"If Europe does not take political action to bring about the end of the siege, we are culpable"
Israel's consistent breaches of international law were the focus of a debate held in the House of Lords last week. Lord Nazir Ahmed, who took part, told the house about his recent visit to Gaza where he went as part of a delegation of 60 European parliamentarians. He spoke about some of his experiences during his visit including his meeting with a surviving member of the Samouni family, 29 members of who were killed by Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead. He explained how Mona Samouni described seeing her father murdered in front of her eyes when he was shot in the head by Israeli forces. He also described meeting "the mother of a six year-old who was shot twice in the chest at point-blank range after he protested and cried when his father was shot right in front of his eyes." He explained that the blockade on Gaza is so tight now that even the UN cannot get materials into Gaza for rebuilding their own buildings damaged during the Israeli military assault.
Lord Ahmed reiterated the words of Sir Gerald Kaufman, the leader of the British parliamentary delegation, when he said "if Europe does not take political action to bring about the end of the siege, we are culpable". "That is" Lord Ahmed went on to say, "we are culpable for the 75 per cent of Gazans who are malnourished and the 50 per cent of Gazan children under the age of 12 who do not have the will to live."
After drawing attention to some of the starkest violations of international law that Israel is guilty of committing, he stated "It is time that Her Majesty's Government stopped appeasing the Zionist lobby and took a firm step towards ensuring that international law is respected. We have a duty to children like Mona and thousands of other Palestinians who deserve a brighter future."
In terms of direct and immediate action he argued that during the 10th EU-Israel association agreement council meeting taking place next Tuesday, the British government "should be making representations to the Israeli Government, but we should also make it clear to the EUIAA council that its actions should be suspended until the Israeli Government comply with international law." Lord Ahmed further urged for the ratification of the Goldstone Report, which should also be reflected in British foreign policy towards Israel, as without it "we will appear to hold double standards and make a mockery of UN law."
His speech was followed by a response from The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, much of which was very encouraging. For instance, she addressed the issue of settlements of which she said: "We are absolutely clear on settlements. Settlement activity is illegal, prejudices peace talks and must be halted immediately anywhere in the Occupied Territories. In east Jerusalem it presents an even greater threat to the prospect of peace." She furthermore stated that "Israel's decision to add two holy sites in the occupied West Bank to a list of heritage sites is deeply worrying. We are making representations in private as well as in public on these issues and I can assure noble Lords that we are utterly unambiguous. I can reassure noble Lords that we are looking at the practical steps we can take to discourage settlement expansion, such as ensuring that goods from settlements do not benefit from EU trading agreements with Israel."
She stated that the government was remaining "vocal" and "active" about a range of other issues "from the route of the barrier, to the operation of military courts, to the operation of the permit system." She also said that the British government have "called on the Israeli government to take immediate action" with regards to fair trials for Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.