Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign

 

Welcome to the Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign Website. Last updated: 17 January, 2010

You are probably tired of writing to your MP/MEP and cannot see how this type of lobbying can make any difference.  It is true that most of the time you get the standard reply whatever the question or are completely ignored.  Every now and then, however, something does happen and a politician or a media person changes their position. 

This is a very slow process, but well worth doing.  This is not just what the various campaigning groups say, but what many politicians admit to.  The process is most effective when:

  1. Many people write making the same point, so look out for calls to contact your MP etc.

  2. Avoid sending standard letters, use your own words/style.  Sample letters can be found on our web site.

  3. Be brief and make only one point, ask a direct question or make a direct request.

  4. Remain polite, but direct.  Do not threaten or set ultimatums.  Be realistic and relevant about your request/question.

  5. Do not be put off by the standard ‘non-reply’, try and engage the person and try and get an answer to your question.  You often only get a proper reply after the 2nd or 3rd attempt.

  6. Write to the appropriate person.  Your parliamentary representative or local press/agencies, but also non elected officials with the appropriate job description.

  7. If you do manage to get a face to face meeting as a result of your letter writing, make sure you are prepared and take someone else with you who can make sure you stick to what you want to get out of it.

The notes in this document and the other links on this web site are intended to help you get involved in lobbying generally and more specifically lobbying politicians to suspend the favourable trade links between the EU and Israel.  If you need more help encouragement or want to meet with others on this, then contact the postmaster who will put you in touch with our sub-group on this campaign.  

To help you come up with your own approach/style when lobbying, you can read a selection of what correspondence EPSC members have been sending.  Go to the top of our campaign page and click on the link “sample letters”.

You may also find the following notes useful.  They have been prepared by Prof. Richard Seaford and are intended to give you background and information on how to use the democratic systems available to you.


PALESTINE:  GIVING BRITAIN A POLICY

This is not about the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians.  It is about action.  It is for those who already realise what is happening in Palestine, to give them the facts, arguments, and proposals to make effective use of British and European democracy.

The British Government has a special responsibility for the conflict in Palestine, because the British Balfour Declaration of 1917 (issued without consulting the natives) was a crucial step in the eventual creation of Israel.

The British political process may seem full of spin and complacency.  But our indifference to it allows the British Government to get away with de facto support for Israeali illegality and brutality.  Exercising our democratic rights is easy, interesting, and potentially very effective.  It is becoming much harder to conceal the truth about Palestine, with the result that British foreign policy is increasingly at odds with public opinion, and is less confident than it may seem.

To shift it will be a historic achievement.  To do so, emphasising the enormity of the crimes against the Palestinians is not enough.  We must also explain what is wrong with the government position.

Your MP is your democratic representative, not a channel for Government spin.  Whether you choose to meet with your MP, or write letters, or speak at public or party meetings, your MP should listen to you.  MPs have to deal with numerous issues, and cannot be expected to be informed on them all.  What may make your MP listen to you about Palestine is that it is generally acknowledged to be the key to global peace.

And don’t forget your Member of the European Parliament. 


1. The position of the British Government

The Government position on Palestine, as stated on the Foreign Office website (5.11.05), is as follows.

‘The key elements [of a negotiated settlement] will include an end to occupation, the exchange of ‘land for peace’ leading to a viable state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, both secure and respected within recognised borders, as set out in UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397.’

What is wrong with that?  Only that the Government has made not a single genuine move to help make it a reality.  How will Israel, which is infinitely more powerful than the Palestinians, ever agree to what does not suit it?  Only by being subjected to pressure.  There is not even the tiniest chance of Israel implementing the Roadmap (see below), or ending its illegal occupation, or obeying UN resolutions, unless it is strongly pressured to do so.  So much is obvious.

And yet so far from exerting genuine pressure, the Government consistently offers support and encouragement to Israel in the ways described below.


2. Business As Usual.  

Your taxes are used for the promotion of trade with Israel (see e.g. the Department of Trade and Industry website), which is now very substantial.

Especially scandalous is the export of weaponry.  Between 1982 (the Israeli invasion of Lebanon) and 1993 (the Oslo accords) there was a European arms embargo on Israel.  Since Oslo, Israeli’s illegal settlements on the West Bank have greatly increased, and its brutality has continued unabated.  Yet now the Government routinely issues licences for the export of a wide variety of weapons to Israel.  One example is the missile-triggering systems supplied by Smiths industries for Apache helicopters, which have been effective in killing Palestinian civilians.  For many other examples consult PSC or the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Some  Questions

- If commercial considerations are more important than the lives of Palestinian civilians, does this not damage Britain’s international reputation?  Even if Britain supplies only a small proportion of Israel’s armoury, doesn’t helping to arm Israel explode the myth of British ‘even-handedness’?

- If the problem is that ‘if we don’t sell Israel weapons, somebody else will’, what steps is HMG taking to promote an international arms embargo?
  
- If an arms embargo was possible before 1993, why not now?

- Were international measures against the Apartheid regime not eventually effective?

- Is the British Government happy about providing aid to alleviate the destitution of the Palestinians (bilaterally and through the EU) when its benefits are outbalanced by Israeli onslaughts on Palestinian infrastructure?

 


3. International Diplomacy

(a) The United Nations.  The General Assembly of the United Nations frequently passes resolutions on Palestine, some in support of Palestinian refugees, some containing the reaffirmation of Palestinian rights and condemning Israel.  They are all passed with enormous majorities, sometimes with just Israel and the USA voting against.  The UK frequently votes with the vast majority, but also frequently abstains.  The resolutions are ignored by the USA and Israel.

(b) The Roadmap.  The Foreign Office Website also states that ‘the path towards a renewed political process is through the Quartet (US, UN, EU, and Russia) Roadmap, a performance based plan leading to a final and comprehensive settlement to the conflict by 2005.’

The Bush administration began to float the idea of the Roadmap in 2002.  In the run-up to the war against Iraq, in March 2003, it acquired considerable political importance.  For instance, in her book (An Honourable Deception?)Clare Short describes how Tony Blair promised her - as a way of obtaining her crucial backing for the war – that the Roadmap would be published.  And in the parliamentary debate of 18 March, the Roadmap was actually included in the pro-war motion – as a bait for the doubters.

The Roadmap was officially published on 1st May 2003.  It was accepted by the Palestinian Authority, and (with 14 reservations) by the Israeli government.  Despite its numerous inadequacies (e.g. it does not even mention the Israeli Wall), it has the advantage - over previous proposals - that it makes requirements on both sides in parallel, and so tries to prevent the two sides from each demanding that the other go first.

However, President Bush had on 26 February 2003 made it clear that Israel would not have to abandon settlement activity or modify its draconian measures in the occupied territory until ‘the terror threat is removed and security improves’, and ‘progress is made towards peace’. And on 14 April 2004 Bush even indicated that any final settlement Israel could retain some of its largest settlements.  By now, the Roadmap had been undermined by its own sponsors, and was useful only as a way of manipulating opinion (especially on the Iraq war).

And yet Bush’s 14 April remarks were welcomed by Downing St.  This caused amazement and dismay.  Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook referred to the ‘surreal statement from Downing St that President Bush’s plan has breathed life into the road-map.  George Bush has just unplugged the Roadmap from its life-support apparatus’ (Independent 16.4.04).  Shortly afterwards, fifty retired senor British diplomats wrote an open letter to Blair, expressing dismay that ‘you seem to have endorsed’ the new ‘one-sided and illegal’ policies announced by Sharon and Bush.

And so it is hardly surprising that the Roadmap has achieved nothing.  There will always be some people who, when their land is being brutally occupied, will refuse to disarm.  Israel will continue to use this as an excuse for refusing to negotiate, and in this way will continue to expand its illegal settlements while paying lip-service to the Roadmap.  The irrelevance of the British position was demonstrated by a meeting in London on Palestine (1st March 2005) that Israel refused even to attend!

 


4. The International Court of Justice Ruling on the Wall.

On 9th July 2004 The International Court of Justice delivered its ruling on the Israeli Wall being constructed in occupied Palestinian territory.

(a) It clearly states that its construction is ‘contrary to international law.’  It requires Israel to dismantle the wall and to make reparation for all damage arising from its construction.  (Voted by 14 to 1).

(b) It also requires the United Nations to ‘consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation arising from the construction of the wall and the associated régime.’  (Voted by 14 to1).

(c) It declares that ‘All States are under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation arising from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction’.  (Voted by 13 to 2).
     
(d) It declares that ‘All  States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention . . . have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.’  (Voted by 13 to 2).

 

Question
What is the British Government doing to fulfil its legal obligations arising from this ruling (especially under (d))?

         


5. The Current Situation (November 2005).

The Israeli intention is to present the evacuation of  8,000 settlers from Gaza as such an enormous concession that almost no more concessions are required.  But the occupation of Gaza was militarily very problematic for Israel, which is happier to control its borders and demonstrate its power to continue to make life unbearable for its inhabitants (currently by sonic booms).  The evacuation of 2% of the illegal settlers from Gaza was accompanied by an increase of twice the number of illegal settlers in the West Bank.  Notably, 3,500 new homes were in 2005 announced for a single settlement in the West Bank (Ma’ale Adumim).

The growth and extension of settlements, and the incursion of the Wall deep into Palestinian territory, are clearly designed to divide the West Bank permanently into small and non-contiguous cantons under Israeli surveillance.  In an interview published by the Israel newspaper Haaretz (8.10.2004) Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s senior advisor and chief of staff, clearly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was designed to prevent the implementation of the Roadmap and the creation of a Palestinian state: ‘Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.’

The election of a Hamas government will be used by Israel as yet another excuse for avoiding negotiation, but the possibility of Israel negotiating was (in the absence of external pressure) zero even before the election of Hamas.

 


6. The British Opportunity

The Roadmap was presented as an achievement by Blair, won in return for British support for the USA in Iraq.  In fact it was from the beginning a cruel deception.  The exceptional and very useful British support for the USA may conceivably give the British government some influence over American foreign policy.  But if so, there is absolutely nothing to show for it.  The USA gives to Israel over $3,000,000,000 a year, as well as military and diplomatic support.  Either the British Government has tragically not used its potential influence to help to modify this disastrously unconditional American support for Israeli expansion, or it has secretly tried to do so and failed.

Rather than using its special status (as the USA’s closest ally) to initiate or support any proposal that would apply genuine pressure on Israel (such as economic and diplomatic sanctions), the British government seems happy to stand and watch, ‘even-handedly,’ as one of the most powerful military forces in the world continues to expropriate and crush a relatively defenceless people.

 


7. The ‘War on Terror’

Much of the western media has succeeded in misleading many people (especially in the USA) about Palestine.  But elsewhere people tend to be more aware.

George Bush has described the US and its allies as engaged in a global ‘war against terror’, while using double standards so obvious as to make that ‘war’ unwinnable.

Iraq was attacked by the US-British alliance for breach of UN resolutions and possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, had for its record on human rights.

Israel has for years been in breach of UN resolutions and international law, occupies land that does not belong to it, has an appalling record on human rights, and (unlike Saddam’s Iraq) actually does possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

And yet Israel is able to flout international law with impunity, and is rewarded with what is in effect unconditional support by the American-British alliance.

 


8. First Steps for The British Government

1. The ‘Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria’ (adopted in October 2000) sets out a number of criteria that the Government should consider before granting export licences.  These criteria concern stability, peace, human rights, etc.  Israel is clearly in breach of these criteria.  The Government should adhere to its own agenda, and stop selling military equipment to Israel.

2. The EU-Israel Association Agreement is mainly about Trade.  Article 2 states that relations between the EU and Israel shall be ‘based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy, and constitutes an essential element of this agreement’ (emphases added).  Israel is self-evidently in breach of this article, and so the Agreement should be suspended (and is meaningless if it is not).

3. The British Government should use its membership of the Quartet to propose the possibility of economic sanctions against Israel in order to achieve any hope of a peaceful and just resolution.

4. The British Government should propose a European initiative to discuss an end to Israeli occupation and final status negotiations.