This is a summary of all the things said about Palestine, Palestinian human rights in the UK Parliament, Westminster. All of this content is put together by a volunteer, Elizabeth. Thanks to her and we hope it is useful.
FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2015
- Richard Burden: What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of the effect of continuing evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem on prospects for a two-state solution in that region?
Commons Written Answers
THURSDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2015
- Andrew Smith: Has the FCO received representations from any representatives of the Israeli government to stop funding specified Israeli human rights NGOs?
- Richard Burden: Whatrepresentations has the Foreign Secretary made to the Israeli government on the eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family from their home in East Jerusalem?
- Richard Burden: What steps is DEFRA taking to communicate the requirements of the European Commission’s Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, published on 11 November 2015, to (a) businesses, (b) importers and (c) consumers? [George Eustice: The principal feature of the Interpretative Notice is a recommendation that goods imported into the EU which originate from Israeli settlements in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 should bear an indication which makes that provenance clear. That recommendation was included in technical advice to UK retailers and importers concerning labelling agricultural produce from the West Bank that was issued by Defra in 2009. We are currently in discussion with other Departments to consider whether revisions need to be made to the 2009 advice in the light of the Interpretative Notice.]
Nos 1-3 Commons Written Answers
- Universities: Freedom of Speech – tabled by Baroness Deech:
– Baroness Deech: “There is an academic boycott of Israel, which has been condemned by the Prime Minister and is discriminatory—and some Israeli or Jewish students do not get to enjoy the safe space that the NUS guarantees to others.”
and: “They [ed: the lecturers] should be told that boycotts are racist, discriminatory, undermine academic research and are contrary to the global knowledge goal of the International Council for Science.” [extracts]
– Lord Leigh: “I was moved to speak in this debate partly because of actions of my alma mater, the University of Southampton. In April of this year it was due to host a conference, the entire premise of which, backed up by a homogenous list of speakers—the usual suspects—was to question the right of Israel to exist as a nation state, and essentially to call for its elimination. No other nation state had ever had its right to exist questioned at Southampton University. I followed the example that my noble friend Lord Patten would have welcomed of writing to the vice-chancellor to ask for his leadership in this matter. We corresponded because I was upset by the university’s failure to lead on this, but I did not get very far. However, the response from the Academic Friends of Israel was much more dignified than mine, in refusing to call for the conference to be cancelled or even for balance to be added to the programme. Instead, they simply chose to exercise their own right to free speech, to publicly criticise the one-sided nature of the programme, and to expose the questionable biographies of some of the speakers. Contrast this with events of the previous autumn, when an Israeli professor, Mark Auslander—whom I have never met—was due to give a talk at Southampton on the subject of optical sensors: not views about the State of Israel, just views about science and technology, a field in which Israel has apparently long been a world leader. Almost unbelievably, the lecture had to be cancelled due to intimidation. This was suppression of free speech, combined with the worst of the politics of identity. Protestors were so afraid of what an Israeli might have to say about optical sensors, that they would not even hear him out. Perhaps they were interested in hearing about optical sensors, but not from an Israeli. As our own Prime Minister has said: “It is absolutely right that in Britain’s universities, students and faculty should be able to criticise Israel, just as they can criticise any country … But it is absolutely wrong that in any of our universities there should be an environment where students are scared to express their Judaism or their Zionism freely”. The problem is, of course, bigger than Southampton, bigger than Israel and bigger even than anti-Semitism. It is not confined to the UK. Speakers ranging from Condoleezza Rice, the IMF head Christine Lagarde, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have all been invited to speak at American universities and then had their invitations withdrawn due to howls of protest from students. There is room for hope. The University of Chicago has recently published a report in which it says: “It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive”. I commend this conclusion and sincerely hope that other universities will follow suit, both in the US and in the UK. Indeed, this House, too, can be an example. Whether it is on defence and security, the economy, welfare or public services, we strengthen our democracy by coming here and airing our disagreements, improving our arguments and bolstering our understanding. Let us hope that university campuses will allow Professor Auslander and other distinguished academics from around the world the same courtesy. ” [extract]
– Lord Polak: “I declare certain non-financial interests: I am the honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel; the unpaid director of a company that provides support for the All-Party Britain-Israel Parliamentary Group; and a trustee of the Yavneh Foundation Trust, a charity which owns the land and buildings in which a Jewish academy school operates. In recent years, an environment of censorship, hostility and intimidation has emerged on university campuses across the United Kingdom. This current trend and the actions of some student bodies increasingly risk threatening freedom of speech at universities—places where debates and dialogue are fundamental. It can be difficult for Israel-supporting students to hold discussions on some campuses because of the prevailing attitude among many students and academics. By enabling extremist-linked organisations to speak on campuses but formally adopting boycott, divestment and sanctions—BDS—against Israel, the NUS has demonstrated selective discrimination. The BDS campaign has actively sought to delegitimise Israel since 2005. Astonishingly, it has also consistently opposed efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work towards peace. BDS leaders advocate boycotting cultural exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian artists, and condemn educational co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian universities. I am also concerned about what is happening here in Britain. In March 2015, staff and students at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies—SOAS—voted strongly in favour of a full academic boycott of Israel. The boycott campaign specifically called for cutting ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where BA students from SOAS itself can spend a year studying. In June 2015, the national executive committee of the National Union of Students voted to boycott Israeli companies and formally align itself with the aims of the BDS Movement. Yet, quite unbelievably, only a few months earlier the NUS executive committee had voted against a motion condemning Islamic State terrorists on the grounds that doing so could be considered Islamophobic. Principally, the academic boycott campaign is a major infringement on the right to free speech and directly impacts on the ability for academic co-operation between the two countries. One answer to an academic boycott can be greater collaboration between academics in the UK and their counterparts in Israel. This Government and the British Council, together with the Pears Foundation, have taken a lead on this, most strikingly with BIRAX—the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership—which has many projects. Funding has been awarded to leading universities in Britain and Israel: Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford; and the Hadassah School of Medicine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Galilee Research Institute, Technion, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The University of Manchester and Technion in Haifa partnered in 2013 to collaborate jointly on research projects focusing on heart disease, stem cell and genetic research. There are many other areas of collaboration. In cybersecurity, for example, the bilateral UK-Israel academic partnerships are the University of Bristol and Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv; University College London and Bar-Ilan again; and the University of Kent and the Ministry of Science and Technology at Haifa.
Britain, Israel and society as a whole have much to lose if this sort of collaboration is stopped. The funding of these programmes should be not only safeguarded but enhanced. Does my noble friend the Minister agree with me that academic exchanges can help undermine those who wish to boycott and stifle freedom of speech? Will she confirm that Her Majesty’s Government will not only safeguard the programmes I have mentioned but extend and enhance them?” [extract]
– Baroness Bakewell: “I speak as president of Birkbeck in the University of London. It is the home of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism—the only centre in the UK and one of only two in Europe whose mission is to promote the understanding of anti-Semitism. My noble friend Lady Deech asked what is to be done. Studies and institutes such as this can investigate the state of freedom of speech in our society. Most recently, the institute has been dealing with what it calls the “new anti-Semitism”—a reference to when criticism of Israel and the policies of its Government are condemned as being anti-Semitic. There is no absolutely no consensus on this, and the noble Lord, Lord Polak, has just made a strong case on this very issue. Some colleagues in the academic world have chosen to boycott their corresponding faculties in Israel; others believe in engaging in debate with those they disagree with. I oppose boycotts. I believe in fierce and engaged debate, as indeed do the Israelis.” [extract]
– Lord Lester: “I say to the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and others who have rightly criticised boycotts that I successfully advised University College London that the boycott of Israel by academics was unlawful, and it ended.” [extract]
– Lord Mendelsohn: “While I am addressing freedom of speech, I want to address briefly a matter raised by the noble Lords, Lord Leigh, Lord Polak and Lord Lester of Herne Hill, who raised the question of how Israeli academics, Israeli students, Jewish students, Jewish societies and others have been dealt with. This is a matter of great concern to us, particularly as safe space has always seemed to have been denied to this group. I restate the view of my noble friend the shadow Foreign Secretary that the Opposition wholly and totally reject the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its objectives; they have no place in our party and no place in our universities. It is not just that they are antithetical to any attempts towards peace in the region in which they profess to play a role, but they are against our values and our notions of what universities should be. It is a source of regret that they appeared. In this context, I say to my noble friend Lady Bakewell, who also raised this issue, that we compliment the outstanding work of the Pears Institute at her institution. She identified the new antisemitism. The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism has also done so and made some recommendations recently about what should be done at universities ……….. People from universities have been identified in planning terrorism and have been present among foreign fighters. This is not new. In 1994, the bombing of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre in north London were the product of people who had been at universities.” [extract]
– Baroness Evans: “Noble Lords raised other specific points. I assure my noble friends Lord Leigh and Lord Polak and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, that the UK Government do not support academic or cultural boycotts of Israel. Indeed, the UK has engaged in 60 years of vibrant exchange, partnership and collaboration with Israel, which does so much to make both our countries stronger. I was very interested to hear about the work of the Pears Institute, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness. I congratulate it on the great work it is doing. The responsibility for ensuring that students do not face anti-Semitism on campus rests with universities, which have the tools they need to tackle it. Clearly, if anti-Semitic incidents continue or increase, we must look to do more and we will, of course, make sure that we do whatever we can to stop this. Universities UK has undertaken considerable work to promote safer campus communities and support universities in this area and has received direct support from BIS to do so.” [extract]
Hansard video: http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/7c44b856-7d63-4f1b-8322-1eeba839356e from 13:06:12 to 15:25:52
- Counterterrorism: Communities – tabled by Baroness Mobarik:
– Lord Stone: “On a broader platform involving young people, to counterbalance the hostility in social media, a Palestinian, Joana Osman, and an Israeli, Ronny Edry, founded Peace Factory to build communities online, particularly across borders where people cannot physically meet. They connect people, giving them a voice and a face in a safe space where they can become friends in their online world. These young people are showing us the way to foster links globally.” [extract]
Nos 4-5 Lords Debates
WEDNESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2015
- Andy Slaughter: How many of the (a) core recommendations and (b) specific recommendations of the FCO’s report entitled Children in Military Custody, published in June 2012, has the Israeli government implemented?
Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: Why was the decision taken not to grant entry to Britain to a group of medical experts from Gaza and a psychologist from Bethlehem who had been invited to contribute to a conference at Kingston University?
Lords Written Answers
TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2015
- Questions to the Foreign Secretary:
– Louise Ellman: Will the Minister raise in his discussions the current terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians? Some 108 Israelis have been killed or injured by shootings and stabbings on the streets in recent weeks. Will he also condemn the incitement that goes with that, including the statement from the Palestinian cleric in Gaza who said that Jews should be turned into body parts to stab “the myths of the Talmud” out of their heads?
– Tobias Ellwood: The hon. Lady raises a very serious point. Thankfully, in the past couple of weeks there has been a reduction in violence in the west bank. Since the start of the current spate of violence, we have spoken regularly with both sides—the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority—and we urgently need to de-escalate tensions and get all parties back to the table.
– Lucy Allan: There has been another weekend of deadly terror attacks on Israeli citizens, including a brutal stabbing yesterday. Will the Foreign Secretary condemn those attacks, and does he agree that sanctioned incitement to commit terror must end?
– Tobias Ellwood: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I articulated in a previous answer, we need to get all parties back to the table. Unfortunately, it seems that the planets are misaligned at the moment. We need to reconfigure and ensure that all parties are able to come back and prevent the scale of violence from increasing.
Commons Oral Questions
- Restrictive Measures Against Iran:
– Matthew Offord: Backers of the nuclear deal have argued that sanctions relief and renewed access to $150 billion in frozen assets will not benefit the revolutionary guard in its support of terrorist organisations in the region because restrictions remain in place against Hezbollah and Hamas. Such a view is not shared by others, including me. [extract]
– Jim Shannon: I am a friend and supporter of Israel, for many reasons. I am a Christian and believe that Israel is the land of God’s chosen people. That is my opinion and belief. At the same time, I understand that that does not give them the right to do everything they want. I think of Israelis trying to protect themselves. Some of those in Iran who are part of the process of changing the sanctions have said that they want to see the destruction of the state of Israel. That does not mean firing a couple of bombs—it means no Israel. Given such statements, where is the “smooth implementation of the agreement” when it comes to Israel? Last Saturday I attended an event in support of Israel at the Parliament buildings at Stormont in Belfast, and the speakers there were very aware of what we were trying to say. When it comes to agreed steps to reduce the nuclear programme, where is the evidence of change among the Iranians we are talking to? [extract]
- Andy Slaughter: What recent representations has FCO made to the Israeli government on the Children in Military Custody report, funded by his Department, which was published in June 2012?
- Stuart McDonald: What is the number of Palestinians who have applied for visit visas for the UK in each month since November 2013; and how many such applications were successful for each of those months? [James Brokenshire: Data on entry clearance visas is produced quarterly. The information is provided for Q4 2013 onwards in the table below.]
|Entry clearance visit visas Palestinian nationals (including dependants)|
|Year||Granted||Refused||Withdrawn or lapsed|
|Q4 (October to December) 2013||688||807||609||182||16|
|Q1 (January to March) 2014||760||737||542||193||2|
|Q2 (April to June) 2014||1166||1,149||791||340||18|
|Q3 (July to September) 2014||865||848||575||249||24|
|Q4 (October to December) 2014||656||715||388||300||27|
|Q1 (January to March) 2015||759||753||393||336||24|
|Q2 (April to June) 2015||1153||1,131||722||399||10|
Nos 3-4 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Helic: Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay on 4 November (HL2981), what assessment have HMG made of the impact of the Middle East Quartet Representative on the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine, and what
have they identified as its successes and failures?
- Baroness Helic: Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 4 November (HL2982), what were the reasons for the decision not to appoint a new Middle East Quartet Representative, and what differences exist between the mandate of the Middle East Quartet Representative and the new Head of Mission of the Office of the Quartet.
Nos 5-6 Lords Written Answers
Monday 23 November 2015
Written Question tabled in the House of Lords on 9.11.15 by Baroness Tonge: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether their plans to introduce rules to stop local councils from taking boycott or divestment initiatives in relation to Israel are compatible with their guidance on overseas business risk in Israel recognising the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Written Answer on 23.11.15 by Lord Bridges of Headley: Cabinet office will shortly issue guidance that reminds public authorities of their international obligations when letting public contracts. Foreign policy is not a matter for local authorities. The guidance will make clear that boycotts in public procurement are inappropriate and may be illegal, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions that have been put in place by the Government.