HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc860-1
6. Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has had the opportunity to discuss with the Israeli Government the Amnesty report detailing their treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Mr. Waldegrave

We have frequently expressed concern to the Israeli Government about abuses of Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories. In particular, we have raised with Israel two of the cases investigated by Amnesty in its recent report.

Mr. Watson

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the decision made last week by the Israeli authorities to reopen two of the further education colleges in the west bank after a closure of two years? Will he reaffirm the Government's stated position that they wish the other 15 further education colleges and all six universities to be reopened and to stay open? Does he agree that one way to bring pressure towards that end would be to give support to the EC decision to review scientific agreements with Israel?

Mr. Waldegrave

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should all press for the higher education institutions to be reopened. I had the opportunity to put that suggestion strongly to Minister Olmert, who was in this country this week. However, moving towards EC sanctions is not right at this stage. We welcome the steps that have been taken, and reinforce them by saying that the universities should be reopened, as the hon. Gentleman said.

Sir Dennis Walters

Bearing in mind the fact that all member states of the European Community are co-signatories of the fourth Geneva convention and that the convention is being flouted daily by the Israeli occupying forces in the west bank, although the convention applies to the occupied territories, should not that violation be pursued more vigorously by Her Majesty's Government and the Community?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Israeli Government are well aware of the vigour with which Her Majesty's Government and other Governments in the Community pursue their protests on these matters. The responses—sometimes of complaint—from the Israeli Government seem to show that our protests carry some weight.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Does the Minister agree that the actions taken by the Israelis on the west bank would be further heightened if the threat by Prime Minister Shamir to resettle Soviet Jews on the west bank were followed through? Does he think that Soviet Jews have the right to emigrate wherever they want, but that the countries to which they want to emigrate can decide whether to accept them? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be far better if we and the Israelis dealt with anti-Semitism wherever it arises in the world instead of using it as an excuse for emigration?

Mr. Waldegrave

I can only repeat the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said of the Soviet Jews, when addressing the Board of Deputies of British Jews: it would be a very ironic and unjust reward for all our efforts, if their freedom were to be at the expense of the rights, the homes and the land of the people of the Occupied Territories. That was a clear statement of the right position.

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