BRITAIN AND THE US 'SHARE BLAME FOR PALESTINIAN POVERTY CRISIS'
By Jane Merrick, Political Correspondent, PA News
Press Association (UK)
29 January 2003
Britain and the United States must share responsibility for
severe poverty of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, a
hard-hitting report by the Christian Aid charity said today.
The charity blamed the Israeli government for a humanitarian
crisis in the territories, which it said was just as fundamental
to the Middle East conflict as suicide bombings.
In its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel was
violating international humanitarian law and impoverishing
Palestinians by imposing curfews and seizing and destroying
property, the report, Losing Ground, said. It called for full
Israeli withdrawal from the territories and for international
monitors to be put in place to oversee the process.
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority must shoulder some of the
blame for failing to tackle poverty through corruption,
collapsing infrastructure and inefficiency, Christian Aid said.
But the report heavily criticised the US, UK and other European
Union countries for failing to ensure that Israel adhered to the
Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations, which relate
to the protection of civilians during war or under occupation.
"Had the other 160 signatories to the Geneva Conventions and the
Hague Regulations taken their obligations seriously, the key
issues in the conflict - annexation of land, settlements, closure
and control of water - would have been confronted.
"The major powers - the US, UK and the rest of the EU - have the
authority to make international law meaningful.
"That they have not done so means that the downward spiral of
Palestinian daily life is in equal measure their responsibility
US, UK, Irish and other EU governments must publicly state what
actions they are taking to ensure Israel complies with
international law, Christian Aid said.
The charity also urged the Department of Trade and Industry to
explain how Israel's status as one of 14 'target markets' for
preferential trade promotion was compatible with international
The report said living standards for almost all Palestinians
living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had worsened in the decade
since the Oslo peace process.
Doctors were reporting a sharp increase in child malnutrition,
anaemia in pregnant women, and underweight babies as well as
stress-related conditions such as heart disease and hypertension.
There had been a 100% increase in new cases at mental health
clinics since the start of the second intifada in September 2000,
most of them children.
The report's co-author and Christian Aid's policy officer for
Palestinians and Israel, William Bell, said: "The Palestinians
are currently living in a state of extreme, worsening poverty and
fear for their future.
"Almost three-quarters of Palestinians now live on less than 2
dollars (#1.22) a day - below the United Nations poverty line.
"The international community must either find the political will
to tackle this situation, or witness a further descent into
abject poverty, despair and hopelessness - a potent mix that will
blight the lives of millions of people for years to come."