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Occupied Palestinian Territories

Volume 545: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2012

1. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of aid provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (108772)

Both the Minister of State, who is today attending the Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh, and I keep a close eye on the effectiveness of our programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

I thank the Minister for his response. On a trip to Israel and the west bank earlier this year, I saw education materials that incited violence and the use of Palestinian Authority broadcast media to glorify conflict, not least relating to a group of children singing about the aim to saturate their land with blood. Will the Secretary of State provide assurances that our aid donations do not contribute towards such incitement? Will he highlight what steps the Government are taking to deter the Palestinian Authority from supporting such publications and broadcasts?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I would be very interested to see the material he describes. I can tell him that numerous credible studies show no evidence of incitement or anti-Semitism in Palestinian Authority textbooks, so if he ensures that we get a copy of what he has seen, we will take the appropriate action.

Has the International Development Secretary joined the Foreign Secretary and, curiously, the Education Secretary in meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman during his visit to the UK? Irrespective of whether he meets him, will the right hon. Gentleman transmit to the Israeli Foreign Minister the concerns of the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, who visited the west bank last week and said:

“I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian impact of demolitions and displacement on Palestinian families. Such actions cause great human suffering, run counter to international law and must be brought to a halt”?

I do not have any current plans to meet the Foreign Minister from Israel, although I met a series of Israeli Foreign Ministers when I was there just before Christmas. I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s comments are passed on to the Foreign Secretary.

I also visited the west bank and East Jerusalem last year and I saw the consequences of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Will the Secretary of State assure us that Church groups will be urged to get the Government of Israel to follow the parable of the Good Samaritan?

I raised the issue of religious tolerance when I visited the west bank and Israel at the end of last year. The hon. Gentleman’s comments will have been heard by the Foreign Office, which I have no doubt will pursue them.

We need to focus on the real issue of aid, not on red herrings about its misuse by the Palestinians. The fact is that Israel has blockaded Gaza and the checkpoints in the west bank are stifling any attempt by the British Government to bring aid to the Palestinians. What is the Secretary of State doing to make the Israelis co-operate in respect of the aid that Britain and the EU gives to the Palestinians?

Britain has an extremely well-targeted aid and development programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It focuses on building the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to provide good government and support for the two-state solution. It focuses, too, on wealth creation and economic growth, which are important. The third strand principally supports the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and ensures that we fulfil our humanitarian responsibilities. The programme is very well placed, and we make certain that it achieves all three of those things effectively.

The next generation of Palestinian peacemakers and state builders are too frequently exposed to messages of hate and violence rather than of peaceful co-existence. What measures are in place to ensure that aid is used to teach mutual understanding and reconciliation?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. A recent study was set up by the Americans to look at the content of textbooks and teaching both in Israel and in the west bank for precisely the reason that he sets out. We take this issue very seriously. I will ensure that my hon. Friend receives a copy of that report when it is published.

Control of international arms transfers is essential to the effectiveness of aid-related conflict resolution measures in the occupied territories and other places. The UK has a key role to play at the UN arms trade treaty negotiations next month. Will the Secretary of State—

Order. I am trying to be generous, but I think allowing latitude would be excessive in this case. I am afraid that the hon. Lady’s comments do not relate sufficiently closely to the question on the Order Paper.