Call on UK to act on Palestine

12 May 2008 - 10:56am
Press release

The British government is today urged to take action over Israel as the anti-poverty charity War on Want warned that millions of Palestinians face a humanitarian catastrophe unprecedented in its history. The warning comes before a protest to mark the 60th anniversary of the nakba, in which, the charity says, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in the displacement that made the state of Israel possible.

According to War on Want's latest briefing, millions of Palestinians are living with human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation. One of them, Hanni Ammar, saw his livelihood destroyed and property stolen when the illegal Separation Wall was built near to his home and business in the West Bank village of Mas?ha.

Mr Ammar commented on Israeli soldiers: "They have said that if my children go near the wall, they will shoot them. The settlers also regularly harass us, throwing stones from behind the fence without warning. One of my children got hit in the face, so he needed stitches. I am an example of someone who is suffering day by day, and reflect the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Soon after a recent War on Want visit to the Bedouin villege al-Haddiye in the Jordan Valley, an area now dotted with settlers' farms, Israeli bulldozers flattened the homes of families who had lived there for generations.

The briefing cites the acknowledgement in a report from the UK government?s Department for International Development that poverty in the occupied territories 'is a product of occupation and conflict'. It adds that in February foreign secretary David Miliband and international development secretary Douglas Alexander called on the Israeli government to:

  • immediately reverse its reductions in electricity to Gaza
  • avoid any further planned cuts
  • fulfil its obligations under international law

But War on Want claims "such words are meaningless when Israel knows it can count on the British government's political and economic backing. The UK has continued to support Israel with trade preferences and arm sales, irrespective of its treatment of the Palestinian people." The charity is calling on Mr Miliband to press Israel to abide by international law and stop defying United Nations resolutions, and to dismantle the infrastructure of the occupation, including the illegal wall and settlements. It also urges him to ensure the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which makes Israel's trading preferences conditional on respect for human rights - a condition which the UN says Israel has breached many times.

Ruth Tanner, War on Want's senior campaigns officer for global justice, said: "Millions of Palestinians are paying a terrible price for the illegal occupation and the British government's inertia. It is high time Britain's foreign secretary went beyond mere words to put real pressure on Israel to end the Palestinians' torment."

War on Want's partner organisation, Stop the Wall, raises awareness on the impact of the occupation on Palestinians and also campaigns to save homes from Israeli destruction in the Jordan Valley. The charity is appealing for donations and says:

  • £250 could buy a tent for a family in the Jordan Valley whose home has been demolished.
  • £100 could support its partner Al-Zaytouna to help olive oil farmers gain access to international markets for their products.
  • £50 could help Stop The Wall produce detailed reports of the damaging effects of the wall on Palestinian communities.
  • £20 could produce petitions, postcards and reports to lobby the UK government to demand that Israel stops building a wall that compounds the poverty of Palestinians.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The national demonstration for Palestine assembles at 1.00 pm today (Saturday, 10 May) at Temple Underground station on Victoria Embankment, with a rally set for Trafalgar Square.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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