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Middle East

Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

7. What discussions have taken place with the Israeli Government on the use of rubber bullets by the Israeli military against Palestinian protestors. (107311)

A report in 2002 by a group of Israeli researchers, including the then chief physician of the Israeli police force, recommended that rubber bullets

“should…not be considered a safe method of crowd control.”

Despite that, on 4 August this year, my constituent, Margaret Pacetta, was shot in the back with a rubber bullet during a peaceful protest in the disputed village of Bilin, leaving her bruised and badly shaken. Will the Minister raise that issue again with the Israeli Government and ask them to follow the advice of the 2002 report?

The hon. Lady is rightly concerned about what happened to her constituent, but she will acknowledge that rubber bullets are a hell of a lot better than ordinary metal ammunition, which tends to kill people or blow their arms off. There is not a general prohibition on the use of rubber bullets under international law—she will recall that the United Kingdom used them regularly in Northern Ireland. We expect the Israelis to use them only when necessary with proper control because, as she said, they are sometimes lethal. Our embassy in Tel Aviv raised that particular case with the Israeli authorities on 13 June, and our ambassador wrote on 15 June. The embassy pursued the case with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 30 August, and it asked the Israeli Government to clarify whether plastic or rubber bullets were fired at demonstrators and whether the crowd was beaten with batons. If so, it asked them to explain why such force was necessary, but it is still awaiting a response.

Mr. Liberman, who is a Member of the Knesset, believes that all Palestinians should be cleared out, not only from the occupied territories but from Israel. What chance is there of establishing a Palestinian state when a Knesset Member with racist views is holding the coalition Government together in Israel?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an absurd situation, as that man holds views that are akin to those that prevailed under apartheid. He wants Palestinians to be driven out of Israel, but I am sure that that view is not held by most Israelis—it certainly is not held by most Palestinians. We should work wherever possible in our negotiations with the Israeli Government and generally in diplomacy to counteract such arguments.

Will the Minister raise the issue of glass fibre shells, which have allegedly been used in Gaza, with the Israeli Government because, as doctors in the House will know, they leave small fragments that cannot be detected by X-ray?

I will certainly make inquiries, but it is the first that I have heard about such munitions being used. If that is the case, we would certainly deplore their use.