Friday, May 25, 2012

Tough questions and disingenuous answers in Parliament on Pal. incitement

From the UK Parliament website, from a debate last Wednesday in the House of Commons:

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of aid provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [108772]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): Both the Minister of State, who is today attending the Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh, and I keep a close eye on the effectiveness of our programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Guto Bebb: I thank the Minister for his response. On a trip to Israel and the west bank earlier this year, I saw education materials that incited violence and the use of Palestinian Authority broadcast media to glorify conflict, not least relating to a group of children singing about the aim to saturate their land with blood. Will the Secretary of State provide assurances that our aid donations do not contribute towards such incitement? Will he highlight what steps the Government are taking to deter the Palestinian Authority from supporting such publications and broadcasts?

Mr Mitchell: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I would be very interested to see the material he describes. I can tell him that numerous credible studies show no evidence of incitement or anti-Semitism in Palestinian Authority textbooks, so if he ensures that we get a copy of what he has seen, we will take the appropriate action.

Mr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): The next generation of Palestinian peacemakers and state builders are too frequently exposed to messages of hate and violence rather than of peaceful co-existence. What measures are in place to ensure that aid is used to teach mutual understanding and reconciliation?

Mr Mitchell: My hon. Friend makes an important point. A recent study was set up by the Americans to look at the content of textbooks and teaching both in Israel and in the west bank for precisely the reason that he sets out. We take this issue very seriously. I will ensure that my hon. Friend receives a copy of that report when it is published.

While the questions were about general incitement in Palestinian Arabic media and educational materials, which is subsidized by Western aid and which has plenty of incitement. Mitchell's answer concentrated on textbooks, which have improved somewhat after being exposed for blatant anti-semitism - but most of them still do not acknowledge that a nation called "Israel" exists. One example I wrote about here.

Of course, not all MPs are asking tough questions about the PA. Some are asking loaded questions about Israel that includes outright lies. Two of them:

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I also visited the west bank and East Jerusalem last year and I saw the consequences of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Will the Secretary of State assure us that Church groups will be urged to get the Government of Israel to follow the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): We need to focus on the real issue of aid, not on red herrings about its misuse by the Palestinians. The fact is that Israel has blockaded Gaza and the checkpoints in the west bank are stifling any attempt by the British Government to bring aid to the Palestinians. What is the Secretary of State doing to make the Israelis co-operate in respect of the aid that Britain and the EU gives to the Palestinians?
Really? Israel is practicing "ethnic cleansing"? Israel is telling Great Britain that they cannot bring aid into the territories?

It is a shame that the few decent questions about the territories are so anomalous that they are newsworthy.

(h/t Benjamin)