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by Bethany Rielly
FAITH and human-rights groups have slammed the British government’s “lacklustre” response to Israel’s illegal annexation plans due to start today.
A coalition of 14 groups that includes the Quakers, Palestinian Human Rights and Christian Aid accused ministers of failing to take “meaningful” action to oppose the land-grab in Palestine, a flagrant violation of international law.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “strongly objected” to Israel’s plans to annex 30 per cent of the West Bank but skirted questions on whether he would impose sanctions.
Yesterday shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy repeated calls for ministers to impose a boycott on Israeli settlement goods should the plans go ahead, adding that “the silence from this government has been deafening.”
Responding, Middle East Minister James Cleverly appeared to rule out sanctions and criticised “voices in British politics that would jump at any opportunity to bring in sanctions and disinvestment.”
“We do not agree with those voices, and we will continue to work towards a negotiated two-state solution, using the diplomatic means we have at our disposal,” he told the Commons.
In a statement published on Monday, the campaigners’ coalition condemned the government’s response as “lacklustre,” saying opposition to Israel’s violations has been “largely rhetorical.”
Impunity is the “key driver” of annexation, the groups said, but added that Britain can still show it has not “abandoned” the Palestinian people by “carrying out appropriate ramifications” if the plans go ahead.
International condemnation mounted yesterday ahead of today’s July 1 date when Israel intends to apply sovereignty over its illegal settlements in the West Bank and the resource-rich Jordan Valley region.
Campaigners said yesterday that they want to see calls for action from the government go further than a ban on settlement goods.
Boycott Divestment & Sanctions co-founder Omar Barghouti told the Morning Star that Labour’s calls were a “step towards fulfilling” Britain’s obligations to uphold international law, which the Tory government has “totally disregarded.”
However, he insisted that “given the UK’s historical responsibility for the Palestinian nakba [literally “disaster,” the 1948 expulsion from their lands] and its deep involvement in Israel’s human-rights violations against Palestinians, a settlement trade ban is hardly proportionate to the gravity of Israel’s planned formal annexation.”
Mr Barghouti said that Labour must uphold its conference policy last year endorsing an arms-trade ban on Israel.
Britain has licensed £376 million worth of arms to Israel since 2015, including the sale of drones, grenades, missiles and bombs.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said yesterday that, despite Israel’s ongoing abuses and the threat of annexation, “UK arms sales to Israel have continued unabated.”
During Israel’s seven-week bombardment of Gaza in 2014, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, a report by the government found that weapons covered by 12 licences were likely to have been used in the onslaught.
CAAT campaigner Andrew Smith said that by continuing arms sales with Israel, Britain is sending a “clear sign of political support for the daily abuse that is being inflicted by the occupation [of Palestinian territory].”
“There must be an end to the arms sales and the message of support that they send.”
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