Bethlehem - 4 April 2002
A statement from British activists staying in the Al-Azzeh refugee camp in Bethlehem addressed to British Consulate and cc'ed to SQUALL
4th April 2002
We are British nationals who are currently staying within the Al-Azzeh refugee camp in Bethlehem. We have been offered evacuation from Bethlehem by the British Consulate but have chosen to stay in Al-Azzeh in solidarity with the Palestinian people under occupation. The Palestinian people do not have the option of leaving. Recent experience has shown that an international observer presence is effective in limiting Israeli brutality against civilians.
Our presence here represents the support of the international community. We can act as an accurate source of information for the British government and public, and for the rest of the world.
With Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it is clear that the supply of arms to Israel adds to the terror felt by the Palestinian people. We note that the present leader of the Israeli government, Arial Sharon, has widely been held responsible for the massacres that took place in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Southern Lebanon in 1982.
Our presence here is intended to prevent a repetition of these crimes. We feel that Britain has a particular responsibility towards the Palestinian people due to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948. So far as we are aware, there has been no significant comment from the British Foreign Office in response to the latest Israeli military offensive of the past few days.
This stands in contrast to the breaking of diplomatic ties with Israel by the Belgian government and condemnation by other European Union governments. This silence implies consent. To us this lack of action is another example of the British government's foreign policy being determined by that of the United States.
As British nationals we demand that our government; Ban the issuing of arms export licences for the supply to Israel of equipment used in this illegal occupation, with particular reference to spare parts for Apache helicopters, communication equipment, Land Rover vehicles and handcuffs and other restraint devices.
Pressurise the Israeli government to withdraw from the occupied territories and respect international recognition of a Palestinian authority and territories under its control, using diplomatic pressure up to and including cutting ties. Implement and maintain economic sanctions upon Israel for its repeated violations of the fourth Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN resolutions 242 and 194.
We call upon the British public to take action to help bring a peaceful resolution to this tragic situation by means of; Boycotting of Israeli goods and services to bring economic pressure on the Israeli government. Joining demonstrations against the Israeli military aggression in solidarity with the Palestinian people and support of their basic human rights.
We recognise that our position here in Bethlehem places us at risk. Many deaths have already resulted from this most recent Israeli invasion, and this situation has been exacerbated by the deliberate obstruction of access for ambulances and medical personnel. We are neither eager nor prepared to die, but we will not turn our backs on the Palestinian people.
Martha Anderson, Philip Boast, Loukas Christodoulou, Jenny James, Paul Stockley