BY GARY SPEDDING
A letter from the Palestinian Solidarity Society addressed to William Hague (British Foreign Secretary) petitioning for the application of tougher policies when dealing with Israel and calling, ultimately for more “robust Human rights and trading policy” with the aim of holding Israel accountable and thus apply stronger international pressure on them to desist in their continuous breach of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories and in Gaza.
The letter has been signed by a number of MPs including those members of the SDLP who hold constituencies in Northern Ireland.
Dear Mr Hague,
by CouponDropDown” href=”http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/palestinesolidarity/2012/10/30/open-letter-to-william-hague-trading-with-israels-illegal-settlements/#”>Human rights should be at the forefront of any methodology seeking genuine conflict resolution.
We believe the UK governments approach to this should be straightforward and unambiguous.
We are deeply frustrated at the British government’s current position on the State of Israel.
Numerous methods exist that would allow us to challenge Israel on specific topics of serious concern such as the continued construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Disappointingly it remains unclear how the UK will move forward on this issue as the Foreign Office has said they would be unlikely to initiate a by CouponDropDown” href=”http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/palestinesolidarity/2012/10/30/open-letter-to-william-hague-trading-with-israels-illegal-settlements/#”>direct attempt to tackle Israel’s settlements and do not want to be associated with any form of boycott, but has also indicated that if others lead the FCO may well follow.
On such a divisive issue we believe Britain should adopt a robust Human rights and trading policy in which to establish a basic set of rules that identify the exceptional circumstances under which the United Kingdom should withdraw investment and trade from a particular state, area or settlement.
We believe that trade, when undertaken responsibly and with respect for human rights, has enormous potential to lift people out of poverty. There are instances where robust action is needed to ensure human rights are safeguarded.
Challenging the framework of human rights abuses should be an essential part of any governing body whether central, local or national. Reflecting this belief the United Kingdom must develop and strengthen a set of robust human rights and trading policies that set out a clear and transparent commitment to the safeguarding of human lives and the human rights of civilians throughout the world.
We favour and praise the Cooperative’s Human Rights and Trading Policy adopted in 2009 which has led the way in setting a human rights approach to by CouponDropDown” href=”http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/palestinesolidarity/2012/10/30/open-letter-to-william-hague-trading-with-israels-illegal-settlements/#”>foreign trade and investment for the Cooperative.
Enormous struggles by CouponDropDown” href=”http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/palestinesolidarity/2012/10/30/open-letter-to-william-hague-trading-with-israels-illegal-settlements/#”>continue to take place in an attempt to establish and protect human rights
Education and awareness raising around on-going human rights abuses is of fundamental value and importance.
The Cooperative’s policy acknowledges that trade is a force for good.
In exceptional circumstances; they recognise (as should we all) that the benefits of trade may be undermined. Withdrawing trade is not a decision any of us should take lightly, as we should all recognise that it may deprive people of an income when they are already suffering under oppression.
The Cooperative transparently outlines that they will only withdraw trade from a state or region if at least one of the following conditions are met:
1. Where the democratic representatives of a country call for a withdrawal of trade;
2. Where there is international consensus that the status of a designated region or state is illegal;
3. Where there is strong evidence that trade is a contributory factor to a conflict.
International jurisprudence and law coupled with International humanitarian and human rights law should also be applied when the UK government is reviewing a particular trading agreement.
Our opinion is that trade and investment should be withdrawn from any government body, company or business that is complicit in the breach of international law and human rights standards if they persistently refuse to comply or engage with calls to cease such activity.
One example of such a circumstance where we believe trade should be withdrawn is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a settlement is illegal and human rights reports show serious abuses of human rights.
The current Cooperative policy states that there are two examples of such settlements: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara.
Highlighting and challenging Israel’s illegal activities can admittedly be difficult. International consensus on this issue must be taken into account.
We believe that a boycott of goods and divestment from companies that are profiteering from the occupied Palestinian territories is an appropriate step forward.
If the UK government were to lead the way in by CouponDropDown” href=”http://blogs.qub.ac.uk/palestinesolidarity/2012/10/30/open-letter-to-william-hague-trading-with-israels-illegal-settlements/#”>applying robust policy which strengthens current Foreign Office opinion on the issue of Israel’s settlements then we may see progress in resolving the conflict in the Middle East.
By upholding international law standards and utilising a consensus driven approach we can make progress for peace by sending a clear message to the Israeli government that the United Kingdom will not accept the legitimacy of Israel’s appropriation of land, resources and agricultural produce from territories occupied.
The human rights impact of such activities such as the taking of water resources, the continued settler violence and the intolerable permit system designed to make life impossible throughout the occupied territories is also something we request the UK government to recognise in public.
We request the UK government to work in a measured manner that ensures the State of Israel is held accountable to international law standards on these issues which we note the FCO have repeatedly brought up with the Israeli government.
Mr Gary Spedding – President QUB Palestine Solidarity Society
Mark Durkan MP for Foyle
Margaret Ritchie MP for South Down
Alasdair Mcdonnell MP for Belfast South
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP for Manchester Gorton
Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North
Dame Joan Ruddock MP for Lewisham Deptford
Richard Burden MP for Birmingham, Northfield
Sir Peter Bottomley MP for Worthing West
Kelvin Hopkins MP for Luton North
None parliamentarian signatories:
John McHugo, Chair, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine
Sally Fitzharris, Secretary, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine
Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine