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Incitement to Hatred (Palestinian Media)

Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 2 December 2014

3. What assessment he has made of the effects of incitement to hatred in the Palestinian media on prospects for a peace settlement in that region. (906370)

I am aware of recent provocative material published in parts of the Palestinian press. We deplore incitement on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we are clear that inflammatory language and images damage still further the already fragile prospect of a peace settlement.

Official Palestinian Authority TV has praised as martyrs the terrorists who mowed down civilians on the streets of Jerusalem and the terrorists who killed rabbis and others at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this is about perpetuating hatred and violence rather than promoting peace?

Yes, and we do not hesitate to raise these instances of incitement with the Palestinian Authority. I spoke to President Abbas last night and raised these issues with him while at the same time thanking him for his personal robust condemnation of the synagogue attack in West Jerusalem. We have to raise these issues whenever they occur, but we should also praise robust responses by leaders of the Palestinian Authority when they make them.

None of us would condone the incitement of hatred, and there is no doubt that there are people on each side who make matters worse, but does the Foreign Secretary agree that illegal settlements, extra-judicial punishments and discriminatory laws also make the search for a peace settlement much harder?

Yes, we are clear that settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law and, perhaps even more importantly, deeply unhelpful to the prospects of a peace process. We urge the Israelis at every opportunity to cease the settlement programme. If we are to move forward into peace talks, which I fervently hope we can do in the coming weeks and months, there will have to be a cessation of settlement activity while that process is ongoing.

The Israeli Knesset will soon vote on the Jewish state Bill, which would deny national rights to Israel’s minorities, remove Arabic as a national language and assert that Israel’s identity as a Jewish state comes before its nature as a democracy. At a time when tensions between Jews and Arabs are running high, does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is wrong for the Government of Israel to press ahead with that discriminatory piece of legislation?

That is a piece of legislation before the Israeli Parliament, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are always opposed to discriminatory legislation. Depriving people who are resident within a state of their citizenship and discriminating against them with regard to language will never be conducive to the peaceful co-existence that I think virtually everybody seeks for Israel and Palestine.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that public opinion in the UK is moving strongly against Israel because it is morally indefensible to support a state that has policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid?

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of the reasons, but I agree that public opinion is moving against Israel in a country that has traditionally been understanding of the Israeli position. We have made the point strongly to Israeli Ministers and politicians that they are losing the argument and public opinion not only in Britain, but in Europe and, perhaps more importantly for them, in the United States.

What will be the effect on the Palestinian media of the renewed Israeli policy of demolishing the houses of offenders, thus making their families homeless and punishing the entire family for the crimes of one person? Is not that inhumane, and ought it not to be stopped?

We do not approve of the collective punishment strategy and make our views on that very well known on every possible occasion. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman an analysis of the impact on the Palestinian media, but I can see exactly where he is coming from. We will continue robustly to oppose policies of collective punishment.