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Hana Siniora

Volume 126: debated on Monday 1 February 1988

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3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Israeli Government about the harassment of the Palestinian journalist Hana Siniora by the Israeli security forces; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Siniora has not asked for our intervention, and thus we have no reason to take up his specific case, but we shall continue to follow it closely.

Although I am grateful for the wise and courageous stance that Her Majesty's Government are taking on the issue and for many statements on the subject that have been made today and of late, does the Minister agree that, more than anything else, the Israelis and Palestinians now need less war, war, and more jaw, jaw? Dialogue is impossible unless there is local leadership that has the confidence of the political leadership — the Palestine Liberation Organisation — and the local population, and is accceptable in the broader international community. Dialogue will be impossible if leaders are systematically harassed, arrested, sometimes tortured and, as increasingly of late, deported.

I was glad, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was glad, that Mr. Siniora and his colleague were able to go to the United States and talk direct to Mr. Shultz. When I was in the United States on Monday and Tuesday, I was also glad to note that the United States is re-engaged in the peace process and that further action may be anticipated from that quarter. Plainly, as the hon. Gentleman says, this is a time for serious talking to draw in the Palestinian people. Where that leaves the PLO is in the hands of the PLO members themselves. They have the opportunity to legitimate themselves if they are prepared to accept unequivocally resolutions 242 and 338 to renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist. If they were to do that, they could be full participants in a process in future. However, I am afraid that the contrary is also the case.

In the case of Hana Siniora and thousands of other Palestinians, what explanation can my hon. and learned Friend offer to the House of the unspeakable inhumanities inflicted by the Israeli Government on the Palestinians? Does he agree that the Israelis, of all people, should really understand about the suffering of minorities?

I said my piece about conditions in the occupied territories when I was there. I believe that a reevaluation is necessary, because it was clear to me from my recent visit to the United States that the shock waves of what is happening in the occupied territories are resounding around the civilised world. Some change in tactics in the occupied territories will have to come about. The status quo in the eyes of an increasing number of sensible, mainstream people is not an option. Maintaining security in the territories at the point of a gun is not realistic and has become an increasingly inhumane process.