William Hague applauds the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran and says this week’s deal “vindicates the policy of pressure through sanctions”, but recoils from even the mildest form of economic pressure on Israel – such as advising UK firms not to trade with illegal settlements – even though he admits Israel is in clear breach of international law on settlements, on the wall, on prisoners in Israeli jails and on east Jerusalem.
In September he issued guidance to UK firms doing business with countries with poor human rights records and is due to write country-specific guidance on Israel, but will he advise firms not to trade with illegal setlements? He says they are “illegal and an obstacle to peace”. But EU trade with £200 million a year keeps them going.
Netanyahu sits down to talks, but makes a mockery of them by announcing 4,000 new homes in illegal settlements on Palestinian land. The talks are floundering. Robust UK business guidance to stop trading with settlements might just reinvigorate them.
Mini-briefing on child detainees
Hugh Robertson pledged his support last month for the Foreign Office-funded report Children in Military Custody and its 40 recommendations: “I entirely support it and during my time as a minister, I will do everything I can to ensure that its recommendations are properly and correctly implemented.”
The report’s authors, Sir Stephen Sedley QC, Baroness Scotland, and others, will revisit Israel in March to review progress. So far only two or three of their recommendations have been carried out by the Israelis, reducing the maximum period of detention of children without charge from 60 to 40 days and the maximum before appearing before a judge from 4 days to one for 12-13 year-olds and to two for 14-15 year olds.
This does only a little to reduce the abuses which mainly occur in the first 24 hours after Palestinian children are arrested in the middle of the night, interrogated without parents or lawyers present, bullied into signing confessions in a language they do not understand and jailed sometimes as young as 12.
Mini-briefing on Bedouin clearances
The Israelis are trying to “relocate” 30,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their villages in the Negev and remove them from their ancestral grazing lands. The “relocation” is done by evicting them and demolishing their houses.
At the same time they are trying to “relocate” Bedouins in semi-desert areas around to Jerusalem to make way for new illegal settlements.
Bedouins are families who live in semi-arid areas and traditional live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving their flocks of sheep or goats around according to season. They have lived in the Negev for at least 700 years.
Mini-briefing on Gaza
Children in Gaza are wading through streets flooded with sewage. Power outages, often for 18 hours out of 24, cause sewage pumps to fail and streets to flood. The health minister in the Gaza Strip has warned that the territory is on the verge of a major health catastrophe.“The electricity goes off for 12 hours at a time, and then comes back on for six, and then back off again for 12,” he explained.“Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable,” according to the UN.
From the JFJFP newsletter: There’s a humanitarian disaster going on in Gaza but it doesn’t seem to be attracting much international attention let alone effort. There is such a shortage of fuel that power plants, lighting, sewage processing and small private or corporate pumps and generators cannot function. The effort to keep life going is exhausting and the threat of the diseases borne by polluted water is very high. Israel, General Sisi, the PA and Hamas are all blamed by people in Gaza. They also say – what have we done to deserve this?