Lib Dem MP Sir Bob Russell launched a broadside in the Commons last week against the Israeli parliament for approving (in his words) “what can be described only as ethnically cleansing between 40,000 and 60,000 Bedouin”.
He went on to attack the US Government and the European Union for their inaction and the British media for its silence — but singled out for praise Jewish Voice for Peace, which is campaigning against what it terms “this massive violation of human rights”. His call was echoed by the Conservative MP for Beckenham, Colonel Bob Stewart, a former British Army officer and the former United Nations commander in Bosnia.
Here’s Sir Bob’s statement in full:
Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): If people are still looking for a book to read during the summer recess, I would recommend “You Can’t Hide the Sun” by the Beirut hostage, John McCarthy. He provides a very disturbing and worrying account of life for Palestinians post-1948. He pulls back the curtains, goes behind the scenery and reveals what is really going on in that troubled part of the world.
By the time we return to Parliament in September, it is quite possible that a serious situation will have got even worse. The Israeli Parliament has voted for what can be described only as ethnically cleansing between 40,000 and 60,000 Bedouin. Clearly, the removal of such a large number of humanity will be undertaken only at the point of a gun. If ethnic cleansing were going on anywhere else in the world, the world’s leaders would be voicing outrage. The national and international media would have television cameras there reporting this crime against humanity, yet we have a deafening silence from political leaders in this country and in the United States of America.
It is the Americans who allow this sort of thing to go on, as they have since 1948. President Obama has failed to ensure that ethnic cleansing does not take place by the Israelis and the Israeli Parliament against the Bedouin. It is, of course, a track record that goes back over many years. The illegal occupation of the west bank and East Jerusalem; the obvious apartheid legislation of the Israeli Government; the ignoring of countless United Nations resolutions, the Geneva convention and international law: these are everyday occurrences for Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Our Government have been silent. Two weeks ago, in this very Chamber, when I invited the Foreign Secretary to condemn Israel for the ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins, he declined to do so, and I therefore asked him a parliamentary question on 11 July.
Bob Stewart [Conservative, Beckenham]: I want to place on record that I personally condemn what is happening to the Bedu. I used to live in the area. I think it is disgraceful that there are two kinds of people—Israelis and the others—on the west bank, and that the law is different for each of them. It is appalling.
Sir Bob Russell: I am extremely grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend, because he brings to the Chamber a very distinguished military record. He is a soldier whose reputation is such that he would never find himself up before the International Court of Justice. I am bound to say that some of the military leaders and Israeli political leaders would face the Court for what they have done, and for what they are doing.
In my parliamentary question, I asked the Foreign Secretary
“how many representations he has received in opposition to proposals by the government of Israel to forcibly remove 40,000 Bedouin from their historic lands.”
In fact, the figure may be 60,000 by now. A Minister replied:
“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received over 600 representations from members of the public on this issue.”—[Official Report, 11 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 355.]
I will not be silenced on the issue. I am speaking here on behalf of the 600 or more people who have written to our Government, and I am speaking, I hope, with the blessing of all people of all faiths around the world who deplore what is being done. I want specifically to praise the work of the American-based organisation Jewish Voice for Peace, because, like that organisation, I want to see peace in the Holy Land. I want to see people of all faiths and religions and of none living in harmony. I am bound to observe, however, that the actions, past and present, of the Israeli Parliament are more akin to what went on in apartheid South Africa. The world did not like what went on in apartheid South Africa, but the world is silent about what is going on in Israel/ Palestine.
Where are the words of opposition from President Obama and the United States Administration? There are none. Where are the words of opposition from the Government of the United Kingdom? There are none. What is the European Union doing, other than having friendly trade relations with Israel? Earlier this year, there was the extraordinary situation of an international European football tournament taking place in Israel. The last time I looked at the map of the world, Israel was not in Europe.
I hope that, out there, President Obama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, our Prime Minister or whoever will prevail on the Israeli Parliament. It must be made clear that the forcible removal of up to 60,000 Bedouins—in addition to everything else that has been done over the years—does not bring forward peace in the middle east, but sets it back. I want to see a peaceful Holy Land, but I think that leaders must speak up.
I hope that, if nothing else, I have drawn attention to what is happening to the Bedouins. The BBC is not covering it, our national newspapers are not covering it, ITV is not covering it, Sky News is not covering it, Channel 4 is not covering it. If 60,000 people were being subjected to ethnic cleansing in any other country in the world, it would be the lead news. Shame on our national media for pulling a curtain across the stage so that people do not know what is going on.
I ask Members please to acquire a copy of “You Can’t Hide the Sun” by John McCarthy, and to read it and find out what is going on in that part of the world. They will not find that out through the British media