By Alastair Osborne, LCID Scottish Officer
International condemnation of the abduction and murder of the three young Israeli teenagers was rightly swift and universal. However, little has been reported about the Israeli army’s brutal crackdown against Palestinians in the wake of those abductions and killings. We should condemn all attacks on civilians from whatever quarter they come. However, Palestinian civilians, many of them children or teenagers themselves have borne the brunt of Israel’s actions. An entire population, living under illegal Israeli occupation, is being collectively punished. And now a Palestinian youth has been found murdered in a forest in east Jerusalem in what is suspected to be a revenge attack – an ‘eye for an eye’.
In the West Bank, during the week of 19-25 June 2014 alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 5 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 14 others, including 4 children. Hundreds of houses were raided and ransacked. Israel has said it is set to double the number of Palestinians it imprisons without charge or trial. Over the course of that week, Israeli warplanes launched 18 airstrikes on civilian objects and military training sites in the Gaza Strip. 18 Palestinian civilians, including 7 women and 4 children, were wounded.
The Israeli Cabinet is split in several directions over how to respond. There are those who advocate the ‘eye for an eye’ response; others who, if not exactly turning the other cheek, call for restraint; while the most extreme elements view the ‘eye for an eye’ approach as for wimps. It was Gandhi who famously said “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”
There has got to be a recognition that the structural violence of occupation is at the root of this escalation. Until Israeli occupation is ended, and Palestinians control their own destiny, this suffering will continue and incidents like those I describe will continue.
It is against this depressing background we should view the current investigation of the International Development Select Committee into DFID’s bilateral aid programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Part 1 of their investigation covering Syria has been published but the Palestinian Report is to follow later.
DFID has a large bilateral programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the provision of direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. It planned to spend £94 million through this programme in 2013-14, of which £31m was targeted on education. Other major areas of focus are poverty, hunger & vulnerability (£28.5m), governance (£21.4m), health (£11.7m) and wealth creation (£3.1m).
The Committee is investigating:
- The effectiveness of DFID’s programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
- Whether DFID is focusing on the right sectors and working with the right organisations;
- Whether DFID’s funding to the Palestinian Authority aids the twin goals of state building and achieving a negotiated peace;
- Whether DFID should consider funding projects involving Israeli-Palestinian joint working, and/or working with MASHAV, the Israeli development agency.
If, as Gandhi said, ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’, it also creates a hellish environment within which to try to deliver our development goals. Whatever the Select Committee’s investigation concludes, it is time for the UK Government to step up their efforts to end the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and to ensure that there are clear economic and political consequences to Israel’s on-going occupation and colonisation through settlements.