is chilling. Chilling, as is the thought that even in the Israel of 2013 it is still possible to make people disappear. We thought Mordechai Kedar, who in the 1950s was tried on secret charges, and even supposed KGB agent Marcus Klingberg belonged to the past, to those cold days that would never return.
    And then along came this current affair and proved that nothing has changed. This is Israel, like sinister regimes; this is Israel, like the 1950s, here and now. Indeed it was just yesterday that Judge Tal Avraham prohibited publication of any identifying detail regarding “the respondent’s wife and his two daughters, including their place of residence.” Why? Concerning those details, too, we will have to wait for the good graces of Australian television.
    Zygier’s blood is crying out now. But this isn’t a matter of the circumstances of his life and death. This is a matter of something much deeper: This affair is not (only) one that concerns him. It is an affair that concerns all of us, and tomorrow it will be forgotten.

  • Villager

    Habbabkuk, the clue to your deletions may also lie here. Repeating a comment made on the Iranian thread.

    ” I consider myself to be the intellectually most honest commenter on this blog and also the most open-minded and least ‘politically correct’. Only fools anjd knaves would contest this.”

    We did a little survey here while you were away:

    The bad news: You are perceived as a tactless megalomaniac across the board. Reconfirmed by your “I consider myself to be the intellectually most honest commenter on this blog” and earlier claims of “intellectual firepower”, “quality control”, etc.

    The good news: Yes we all agree life is good, even for an empty vessel making a lot of noise!

    The consensus: “The real world’s very good for you, you know” and that you should be given an immediate and indefinite sabbatical from this blog.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Doug Scorgie (21h38) :

    Normally I wouldn’t bother to reply to your post as it is not a serious contribution to the debate.

    But there is one difference between a Jew and a Zionist which could be of importance in certain situations or contexts. It is that any Jew can become a citizen of Israel on simple request. A Zionist, however, is not necesssarily a Jew, and those Zionists who are not Jews cannot become citizens of Israel with the same facility.

    As I’ve remarked before, it would be interesting to see how many British Jews in high positions are also citizens of Israel. One thing is sure : Israel itself is full of people with two nationalities.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!)

    @ Villager : yes, fine, but who are the “we” ? You and the other Eminences have no status on this blog, after all.


    La vita è bella, life is good (and it’s good that we all agree) !

  • Villager

    Habitual Babbler, the term Eminences here is your doing and immature responsibility. Part of your provocative and offensive style, Clark has highlighted above. Therefore the we includes the silent majority here, many of whom are put off commenting because of the atmosphere you have deliberately gone about setting in Craig Murray’s blog/home. He is none the impressed , made obvious by Jon’s note above, in case you are too darn thick to absorb. Grow up and stop your Smart Alec crap here.

    If Craig wants to appoint you as the Quality Assurance Superintendent, i suspect he will. Until then behave and engage tactfully rather than as a superior to an inferior. Just stop it!

    If there are people out there who disagree fundamentally with what is being said here, please raise your hand and say so.

  • Jay

    So what are the answers to all the absurditys?


    Sorry to question your authority. I hope the local politics is working out for you.

    It seems here Britain and Europe are being run by a fanatical football chairman and all the irrational decisions are all made with one eye on selling of the stadium and re-mortgaging on a spangly out of town new one built on a Macdonalds and Pizza Hut.

    Most here as I have it easy, what hurts is the knowledge that we do have it easy and there are less fortunates. As the Bahrainies who Craig highlights.

    Maybe we are missing the tiger who came to tea.

    More love to Craig.

  • Jay

    So what are the answers to all the absurditys?


    Sorry to question your authority. I hope the local politics is working out for you.

    It seems here Britain and Europe are being run by a fanatical football chairman and all the irrational decisions are all made with one eye on selling of the stadium and re-mortgaging on a spangly out of town new one built on a Macdonalds and Pizza Hut.

    Most here as I have it easy, what hurts is the knowledge that we do have it easy and there are less fortunates. As the Bahrainies who Craig highlights.

    Maybe we are missing the tiger who came to tea.

    More love to Craig.

  • mark golding

    Craig wrote, “..the appalling moral vacuum at the heart of the British establishment.

    In my mind such a powerful statement is a harrowing cry that the vile and unethical void be filled and cleansed by the oxygen of ethics and the natural law.

    Craig has used the adjective ‘appalling’ and I believe his post centrally refers to a clique-grown-cabal that sanctioned the mass murder in, and the destruction of, the sovereign state of Iraq.

    I strongly believe and not in a pompous way it is our duty here as principled citizens of outstanding judgement to breath hope, future guidance and purity into that dark terrene; for the integrity of our country and the world. Clearly the burden of determining the legality of the Iraq war falls on us, the people, because the establishment has clearly failed preferring to bury or cloak much of the evidence in secrecy.

    In law Her Majesty’s Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith at the time said, “the legitimacy of pre-emptive armed attack as a constituent of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”
    He also said, “It is argued by some that the language of Article 51 provides for a right of self-defence only in response to an actual armed attack.”

    The resolutions passed by the Security Council after the ‘terrorist’ attacks on 11 September 2001 recognise both that large-scale ‘terrorist’ action could constitute an armed attack that will give rise to the right of self-defence and that force might, in certain circumstances, be used in self-defence against those who plan and perpetrate such acts and against those harbouring them, if that is necessary to avert further such terrorist acts. It was on that basis that United Kingdom armed forces participated in military action against Al’Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    I struggle to decide what is a ‘test of imminent attack’ as I have no crystal ball to see into the future. I ask, can such a test determine the lies that became evident as we were told by government there was an imminent WMD threat to British assets that could strike in 45 minutes? The details are burn into our conscious, yet importantly –

    -a million maimed and murdered children need a voice, our voice. Many more future children also need our consensus.

    From the ashed of Chilcot can we, the people, perform the autopsy and deliver hope with atonement? Can we make judgement?

  • Jonangus Mackay

    Is Bethlehem a Zionist? Is the next Pope a Catholic? Strange that the German edition of Wikipedia has an entry on Sir Daniel but the English-language one hasn’t. Most unusual.
    Passports? What Passports? Latest on the grisly fate of someone else running errands on behalf of Germany-on-Sea:

  • Cryptonym

    It is a mistake though to assume that this clique or cabal is all powerful and invulnerable, with eyes and ear everywhere and influence permeating all that we survey. With just a few, leading and inflicting their vile, conscienceless, remorse-free agenda on the many, aided by hordes of useful idiots thinking they are just swimming with the tide, doing what they need to survive, who if they cannot be killed can be rehabilitated to serve honourable ends.

    Assassination, decapitation of the fascist regime in totalitarian control here on this island concentration camp, tactics which once seemed uncharacteristic, more in keeping with some mythical South American republic where revolutions occurred per minute and scarcely merited mention, which we’ve been taught would be un-British, seems with every passing day to seem a very worthy strategy. It is now the case that our leaders and betters spend ever more on personal security precautions and spend every waking second looking over their shoulder and in perpetual alarm that their criminally insane reign of terror will catch up with them in the end. Even torture must be re-visited as justified, not uselessly for information but as punishment, monarchs, prime ministers, cabinet members, press barons, MPs -unquestionably culpable mass-murderers mustn’t end their days peacefully in their beds.

    Drastic circumstances require a temporary descent to deal with those responsible.

    Today is as good a day as any for the war-mongering tyranny to be stopped stone-dead.

    Pitchforks at the ready, folks. This government is going down.

  • craig Post author


    I know what you mean, but I certainly would not want any physical harm to come to any of these people. The sad truth is that people like Daniel Bethlehem are insulated from the social disapprobation which should attend their actions. I fully expect to hear from Carter Ruck shortly myself. The inability to mobilise proper and deserved social disapprobation of those who have enriched themselves by making a career out of neo-imperialism is frustrating but, as you note, not necessarily permanent.

    I expect Bethlehem is perturbed at finding this article on the front page if you google him. The absence of a wikipedia article speaks to a probably attention by him to internet image. That perturbation is precisely the effect I intended.

  • Cryptonym

    I am very angry this morning, the news is all bad, nothing can lift the feeling that despite an already burgeoning list of barbarities committed, new state crimes are already in the offing, with those responsible burrowing their co-conspirators ever deeper into the corrupt establishment and having an air about them suggesting they hope to get away with it.

    It gives no satisfaction that they won’t get away with it, if it will be after the fact and tremendous physical and psychic damage is done to countless victims destroyed along the way.

    These Zionist creatures and dual-citzens of Israel should fuck right off over there with a one-way ticket and no return or exit again ever. No (wo)man can serve divided interests.

  • Mary

    That’s strange. I have just tried again and Craig’s piece is now fourth just under the row of images. Would that be the same for everyone or are search results personalized?

    I see Gideon George Orborne has called in to have a pop at Clark! 🙂

  • thatcrab

    Cryptonym – “Even torture must be re-visited as justified, not uselessly for information but as punishment”

    You mean like Bradley Mannings pre-trial treatment for leaking the collteral murder video and diplomatic cables that revealed the illegal warmongers contempt for diplomacy and international law; imprisoned naked in intense solitary confinement for a year, not allowed to sleep soundly on ‘suicide watch’ facing a lifetime in military prison for his act of concience, unless the bloodlusting mafia who have him their can someday be overcome.

    Tempting but i dont think they can be overcome by their own means.

  • Clark

    Craig, 15 Feb, 8:42 am, I logged into Wikipedia and created the page. That means that people without a Wikipedia account can now edit it:

    Please, folks, reference your sources, or it becomes my job to remove what you’ve added! If you can’t work out the formatting for adding proper references, just put it as plain text in normal, round brackets, and another Wikipedian will come along at some point and tidy it up, or maybe a “bot” will do it.

    This blog, unfortunately, probably doesn’t count as a “reliable source”, but you can give it a go.


    Interesting to see Craig Murray not chairing but a speaker. Actually glad as it no doubt meant he could participate more. The final comments from him really summed the situation up. UK Gov simply hopes to keep the lid on it all for another 20-30-50 years. Shameful indeed.

    I bet somewhere there will be documents/emails showing this attitude not only in relation to Bahrain but also the other Arab Spring uprisings.

  • willyrobinson

    “I fully expect to hear from Carter Ruck shortly myself.”
    The bit about Jack Straw was very interesting indeed, but I hope you don’t mind me saying there’s something a bit kamakaze about your writing sometimes…It’s up to you, but.

  • Clark

    Please, folks, go and add material to Wikipedia quickly, as the most likely method of getting it deleted at present is “lack of notability”. As soon as material backed by references from reliable sources has been added, it can’t be removed, because Wikipedia classes that as “vandalism”.

  • Clark

    Oh yes, and only submit polite, well-referenced stuff. Daniel Bethlehem is still alive, so you have to comply with “biography of living persons WP:BLP” – libellous material WILL be removed.

  • Clark

    Exexpat, thanks for your promise to add material, but our page doesn’t deserve five stars yet! Keep it all very neutral, as much like an encyclopaedia article as you can make it; that way, it avoids being removed, because we don’t look like a load of amateurs grinding our axes. Let the facts speak for themselves.

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