The Church of England Newspaper reports on a parliamentary meeting organised by Christian Aid highlighting the poverty-inducing impact of the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and calling upon the British Government to ban such produce. The CoE newspaper notes the support shown for the move by the Anglican Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, and the Quakers.
From the Church Newspaper:
“The Bishop of Exeter has backed a call by Christian Aid and the Quakers for the UK government to impose a ban on goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“At a parliamentary briefing with MPs on Tuesday Christian Aid’s William Bell said settlements posed an obstacle to peace and were a major cause of poverty for the Palestinian people.
““We are calling for the government to develop legislation against the trade of settlement products,” he said.
““Settlement products should not be sold in UK shops. Allowing their sale...sends a very mixed signal to Israel and does not do much to support UK endeavours towards its policy of a two-state solution”
At the briefing, Bishop Langrish, said that “The settlements are illegal. The policies that sustain them are unjust. The results are poverty. To face those things as substantive issues and to not privilege Israel in any way at all but to face those issues of legality, justice and poverty just as we would with any other nation is very important”.”
Christian Aid’s briefing paper to Parliament on the sale of settlement products in the UK, published in June, states that “DFID spends an average of £86 million per year in the oPt which makes the UK the sixth largest donor to a population with amongst the highest per capita aid in the world. It is incumbent upon all donor governments to tackle structures that cause and sustain poverty and de-development if this vital aid is to have lasting impact.”
It recommended that “The UK Government prepares legislation against the importation of products from illegal settlements” and that “The Foreign Secretary works with EU partners to ensure that the EU develops a new technical arrangement which obligates Israel to clearly identify all settlement products”.
The issue of settlement produce has also been debated recently in Parliament. On Wednesday, responding to a question from Richard Burden MP on the “growing legal opinion” that by trading in products from Israel’s illegal settlements “we [the UK] are colluding in…illegality”, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, said in reply: “we value the fact that people have choice about their purchase of goods, but the issue of settlement produce and financing is under active consideration in London and in Brussels.”
Calls for a boycott of settlement produce have grown in recent years as the Middle East peace process stagnates and the international community looks for new ways to reach a just solution to the conflict. In 2009, the UK government issued new guidance on the labelling of food products from Israeli settlements urging supermarkets to label food as “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce” depending on its origin. In April of this year, the Co-op Group, the fifth largest supermarket retailer in the UK, extended its boycott of settlement produce to cover suppliers sourcing goods from illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the first major supermarket retailer to do so.
Christian Aid’s June 2012 briefing paper can be accessed here.
The transcript of the parliamentary debate held on Wednesday can be read here (scroll to the bottom).
You can write to your MP, contact details here, to express your own views on the UK’s trade in illegal settlement produce and the irony of supporting a two state solution while actively undermining its prospects.
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