British judicial officials may investigate the actions of a presiding judge who directed a jury to acquit defendants accused of causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to an arms factory after the defense argued it was to stop Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza.
Judge George Bathurst-Norman told jurors that Gaza's Palestinians suffered "hell on earth" as a result of Israel's actions. The lead defendant's actions might even merit the George Cross, England's highest civilian honor.
The jury followed the judge's advice, accepting the defendants' insistence that although they committed a crime, they did so in order to stop Israel from committing more serious ones against the Palestinians.
The Crown Prosecution Service's Board of Deputies wants the Office of Judicial Complaints to investigation Bathurst-Norman's remarks from the bench. "The press reports of Judge George Bathurst-Norman's comments… give rise to profound concerns about the appropriateness of his directions to the jury," said Board President Vivian Wineman.
The seven defendants objected to the role of EDO MBM, a British company supplying military equipment used in Operation Cast Lead – the military campaign launched by Israel in December 2008 to destroy Hamas terror cells firing rockets into Israel. On January 16, 2009, the defendants broke into a manufacturing facility owned by the company and spent close to an hour damaging equipment with hammers, throwing cabinets and computers out of a top-floor window, and sabotaging machinery.
The seven were backed by a group calling itself smash EDO, which bragged openly about activists' success in destroying property and getting away with it.
The local Member of Parliament, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, praised the court decision and said she was "absolutely delighted" the activists had been cleared.
Judge Bathurst-Norman's decision "takes the delegitimisation of Israel in the U.K. to new levels," a British blogger observed. "Not only can you freely trash Israeli goods in a supermarket, practice antisemitism at a British university and get an arrest warrant for an Israeli official visiting the UK" but "you can now break into a factory making exports to Israel and lay waste to the production machinery."