By Fareena Alam, Press TV, London
Lord Nazir Ahmed is one of Britain's most prominent Muslim leaders. This week, he questioned the British government about concerns that British Jews may have served in the Israeli Defense Force during Operation Cast Lead - the three-week bombardment of Gaza.
Lord Ahmed's questions have brought attention to an issue that has significant legal and political implications but which few want to discuss in public.
The following is an exclusive Press TV interview with Lord Ahmed:
Press TV: Lord Nazir Ahmed, you raised question in Parliament about the legal implications of British Jews serving in the IDF. What was the response?
Lord Ahmed: I asked Her Majesty's government if they were aware of British citizens who may have been involved with the war crimes committed by the Israeli Defense Force and Israeli Defense Reserves. Her Majesty's government did not have any figures because dual nationals do not have to inform the government. However, there are reports in the Daily Mirror and The Sun with the names of British citizens who have been fighting in Gaza.
The point I was making is that war crimes have been committed, white phosphorous has been used and if there are people who have broken the 4th Geneva Convention, then whoever they are, when they return to this country, they should be arrested and charged - unlike the Major General who escaped in 2005.
Press TV: Are you certain these are up to date reports about British citizens serving in Israel?
Lord Ahmed: These are very new reports, dated January 2009, of British citizens who have gone out to fight against the Palestinian people as part of the IDF. Their names and ages are mentioned in these reports.
We know that there are student unions that have been actively recruiting young people in Britain to join the Israeli Defense Force and we also know that there are young Jewish students who go and serve on the kibbutz and also in schools, who are also then doing national service in Israel.
How many of those have been involved in war crimes? How many of those have broken the Geneva Convention? When they come back to this country, we want our government to take some legal action against them.
Press TV: Will our government take such action?
Lord Ahmed: Yes - if there is evidence and if the United Nations is strong enough. At the moment they have not even decided how they are going to conduct this independent investigation into the use of white phosphorous and other weapons prohibited by the United Nations.
There is very clear evidence that the 4th Geneva Convention has been breached - we know there was collective punishment, excessive and disproportionate use of force against civilians and deliberate attacks on schools, hospitals and ambulances. There have even been attacks on UNRWA personnel and warehouses.
If the United Nations makes a statement or if someone goes to the courts and gets an order against these people then I am sure the government has to take some legal action.
Press TV: Were you surprised by the response from the government?
Lord Ahmed: I am not surprised at all. Lord Malloch-Brown did actually say that if there is any evidence of the 4th Geneva Convention being breached, and it doesn't matter whether they are British citizens or whether they are other nationalities, these people will be arrested and they will be tried in this country.
Press TV: How do you think the British Jewish community will react to such a move?
Lord Ahmed: Well the reaction was very obvious. One of their lordships got up and started to praise the British citizens who were fighting in Gaza. He said: shouldn't we be proud of the fact they are fighting against terrorists who are hell bent on trying to destroy Israel.
But they are not fighting against a terrorist organization as such. The IDF and those who serve in it have been involved in the massacre of civilians, including hundreds of Palestinian children and attacks on the United Nations and even the American school. There is just no excuse for anyone to get away from these war crimes this time.
Press TV: Is this situation comparable to British Muslims allegedly going to fight in foreign conflicts?
Lord Ahmed: There have been many government statements with regards to British Muslims going abroad to foreign madrasahs and then seeking training. There was a huge outcry across the board - from government officials, politicians and civil society.
Of course, we do not support anyone who has been involved with terrorism or killing of innocent civilians anywhere, or those who fight British troops abroad.
However, to me there is no difference whether the young person is from a Jewish background or Muslim background. The only difference is that one has a uniform and the other does not. Both kill innocent civilians. Both need to be brought justice.
This is why Baroness Tongue asked the question about the number of British youth who go to religious Jewish schools and also the kibbutz. In this case, it is a double standard to allow young British citizens of whatever religion, who go to religious schools and then get involved in armed conflicts and join a terrorist state.
The very fact that in both cases, they kill innocent civilians, including children warrants a fresh look at this issue, as was recommended by Lord Wallace of Saltaire.
Press TV: Are you expecting any progress now that you have raised the issue?
Lord Ahmed: My intention was to bring this matter to the attention of parliament. The second was to discuss this openly in the media. It has always been a taboo to ask any questions about Jewish youth who go to Israel for training and service in the IDF.
We have received a government statement. Now, it is for the legal experts to take it up in the courts and to make sure the government takes legal action against people who may have been in breach of international law.
As a general point, I was surprised by how the entire British society was moved by this crisis. In almost every town and city, people went out to demonstrate against the bombing and killing of innocent civilians. They put pressure on the government and at least the government has done a few things such as taking the resolution to the UN.
But more importantly, I have definitely seen the mood amongst British politicians change to become more openly critical of the Israeli government. Unfortunately, that is not the same in Europe.
We went to see the President of the European Parliament and met with a number of Members of the European Parliament who feel that Germany, Austria and France and other parts of Europe still have guilt in relation to the Holocaust. That is why Israel can get away with anything it wants.
We know that very fine members of parliament like Gerald Kaufman MP, who is himself Jewish, very openly said that just because these people were victims of the Holocaust does not mean they should perpetrate another holocaust on the Palestinian people.
We need to speak out and support Jews, like Gerald Kaufman and Jews for Justice for Palestine, who have been supporting the Palestinians.