Seizure of Palestinian representatives illegal and counter-productive


A British MP who met one of the Palestinian Ministers seized by Israeli forces in the West Bank overnight says that Israel’s action are illegal and are directed against people who have a key role to play in promoting peace.

Richard Burden MP and four other Parliamentary colleagues travelled to the West Bank in January on a visit organised by the UK charity, Forward Thinking, to help promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. During the visit they met Palestinian education Minister, Nasser al-Shaer.

Mr Burden, who chairs the Britain-Palestine All Party Group in Parliament, said today:

“Israel’s seizure of elected Palestinian representatives and government ministers is unjustified and completely counter-productive.

“In the last few days, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, one Israeli woman has been killed by a Palestinian rocket, and people are dying in factional violence in Gaza. Civilians are dying on all sides and the priority should be to bring this to an end. By seizing these people, Israel is only making matters worse.

“One of those arrested in Nablus is Palestinian education minister, Nasser Shaer. I met him just four months ago with four of my Parliamentary colleagues. What he wanted to talk to us about was not how to go to war with Israel, but how to promote a durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“While we were in the West Bank, We also held joint meetings with Mr Shaer and Islamist colleagues and senior representatives of the rival Fatah party. These people came from the same communities towns and villages in the West Bank. They were devastated by the factional violence that was taking place in Gaza. They were working together to stop it spreading to the West Bank.

“Locking up people like that will not save one life – Palestinian or Israeli. It will only breed further resentment and further violence.

“This is not the first time Israel has done this. They abducted a large number of elected Palestinian representatives last year and many of them remain in gaols. They also arrested Mr Shaer last year but had to release him after they discovered that he was not actually a member of Hamas!

“What they are doing is also illegal and a number of MPs here in the UK have raised the issue with the Inter Parliamentary Union which upholds the rights of elected parliamentarians to do their jobs free from persecution.

“Internationally, there has rightly been condemnation of the taking of hostages by militant Palestinian groups. The news of these abductions in the West bank suggests that Israel is in the business of taking hostages of its own.”

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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