Memorandum submitted by War on Want
War on Want welcomes this opportunity to engage
on the issue of the Occupied Territories, which has implications
well beyond the misery faced by the vast majority of Palestinians,
and has become an issue integrally tied to peace, security and
development across the whole world. The injustice faced by the
Palestinians has become a truly global issue in which the UK Government
must assume responsibility for its historical role.
War on Want is an international development
NGO, founded over 50 years ago. We have project partners across
the world, including Palestine, and work closely with the trade
union movement in the UK. We have worked with grassroots organisations,
European partners and international agencies planning, implementing
and evaluating more than 10 projects in the Occupied Territories
(OT) in the last 10 years. These have mostly been long-term development
projects, for example an agricultural production and training
project leading to job creation for workers in the OT.
We believe that for peace to be attained and
sustained, development in Palestine should not be focused purely
on poverty alleviation but on restitution of political and economic
rights, which will help redress the power imbalance at the heart
of the conflict. An essential ingredient in this is sustained
and coherent pressure on the Israeli and US governments by the
UK. We believe that the approach laid out below represents the
best hope for security for the population of Israel, as well as
Palestine, by bringing an end to the tragic cycle of violence
and securing a sustainable path towards peace.
Poverty in the OT is a historic problem fundamentally
connected with Israel's occupation of Palestine and its dispersal
of refugees throughout the Middle East. This on-going injustice
has been turned into a humanitarian disaster over the last three
Between September 2000 and February
2003, 2,113 Palestinians were killed and 21,884 were injured of
which 2,500 were disabled including 500 children.
Unemployment in the OT had risen
to 53% by March 2003.
At the beginning of 2002, average
real income was 30% lower than in 1994. The number of poor, defined
as those living on $2 a day or less, is now estimated to be at
least two-thirds of the population.
There has been massive destruction
of infrastructure that the World Bank put at $800 million in June
Source: "Fighting Palestinian
Poverty", War On Want
Attempts to alleviate this suffering have been
frustrated, for instance by the Israeli Defence Force blocking
the delivery of humanitarian aid at checkpoints and destroying
social and medical infrastructure. Between September 2000 and
September 2002 War on Want's partner, the Union of Palestinian
Medical Relief Committee (UPMRC) counted: 95 first aid workers
injured; 432 incidents of denial of access to Red Crescent ambulances
at roadblocks; 76 Palestinians dead as a result of the prevention
of access to emergency treatment.
3. TACKLING THE
The humanitarian disaster in Palestine is deeply-rooted
in the political situation, and dealing with the symptoms is not
in itself a solution, although humanitarian alleviation is welcome
in the short-term. Poverty is a result of a systematic denial
of Palestinian rights: the right to work, to land, to water and
to health care. The denial of these rights stems from the occupation,
and can only be dealt with as part of a wider political strategy
for the future of Israel/ Palestine.
"The human right to water is indispensable
for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for
the realization of other human rights [. . .] contamination, depletion
and unequal distribution of water is exacerbating existing poverty."
Source: UN Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, Twenty-ninth sessionGeneva, 11-29
"To enable poor people to lead healthier
and more productive lives through improved management of water
resources and increased and sustainable access to safe drinking
water supply and appropriate sanitation."
Source: DFID's Goal in the Water SectorChapter
Although the pretext for Israeli occupation
of Palestine is security, control of water resources by the Israeli
government may actually prove to be central to Israel's reluctance
to end its occupation. The Israeli government took total control
of all water resources in the West Bank and Gaza after 1967, severely
restricting Palestinian use of the mountain aquifer and declaring
the area adjacent to the Jordan River a "closed military
area". Further widespread digging and pumping from deeper
wells for Israeli use has caused Palestinian wells to dry up.
Between 80-95% of the water resources of the OT is now used by
Israel within its 1967 borders and by the settlements in the OT.
While the minimum water consumption per person
recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) is 100 litres per
person per day, the average Palestinian consumption is estimated
at 50-70 litres, with some areas receiving only 19 litres per
day. This compares to 350 litres consumed by the average Israelimuch
of it from the OT (p 14 "Fighting Palestinian Poverty",
War On Want).
The current Intifada has exaggerated this ratio.
Widespread reports of Israeli forces cutting off supplies, bombarding
wells and tanks and shooting rooftop water tanks has meant serious
"All peoples may, for their own ends, freely
dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice
to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation,
based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international
law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence"
Source: Article 1, International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
As DfID rightly suggests in its current consultation
"Better Livelihoods for Poor People: The Role of Land
Policy" paper, there is a direct link between land rights
and poverty, especially when land is at the heart of a nation's
income. Apart from the occupation in general, enormous amounts
of Palestinian land have been illegally confiscated for settlements
and "security" measures, including those annexed by
the "Separation wall". Moreover Palestinian rights to
sell their land has been severely curtailed. 35,000 acres of Palestinian
land were seized during the Oslo Accords period alone (1994-2000)
explicitly breaking the terms of the Accords (p 9 "Fighting
Palestinian Poverty", War On Want).
The agricultural sector has been crippled, and
currently forms only 6.4% of GDP. The Israeli government controls
movement of Palestinian goods as well as people. During the current
Intifada this has taken particularly harsh forms, such as the
uprooting of trees which the Palestinians depend on for their
livelihoods, and the almost total restriction of movement of goods
via a series of roadblocks. Between October 2000 and December
2001 alone, the damage sustained to agriculture, including the
uprooting of 454,541 trees, was been estimated at $141 million
(p 12 "Fighting Palestinian Poverty", War On
"The States Parties to the present Covenant
recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone
to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely
chooses or accepts."
Source: Article 6International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Israel has imposed restrictions on movement
of people and goods throughout the occupation, through mechanisms
such as "closures" and a system of identity cards. While
justified on grounds of security, one effect has been to provide
the Israeli economy with labour and resources. Basic rights that
have historically allowed for the redistribution of wealthsuch
as trade union rightshave been denied to people in the
During the current Intifada, Palestinians working
in Israel have been made effectively unemployed. Of 130,000 Palestinians
who were employed in Israel, 100,000 lost their jobs on the outbreak
of the Intifada. Identity cards, closures, curfews, and a series
of roadblocks have led to human rights violations of Palestinians
and prevented their transit to work.
This systematic denial of rights forms the essence
of the occupation. The current excesses we are witnessing in the
OTthe "Separation wall", closure, curfew and
serious violations of human rights in contravention of international
laware extreme manifestations of this denial. An implicit
assumption in the Road Map to Peace is that a suspension of the
worst excesses of the Israeli Defence Force will constitute a
solution. A return to the Oslo period status quo will leave the
underlying causes of poverty intact. War on Want takes a rights-based
approachthe only way Palestine can develop politically,
economically and socially is through a strategy of redressing
the political imbalance between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
4. THE ROLE
We believe it is self-defeating for one part
of the UK Government to allocate money for reconstruction and
relief, if another part contributes towards destruction and distress.
War on Want urges the Committee to press the UK Government to
take a holistic approach and makes recommendations based on the
Development Agenda: Development should
reflect a rights-based agenda aimed at the empowerment of Palestinian
civil society and an end to the occupation (not merely a cessation
of the current excesses).
The UK should work in the Quartet for the Road
Map to re-focus on the key issues of Palestinian poverty, land,
water, worker's and other rights. In particular, the refugee issue
requires urgent attention. The future of approximately 4.5 million
refugees within a future Palestinian territory needs to be considered
rapidly and international legislation put forward for those who
hope to return.
Many NGOs are working on these issues, some
undoubtedly with DfID grants. But political support at an international
level is also vital for these projects to succeed.
UK Military Agenda: Military exports
and assistance to Israel are antithetic to regional stability
and fuel the cycle of violence.
The value of UK military export licensing to
Israel almost doubled from £12.5 million in 2000 to 22.5
million in 2001, coinciding with Prime Minister Sharon's accession
to power and the worst excesses to date in the OT. UK companies
supplying Israel include the Airtechnology Group, BAE systems,
Smiths Group, Hiatt & Co Ltd, Civil Defence Supply Ltd.
Despite the existence of Consolidated EU and
National Arms Export Licensing Criteria guidelines, the UK continues
to issue licences for the sale of arms regardless of Israel's
violation of international law. In 2002, the UK imposed a de
facto arms embargo on Israel; the ban reflected a fear that Israel
was in violation of its promise not to use military equipment
in Palestine. However, the UK government later announced that
it was allowing the export of UK components for American made
F16s already sold to Israel. It is known that F16s are frequently
used against Palestinian civilians. The UK Ministry of Defence
should also consider the Israeli violation of international law
when purchasing Israeli equipment.
We would like to see the UK pursue a positive
military course. A long-standing request of Palestinian civil
society and the Palestinian Authority has been for an international
monitoring presence to enforce a compliance with humanitarian
law. No progress has been made on this issue.
Trade Agenda: The EU maintains its trade
preference agreement with Israel, despite growing concerns around
the purchase of Israeli products.
The EU-Israel Association Agreement allows products
from Israel to be imported to EU countries at a preferential tariff
rates. While the EU and the Israeli government differ over the
territorial scope of the Agreement, the very existence and extension
of the agreement must be questioned when trade policy could provide
a key mechanism of exerting pressure on Israel. A full economic
embargo would be in line with article 2 of the EU-Israeli Association
Agreement which states that trade restrictions can be enforced
in deference to a country's poor human rights record.
War on Want calls on the Committee to exert
its influence in sensitising all relevant UK Government policies
as well as the European and international community towards positive
and concrete measures to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
We call for a suspension of military agreements
until there is a clear sign that peace is a reality, and movement
has been made towards redressing violations of international law.
This includes withdrawal of Israeli forces and the freezing and
dismantlement of settlements. We do no see how this could be achieved
without an international peace presence.
War on Want hopes the Committee will emphasise
that the UK Government's political and economic assistance needs
to address issues wider than emergency relief. The key to lasting
peace will be addressing the underlying causes of underdevelopment.
This means supporting the realisation of Palestinian rights and
subsequent redressing of the balance of power, which will provide
the only lasting basis for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Until the Palestinians are returned a fair share
of what defines them as a nation with a history attached to a
specific geographical land, and until they are afforded full social
and economic rights, War on Want feels there is little prospect
of peace. Although our concern as a development organisation is
lifting Palestinians out of poverty, we also believe that such
a peace is the best security for the future of Israel, and the
only basis on which those two peoples can have a stable and prosperous
future side by side. As a conflict which perhaps impacts on the
rest of the World more than any other, and one for which the UK
must take an historic responsibility, we finally urge the committee
to make the issue of Palestine a top priority in the years ahead.