Many of us recently signed the parliamentary petition ‘Introduce sanctions against Israel’. After receiving the government’s official reply, which was less than satisfactory, our engagement officer Ruth wrote to her MP with a list of questions to challenge the response.
Below you can find the government’s response to the petition, Ruth’s email and challenge to her local MP, and her MP’s reply to her. We hope these may be useful in helping you to further challenge the UK Government and your local MP on this issue.
Official government reply to the petition ‘Introduce sanctions against Israel’
This response was given on 8 June 2021
The UK is firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel. Our close and varied relationship means we are able to express clearly when we disagree.
HM Government has made its position on sanctions clear. While we do not hesitate to express disagreement with Israel whenever we feel it necessary, we are firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions. We believe that open and honest discussions, rather than the imposition of sanctions or supporting anti-Israeli boycotts, best supports our efforts to help progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution.
HM Government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We consider all export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework. We continue to monitor the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and keep all licences under careful and continual review as standard.
The UK welcomed the recent announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza on 20 May, which is an important step to ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life. During the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the region on 26 May he reiterated the UK’s firm commitment to the two-state solution as the best way to permanently end the occupation, deliver Palestinian self-determination and preserve Israel’s security and democratic identity. The UK will continue our intensive diplomatic efforts in the region, focussed on creating the conditions for a sustainable peace.
Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK and we collaborate on issues of defence and security. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering. The UK unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and locations within Israel. We strongly condemn these acts of terrorism by Hamas and other terrorist groups, who must permanently end their incitement and rocket fire against Israel. We are also concerned by reports that Hamas is again using civilian infrastructure and populations as cover for its military operations.
We are clear that all countries, including Israel, have a legitimate right to self-defence, and the right to defend their citizens from attack. In doing so, it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with International Humanitarian Law, and are calibrated to avoid civilian casualties.
The UK is strongly opposed to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, just as we oppose any calls for boycotts which divide people and reduce understanding.
The UK position on evictions, demolitions, and settlements is longstanding and clear. We oppose these activities. We urge the Government of Israel to cease its policies related to settlement expansion immediately, and instead work towards a two state solution. Settlements are illegal under international law, and present an obstacle to peace. We want to see a contiguous West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as part of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders. Our position was reflected in our support for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and we continue to urge Israel at the highest level to halt settlement expansion immediately.
We advise British businesses to bear in mind the British Government’s view on the illegality of settlements under international law when considering their investments and activities in the region. Ultimately, it will be the decision of an individual or company whether to operate in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but the British Government would neither encourage nor offer support to such activity.
We have also made clear our concerns about the increasing rate of demolitions and evictions of Palestinians. The UK is focused on preventing demolitions and evictions from happening in the first place through our legal aid programme, which supports Palestinians facing demolition or home eviction.
As a strong friend of Israel, and one which has stood up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, we are continuing to urge Israel to not take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goals of peace and security.
The occupation will not end and peace will not be achieved by symbolic measures, but by real movement towards renewed peace negotiations which create a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security side-by-side with Israel. We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to refrain from taking actions, which make peace more difficult. And will continue to encourage further confidence building steps towards meaningful bilateral peace negotiations between the parties.
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Letter to The Rt. Hon. Stuart Andrew, Member of Parliament for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough
I recently signed a petition for sanctions to be imposed on Israel which was signed by 385, 225 UK citizens. I received a reply from the government which left me completely aghast.
In the reply it said: ‘We believe that open and honest discussions, rather than the imposition of sanctions or supporting anti-Israeli boycotts, best supports our efforts to help progress the peace process and achieve a negotiated solution.’
Please could you give me an example of when these open and honest discussions have resulted in change on the part of the Israeli government?
Why is the UK government happy to impose sanctions on other countries but not Israel?
The reply also says: ‘Our position was reflected in our support for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and we continue to urge Israel at the highest level to halt settlement expansion immediately.’
The resolution was made 4 and a half years ago. The UN said the settlement activity has no legal validity. I haven’t noticed that any of the UK government’s ‘urging’ has made any difference whatsoever to the expansion of settlements. Can you point to some facts that prove me wrong?
‘The UK is focused on preventing demolitions and evictions from happening in the first place through our legal aid programme, which supports Palestinians facing demolition or home eviction.’
How are you preventing house demolitions when UK tax payer’s money goes towards boosting investment in Israel? How do you think Israel is going to change its behaviour when so much money is being invested in the country by the UK and others? https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-signs-new-israel-tax-agreement-to-boost-investment
‘As a strong friend of Israel, and one which has stood up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, we are continuing to urge Israel to not take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goals of peace and security.’
Please could you tell me how the following actions and words show that Israel has shared goals of peace and security?
1- The likely next Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, has said several times there will never be a Palestinian state. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/naftali-bennett-right-wing-champion-of-settlers-poised-to-be-israel-s-pm-1.4583048
2- The threatened evictions in Sheikh Jarrah continue, and this is what the Israeli police does to peace protestors running a marathon.https://www.facebook.com/MiddleEastEye/videos/2976610409250241
3- The shutting down of a Palestinian Health Provider https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/10/amnesty-raises-alarm-as-israel-shuts-palestinian-health-provider
4- The destruction of Olive groves on a farm that stands for Peace and reconciliation by the Israeli civil authority and army. If Israel wants peace and security, why would Israeli authorities destroy olive groves of a farm that focuses on building bridges between people and have a strap line ‘we refuse to be enemies’?. This is what has happened to this farm in the last few days. “The Israeli Civil Administration came today in the morning to the farm with a bulldozer and accompanied by many Israeli soldiers. The bulldozer smashed the fence and drove through the land I recently cultivated for new trees: the same area where we had the fire. The bulldozer crossed to the neighbor’s land and destroyed his olive trees. The bulldozer also destroyed 65 of our olive trees.‘ http://www.tentofnations.org/about/about-us/
There are hundreds and thousands of these examples I could quote.
Please could you explain how this shows a shared goal of peace and security? What examples of unreasonable criticism can you give me that Israel has received on these issues?
The case for apartheid is mounting amongst Israelis and international opinion:
I can only assume that the lack of meaningful UK government action on this issue, as opposed to ‘strong words’ and ‘urgings’ means it is more profitable for the UK to be complicit in this oppression than taking a stand against it. I can only assume it is easier for the UK government to look back on, for example Apartheid in South Africa and condemn it, rather than taking a stand right now about injustice.
Please could you research this topic in depth yourself as my MP, rather than just taking the Foreign Office’s word for it on what is happening on the ground in Israel/Palestine.
Reply from The Rt. Hon. Stuart Andrew, Member of Parliament for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough
Thank you for contacting me about the petition proposing to ban trade with Israel.
I appreciate you feel strongly about this issue and believe that it is incumbent upon us all to debate these serious issues with respect and moderation.
The increase in violence in the region has tragic consequences for both sides, not just Palestine. Civilian deaths, including those of children, are heart-breaking. It is vital that all actions are proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law and that every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties. The Government has urged all sides to refrain from provocation so that calm is restored as soon as possible and I am glad that a ceasefire is now in place.
It is important to understand that Israel has a legitimate right to self-defence against Hamas and other terrorist organisations. The Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria remains the basis for assessing licence application of strategic exports, such as arms, to Israel. The Consolidated Criteria provides a thorough risk assessment framework and the Government will not grant an export licence where it is inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria.
I firmly oppose a boycott of Israel and I believe that banning trade would be wrong and unjustified. I do understand, however, the concerns of those who do not wish to purchase goods exported from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Voluntary guidance introduced in 2009 enables products from Israeli settlements in the OPTs to be labelled as such. The UK does not recognise the OPTs, including settlements, as part of Israel.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
The Rt. Hon. Stuart Andrew
Member of Parliament for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough