June 19 2012 - Christian Aid and Quakers in Britain are uniting to urge the UK government to impose a ban on the import of Israeli settlement products.
They will tell a Parliamentary meeting on Tuesday that such a move would promote the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
Christian Aid Policy and Advocacy Officer William Bell said today: 'Settlements are illegal under international law, a major cause of poverty amongst Palestinians and an obstacle to peace.
‘They will continue to expand and develop unless action is taken that backs the routine statements of condemnation from the international community. Trade perpetuates the settlements by making them economically viable.
‘Christian Aid believes that it is the role of governments to protect the consumer from purchasing goods from an illegal source and so is calling on the UK Government to impose a ban.’
Quakers in Britain see the initiative as a nonviolent action to support efforts to build peace in the region.
Marisa Johnson served as an ecumenical accompanier in the West Bank as part of an international programme of human rights observers, managed in the UK and Ireland by Quakers. She said: ‘I have witnessed the damaging impact of the settlements. The problem goes beyond the obvious effects on Palestinian livelihoods and damages prospects for peace.’
Numerous Israeli settlements were established on Palestinian land following the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Today they number more than 100. Dozens more illegal outposts (settlements built without Israeli government authorisation) also now exist.
Under international law, all such encroachments in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal.
The World Bank has identified the seizure of land for settlement building and future expansion as an intrinsic problem in the Palestinian economy, reducing and fragmenting the space available for economic development. The UN Development Programme estimates the Palestinian economy has contracted by 23 per cent since 1999.
In 2009 the UK Foreign Affairs Committee said ‘expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank prejudices prospects for a two-state outcome.’ Continued settlement activity, it said, ‘must call Israel’s commitment to such an outcome into doubt.’
However, despite regular statements of condemnation from the UK government, settlement expansion has continued at an increasing rate.
Earlier this month Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned Israel’s announcement authorising new settlement units and urged the Israeli government to change its approach. Whilst recognising that the Israeli government voted against a bill legalising West Bank outposts, its decision to build 851 new settlement units across the West Bank has been seen by the British government and EU partners as an obstacle to peace and setting a dangerous precedent.
Christian Aid and Quakers in Britain strongly urge the Foreign Affairs Committee to revisit its inquiry and, by focusing on Israeli settlements, encourage the UK government to play an important role in achieving peace.
The parliamentary briefing makes a number of recommendations including urging the UK government to introduce legislation against the import of products from illegal Israeli settlements.
William Bell explains ‘We do not support a ban or boycott on trade with Israel but consider that a ban on trading settlement products is justified because settlements are illegal and have a negative impact on the Palestinian economic development. Although informed consumer choice can send a powerful message, on its own it cannot adequately tackle the problem.’
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Parliamentary briefing www.christianaid.org.uk/images/mp-brief-june12.pdf
If you would like further information please contact Joe Ware at email@example.com or 020 7523 2418. 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950 or Anne van Staveren, Media Officer Quakers in Britain, 07958 009 703
Christian Aid work in region:
Christian Aid has been working with the poorest in the region since the early 1950s, when we provided help to Palestinian refugees. Today we work with more than 20 Israeli and Palestinian organisations to protect human rights, provide access to services and resources, and build a peace based on justice for all.
Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change. See www.quaker.org.uk
Notes to Editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.
2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty. Details at http://www.christianaid.org.us/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf
3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance and development. Further details at http://www.actalliance.org
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk