In contrast with the British government position, that alternates between unconditional support of Israel on the one hand and disapproval of settlement activity and various violations in the occupied Palestinian territories on the other, in Britain there are many voices which condemn these violations. Among them, British writer Victoria Brittain and PSC activist Hilary Wise were very concerned that the people of Palestine should know that in Britain there are many who support their just cause; the latter hoped that “official Palestinian circles would be more involved in the international solidarity movement, for example by inviting groups to visit the Palestinian territories and see the violations for themselves”.
Over the past few days Wise and other activists in groups working with the campaign Action for Palestinian Children helped to organise a tour for the Defence of the Child International – Palestine. It visited nine British cities and included meetings with British officials and public meetings attended by hundreds of ordinary people; they were told of the forms of abuse suffered by Palestinian children, especially the arrests, which affect hundreds of children, in utter disregard of international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Most of the members of the campaign have visited the occupied Palestinian territories and seen the daily violations at close quarters; these include restrictions on the movement of citizens and child arrests; one of the campaigners told AlQuds that the campaign should not stop at affirming the human rights of the Palestinian people, but should also stress the importance of solidarity with with Palestine as a state.
The tour included meetings with MPs and members of the House of Lords, and with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office official Cathy Ward, deputy head of the ME department and Clare Preece the FCO desk officer responsible for the occupied territories. There were also meetings with retired judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, Baroness Scotland, trade unions and with the Palestinian Ambassador in
the UK, Manuel Hassassian, who participated in the London meeting. Haya El Farra of the embassy also accompanied the delegation on most of their visits.
The focus of the tour was on stressing the need to implement the recommendations of the report presented in June last year by a mission [to Israel] consisting of ten lawyers. The recommendations, which have received the support of the Foreign Office, revealed the extent of the abuse and discrimination in terms of the conditions of detention and interrogation, and the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children. The recommendations emphasized “the need to treat Palestinian children on an equal footing with their Israeli counterparts,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Programme Director of Defence of the Child International.
He stressed the importance of the tour of British cities in maintaining the interest shown internationally in the report on the Israeli court system, revealing as it does the existence of blatant violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law. He also noted that another visit of the lawyers group will be organised soon (next March), in order to assess any changes in the Israeli military court system, and to find out which of the 40 recommendations contained in the report have been acted upon. Essentially, most of the recommendations aim at bringing Israeli military law into line with humanitarian law, especially regarding the conditions of
detention and interrogation.
Abu Eqtaish, who took part in the tour, gave a presentation in the various meetings, describing the flagrant discrimination in Israeli laws applicable to children: Palestinian children get military law, their Israeli counterparts, civil law!
This article was first published by Al Quds and can be read in Arabic here: http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/475151