April 30, 2006

Question on Israel in Hansard

Here's a Milton Keynes MP questioning a former Chairman of the Labour Friends of Israel in Parliament.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): If he will make representations to the Israeli Government to halt the exclusion from Jerusalem of those with Jerusalem identity documents cut off by the Israeli wall. [65124]

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): First, let me also commiserate over the sad death of Peter Law, who represented a constituency not far from mine.

We frequently raise freedom of movement issues with the Israeli Government. We are particularly concerned about Israeli policies on East Jerusalem, which threaten to separate the city and its people from the West Bank. We recognise Israel's right to defend itself from terrorist attacks, but we will continue to raise our concerns about movement restrictions with the Israeli Government, including the issue of Jerusalem ID card holders affected by the barrier.

Dr. Starkey: I am grateful for the Minister's comments and for the representations made to the Israeli authorities, but the fact remains that 80,000 residents of Jerusalem have been cut off from the rest of Jerusalem by the Israeli wall. Children as young as six are being forced to travel 30 km to Ramallah, obtain a permit to go through to Kalandia and return to the other side of the wall in Jerusalem, just to get to school and back. That has absolutely nothing to do with security and everything to do with the Israeli Government's forcibly changing the demography of Jerusalem to exclude non-Jews.

If the British Government and the European Union are serious in their commitment to the road map, when are we going to take effective action to stop the Israelis from unilaterally excluding 80,000 Jerusalemites from their own country? The type of protest that we have made so far—

Mr. Speaker
: Order. The hon. Lady must let the Minister reply.

Dr. Howells
: I visited Jerusalem recently and saw for myself the effects of the construction of the wall. It is not a pretty sight and it is having a very bad effect on the lives of many people in the city. I can reassure my hon. Friend, however, that we take the matter very seriously. As far as I know, we are the only country that takes up consulate cases in which British citizens living in Jerusalem—perhaps married to Palestinians—find themselves on the wrong side of the barrier, as a consequence of which their access to work, hospitals and doctors is cut off. We take that very seriously, and I know of no other countries that do.

My hon. Friend should be aware that we are pressing the Israelis very hard and will continue to do so.
How reassuring.

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