Gov­ern­ment can have ef­fect in Mid­dle East

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION - Mike Scott-bau­mann Chel­tenham

✒ I HAVE re­cently re­turned from the West Bank (Oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian Ter­ri­to­ries) where, with other in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teers, I spent four days help­ing to build a com­mu­nity cen­tre for Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in the Jor­dan Val­ley and three days har­vest­ing olives near Nablus.

We had all been in­vited by the Is­raeli Cam­paign Against House De­mo­li­tions.

We wit­nessed many, many dif­fer­ent forms of ha­rass­ment, by both set­tlers and Is­raeli De­fence Forces (IDF), which, when com­bined, would seem to con­sti­tute a de­lib­er­ate, con­certed pol­icy of eth­nic cleans­ing or ‘trans­fer’ as some might call it.

They ranged from school de­mo­li­tions by the mil­i­tary to phys­i­cal at­tacks, by hill­top set­tlers, on Pales­tinian fam­i­lies wish­ing to farm their land.

We saw the im­pact of the IDF’S cut­ting off a vil­lage’s wa­ter sup­ply and of the set­tlers dump­ing their sewage in spring wa­ter which was no longer fit for hu­man or an­i­mal con­sump­tion.

We wit­nessed a shep­herd be­ing ar­rested for tres­pass­ing in a ‘mil­i­tary fir­ing zone’ and heard that, two days ear­lier, he had been held, blind­fold and hand­cuffed, for five hours.

For­tu­nately, his flock had found their way home; other­wise, his liveli­hood might have been de­stroyed.

De­struc­tion of Pales­tini­ans’ liveli­hood would ap­pear to be a de­lib­er­ate aim of both set­tlers and mil­i­tary. In the case of the shep­herd, the sol­diers re­ported that they had been called in by the set­tlers.

We saw ex­am­ples of great re­silience in the face of op­pres­sion. How­ever, in­creas­ing em­i­gra­tion, par­tic­u­larly from Area C (which cov­ers more than 60 per cent of the West Bank), at­tests to the suc­cess of the Is­raeli pol­icy.

We did hear the view, voiced by rabbi Arik Ascher­man, that Theresa May had in­flu­enced Is­raeli PM Ne­tanyahu’s de­ci­sion to call off the de­mo­li­tion, even if only tem­po­rar­ily, of the Be­douin vil­lage of Khan al Ah­mar.

That sug­gests that our gov­ern­ment can have an ef­fect.

Surely the UK gov­ern­ment needs to show a greater readi­ness to join with our in­ter­na­tional part­ners in im­ple­ment­ing in­ter­na­tional law rather than just re­peat­ing the mantra of wish­ing to sup­port a two-state so­lu­tion when that prospect re­cedes ever fur­ther into the dis­tance?

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