Government can have effect in Middle East
✒ 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?