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Why is Britain silent on the extrajudicial killing of Palestinians?

April 18, 2016, midnight

Manuel Hassassian  Published in The Guardian 15th April 2016

Israel repeatedly proclaims itself a democracy, but anyone who has read any history or analysis beyond the headlines will see how far this is from reality. Every day Palestinians are killed or arbitrarily detained. The recent cold-blooded killing by an Israeli soldier of Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, a man who was lying injured in Hebron after stabbing and wounding an Israeli soldier, was caught on camera and so momentarily peeled away the veil of democracy.

But this murder was just the latest example of extrajudicial killings of Palestinian youths caught up in the uprisings of recent months. This violence, which must be seen as part of the occupation of Palestinian territories, is making the Palestinian population more desperate and insecure. It is a strategy that amounts to psychological terror and is part of an undeclared agenda of ethnic cleansing.

The two-state solution is dead or will be very soon because of Israel’s creeping annexation of Palestinian land. The occupation is entrenching apartheid more surely and visibly by the day. Of course, this hard-right Zionist vision of Israel, which refers to the occupied Palestinian West Bank as the biblical Judea and Samaria, is embedded in the ideology of the present rightwing government.

The demolitions of people’s homes in occupied East Jerusalem, the expropriation of large tracts of land in the Jordan valley, the repeated destruction of Palestinian villages such as Al-Araqib in the Naqab, the unrestrained building of illegal settlements, the revoking of the residence permits of Jerusalem Palestinians are part and parcel of this.

Moreover, as the chaos deepens in the Middle East, there are fears that large numbers of Palestinians will end up being forced to join the countless Syrian refugees who are on the move in the region.

Yet Britain and the EU do nothing, looking on as if in a voyeuristic trance. If the US, the UK and its EU partners are genuine democracies, why do they allow Israel to violate international law so consistently and with such shameless arrogance? They are complicit in Israel’s crimes because of their reluctance to censure it and this raises questions about their own democratic values. If the majority of the British people think it is high time for Israel to be held accountable for its transgressions and for Palestinians to have a state of their own, why can’t the British government reflect this in its policy towards Israel?

Last month, the UK abstained yet again at the United Nations human rights council in Geneva when it came to a vote to admonish Israel for its continued violations of international law and continued settlement building. The resolutions were carried by the majority of 32 nations. The UK, along with its European partners, refused to vote in favour of the resolutions.

Why can’t the UK bring itself to approve any resolution that would undermine Israel’s impunity? The resolution on illegal Israeli settlements proposes the establishment of a database to identify companies doing business in or with Israeli settlements. This latest vote was just the latest of many abstentions at the UN by the British government which together send a negative signal about its support for international efforts to achieve a just peace. In fact, they translate into a resounding “no!” and a refusal to bring Israel to account. Britain talks the talk when it comes to supporting Palestinians’ right for peace, justice and statehood, but it goes no further.

The UK gives the Palestinians some economic aid but this is a pittance compared to its trade with Israel, particularly the arms trade. It seems it is in the UK’s national interest to stand with the US on the Middle East, taking its cue from Washington policy towards Israel.

Aipac, the organisation which lobbies on behalf of Israel in the US, demands that American politicians don’t dare challenge US political, financial and military support for Israel. But few understand just how much Israel’s voice counts in Britain too. The UK and its western European partners could do so much more, yet they allow Israel to continue to act with total impunity. The UK government should just come clean and at least openly admit that the lives and suffering of Palestinians mean nothing to it compared to its strategic alliance with Israel and the US.

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