Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-136)

11 NOVEMBER 2003


  Q120  Chairman: You are a Member of the European Parliament so you have the opportunity of seeing people like Chris Patten and Poul Nielson a bit more frequently than we do. They do come and give evidence, indeed Pascal Lamy was here only a couple of weeks ago giving evidence on the WTO. My question, really, was what has been the responses to your questioning of the European Parliament? What response have you had from Chris Patten and Poul Nielson to the evidence which you have put?

  Ms Schro­der: I cannot say that I was particularly satisfied by the response since, for example, on the forcefully deducted 1.5-2% of the salaries for Fatah membership fee, Chris Patten answered that this would be a normal procedure within Europe, too, for example a forced membership for a trade union. Now, you compare a membership fee to a trade union to a Fatah membership fee, which has (as Shimon Samuels has pointed out) a clear link to terrorist organisations and takes pride in anti-Semitic action. So this is the comparison he made and, thereby, he is saying "Everything is fine, we have the same kind of procedure over here too." For me this just shows how little he understands about the situation and about the anti-Semitic part of the action. The currency exchange rates, he answered only that it was wrong because the EU would not pay in dollars but in euro, but we did not make the point between euro or dollar, we said that whatever currency it would be, whether US dollar or euro, it is exchanged into shekels, and here we have the problem. On that one he never answered, he never said anything on that. Then there is one more important point on the IMF control. Christopher Patten and people who would stick to the EU policy, they would all say "There is a perfect control mechanism by the International Monetary Fund. What do we need to worry about?" The International Monetary Fund itself says it has no proper control of where exactly the money from the PA is going. This is a statement by the IMF on the internet, you can get it from the IMF and we never got an answer from the EU Commission itself or Mr Patten on how he would react to that one—that there is no control. So I am afraid that, after all those hearings that have happened in Parliament and after the illegal stopping of having an inquiry happening on this issue, the problems stand as they were a year ago and two years ago.

  Q121  Chairman: How do you think such funds should be monitored?

  Ms Schro­der: I think the problem cannot be seen just in an administrative way, because all the problems that I described to you and the answers that I put forward that came from the Commission, just very clearly show that the political message is "We don't care. The PA can do whatever it wants, we will cover up everything. We will make an argument that doesn't fit, but we will make sure that it's OK whatever you do with the money." You have so many control mechanisms, you have so much development aid, and there is so much experience with that. It is very easy to make, for example, a very concrete help. You can give out cans with food, you can give out material, if you want to make sure that this is not misused for terrorist actions against Israel. Even here you have a problem, and I cannot tell you how to solve it if the EU policy towards the PA and its chairperson goes on like that. You have cans that were given to the PA and it was found out that they were sold by PA officials. So this is just a very simple case of corruption. I cannot say how to resolve that problem. As long as the PA continues its policy it started in 2000, when it decided to start a so-called intifada, which was not a spontaneous up-rising by some poor Palestinians—sure they are—but it was planned by the PA, financed by the PA, and there is a statement by the Information Minister from the PA and it is a clear statement from the PA side, it does not want to solve the situation peacefully. In that situation I cannot answer your question, properly because as long as this political will stands you will probably not find a way to give the money to the Palestinians they deserve which really comes out where it is needed as humanitarian aid.

  Q122  Chairman: Unless I misunderstand you, the logic of that approach is this, is it not, if money is not given to the Palestinian Authority and if, taking Dr Samuels' answer to my colleague John Battle's question, the government of Israel do not see a responsibility to provide funds for those in the Occupied Territories, then we are going to have a situation where the international community, ie not the government of Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, in some way are going to have to take responsible for all the service provision of people in the Occupied Territories. Is that what you are suggesting?

  Ms Schro­der: I am suggesting that we need to see where the problem starts. I cannot see at the moment the political will from the Palestinian side to see what Israel is about. Israel is the refuge to people who are perceived as Jews or define themselves as Jews. After the Holocaust happened, after the Shoah happened, anti-Semitism still went on worldwide, and after the Shoah anti-Semitism wherever it is does mean a threat to every single Jew or any person perceived as a Jew, an extermination threat, therefore Israel is needed as the last refuge for those people. I can see unfortunately—and I agree with many people who have testified before—that there is a lot of intimidation of terrorists within the Palestinian Authorities so probably there is not a chance for people who would like to talk about anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Territories to point it out. The situation is that you have a society incited by anti-Semitism, it is financed by different EU countries, it is spread amongst the camps and the UN institution itself says we have a huge problem here. Usually terrorists are kept out of those camps which are just there for humanitarian purposes.

  Q123  Chairman: I do not think there is a single member of this House, on any side of the House, who is anything other than supportive of Israel's right to exist as a state. After all, it was the United Kingdom in 1948 which was one of those in the United Nations which led for Israel's recognition as a state. Let us set that aside, that is not an issue which is an issue for debate in this House. What we have, and perhaps I can ask my question, is a large number of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, they have to be fed, they have to be educated, they need medical support, they need a whole number of provisions and services. As I understand it from Dr Samuels, and that would appear to be the case from elsewhere as well, the government of Israel notwithstanding they are the occupying power, do not see it as a responsibility to finance that service provision, so either those funds have to go through the Palestinian Authority, or if they do not go through the Palestinian Authority it means the international community taking the responsibility of providing those services direct through some other mechanism. So I just want to be clear, is your position that no money should go to the Palestinian Authority, and if so it must logically follow you are arguing for the international community to fund some other mechanism to look after the Palestinian people?

  Ms Schro­der: I am not willing to give administrative advice how to finance the Palestinian side as long as it has had aid by people and organisations whose aim is to hurt Israel as much as possible, who have so much anti-Semitism among them and who spread anti-Semitism as their ideology, and whose aim is to destroy Israel as a state or as a Jewish state. How can I advise you to finance those people? I said I would be the happiest person, as probably many other people here, to give the Palestinians the humanitarian aid they deserve. What would you do if you saw all this humanitarian aid goes against Israel?

  Q124  Chairman: I want to understand the answer to my question. The answer to my question is that you do not believe any humanitarian or development aid should go to the Palestinian Authority? It is a simple yes or no.

  Ms Schro­der: As long as it has had aid to a person like Arafat—and we have talked about what he finances—

  Q125  Chairman: So the answer is no development or humanitarian aid should go to the Palestinian Authority. Okay. I just want to understand then what mechanism you see the international community adopting? We have a duty of care as part of the international community to the people in the Occupied Territories, just as we have to other people elsewhere. The levels of malnutrition in Gaza and elsewhere are as bad as they are in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. How do you see that humanitarian aid being delivered? Who do you see delivering it?

  Ms Schro­der: The first thing which needs to happen is that any organisation or institution which is commissioned to distribute this aid is very clearly making statements and proving that they are not taking any action against Israel or against the people who deserve to belong to the state. That of course needs to be supervised. There are thousands of mechanisms to control that, they are not applied and that is not an administrational problem, but a political decision.

  Q126  Chairman: Can I move on to another matter. One of the criticisms made of the Palestinian Authority is that they are doing insufficient to play a role in fighting terrorism. I would welcome Dr Samuels' help on this. Throughout the West Bank we saw police stations which had been demolished and we heard evidence it was actually impossible for any Palestinian police force to operate effectively as we would understand a police force operating within the Palestinian territory. Unless the solution is from your perspective that the Israeli defence forces police the whole Palestinian Occupied Territories, how do you see the Palestinian people themselves being able to police themselves?

  Dr Samuels: I think you have to look at capability as opposed to will. We have seen that when Mr Arafat wants to close the tap or control some of his extremists, he is well able to do so. I do not think it is a question of demolishing police stations. It is a question of controlling the source of funds. We have a document here which is in the original Arabic and in translation which shows the money going at 2 shekels per Kalashnikov bullet, how many bullets being ordered. You may be aware of the civil suit which is being filed in Tel Aviv District Court against the EU for damages for a British-born subject of Israel, Stephen Bloomberg. His family was attacked while he was driving, by EU-salaried police officials. He and his 14 year-old daughter are bound in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. His pregnant wife was killed. I am sure the "Parents' Circle" who are here must know the family case very well. Bloomberg was quoted as saying, "My parents in London are paying taxes which go partly to the EU and that money has contributed to the murder of my wife. European taxpayers should know their money is used to blow up buses and cafes and to murder innocent civilians." I think that is the main question. The question here is, how do you control the monies which are being paid through the EU which are creamed off to pay for those bullets?

  Q127  Chairman: I asked that question to Ms Schroder a second ago, how are you suggesting the money should be monitored, and I think the answer I got from her was that we should be giving no money at all to the Palestinian Authority. That was her answer. If you have a different answer in fairness you should be allowed to put it. How do you think we should be monitoring money which should be given to the Palestinian Authority?

  Dr Samuels: It is not my job to tell the European Union how to monitor. They have better background and experience of doing that. However, certainly some of the NGOs involved have competent programmes. They are also, I am sure, being monitored by the EU—one hopes so—although one in particular which is called Law creamed off 40%—4 million dollars of 10 million dollars—they received from the EU. We have documents on that here in what I want to submit to you. Monies can be more carefully monitored to see they get to their target.

  Chairman: It is obviously important in a matter of confidence that everyone has confidence the money is going where it should be going, so I would have thought you might have given some thought as to how you would have confidence, or what monitoring systems you might have confidence in, that the money is going to the destination it is intended for.

  Q128  Mr Khabra: You have presented your own views and to me it looks as if it is a very grim picture with no prospect of any peace between Israel and Palestine. You mentioned money being used for corruption, being used to support terrorism, the training of terrorists, etcetera. My personal view is that even if what you said is true, there are no controls over that, nobody on the EU is even monitoring it. Suppose all that happens, that there is control over that money, that money is being properly used by the PA and it does not get into the hands of the people who are terrorists and who want to sabotage the peace process and want to kill, can I ask you, without that money, do you think terrorism will finish? Do you not consider that Hamas, which is an organisation which is getting more popular day by day, and Islamic Jihad, will be getting money from other sources? There are a lot of other sources they can get money from to continue or organise terrorism and they have a philosophy, and probably you understand what that philosophy is all about, that they would like to have political power and that is a very grim situation. Do you not think Israel should take into consideration that it is proper, reasonable and logical that the Palestinian Authority should be helped to actually deal with the internal situation? What happens, if there is occupation, check-points, other restrictions on movements, is that Hamas becomes stronger and stronger and the Palestinian Authority may be reduced to nothing at all. What is going to happen then? I want to ask this question.

  Dr Samuels: Mr Khabra, I agree with you, the situation is very grim but terror did not begin with this intifada. Palestinian terror began with the creation of the PLO in 1964 which was three years before these territories fell into the hands of Israel as a result of aggression against Israel. Until that time they were in the hands of Jordan and Egypt and yet terror was designed against Israel with the creation of the PLO. Hamas has been launching terror, yes, you are right, that has to be controlled, and money will continue to get to such organisations from such sources as Iran and possibly other Arab countries. What we are saying here is that the EU has no right to see that money is getting to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or to Hamas. This is what we say to the EU, and your Committee because of the nature of its discussions is discussing with the EU. It is vitally important that that money be snuffed out before it gets there. We have seen the demonstrations in this past week on television of women asking for their money from Hamas which is not getting through any more because Mr Arafat got the point, this is not good for his public image. So if it is not good for his public image that the money does not get to Hamas at this moment, in that case something is working. What we suggest is whatever is working is a formula which has to be much more broadly effective.

  Q129  Chairman: I must declare a couple of interests in the run up to this. One of my family was one of the first of the Friends Ambulance Corps into Belsen. My tutor at university, because I practised law, was one of the junior counsel who prosecuted at Nuremberg, and indeed my predecessor head of chambers is now prosecuting war crimes in Sierra Leone. Many of the prosecutions at Nuremberg were brought because of breaches against international humanitarian law, and the ability of the Friends Ambulance Service, the Red Cross and others, to operate and those prosecutions were brought about because of the existence of the Geneva Conventions. As I understand it, your organisation is a human rights organisation and I wondered what steps you take as a human rights organisation to ensure that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applied fairly, fully and properly in Occupied Territories?

  Dr Samuels: I consider the Fourth Geneva Convention is certainly valid for every case of occupation. It is perhaps mystifying it was only convened by the Swiss Government in the case of Israel. It has never been convened in all the years since 1949 in regard to the Chinese occupation of Tibet or any other occupation. What we find here is a single-country-bashing campaign against Israel. Unfortunately this is an atmosphere which I experienced in the United Nations Human Rights Commission where Israel is in the dock and there is one item on the agenda, Item 8, only against Israel, and Item 9 against all other issues of human rights violations. So when the issue becomes a question of universal concern and not just a cover for countries, particularly despotic, totalitarian states in the UN, who use the bashing of Israel in order to cover up their own human rights violations, then in that case your question would be highly justified.

  Ms Schro­der: Considering there was a war against Yugoslavia in 1999, no matter what opinion you had on that one, it was true Yugoslavia was not a threat to any western country, nobody even dared to think Milosevic would attack any other country because he did not have the military possibilities for that. NATO went in with air strikes which meant minimum victims on your side, maximum civilians on the other side, and we have lots of cases now against different NATO states. This was something which was very obviously human rights violations but the UN was not even part of it, and now it is Germany and France who are making a big row about Iraq because it was not dealt with by a UN Resolution but they took part in Kosovo. Now you take the Jenin case and what happened there. There was a demand by the Israeli Government as always to the PA to look for their terrorists, especially the ones in official positions, they gave them lists to check. What happens to those people? There are a lot of connections between the PA and anti-Semitism terrorism so nothing will happen. What does Israel do? Again, abstracting from your position, whether it was right or wrong, the Israeli defence forces went into Jenin, they took ground forces because they did not want air strikes which they could have done because they wanted minimum civilian victims on the other side, and they did exactly the contrary to NATO. I am not a military expert and I never want to be but if you take into account how Kosovo was evaluated, how Jenin was evaluated, I cannot see that the Middle East and Israel in particular are different. The decision is to see Israel as the perpetrator and the Palestinians will always be the victims once you have taken this decision, and you can see that very clearly if you compare the situation with so many others. This is the official EU policy and you can see what comes out of it. We have had opinion polls two weeks ago which came out in the European Union and more than 50% of the European population believe that Israel is the main problem for world peace. This is what you do when you have a blind, one-sided, pro-Palestinian position from the EU which does not take into account any anti-Semitic actions. This is what you get out of it.

  Q130  Chairman: In fairness that was not my question but let me try it another way. From my perspective, and I would not speak for other colleagues, I do not see any evidence of a peace process at the present time. The Prime Minister of Israel has made it clear he is not going to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority whilst Arafat is heading it or whilst anyone who is talking to Arafat from the Palestinian Authority is involved, so we almost certainly are going to have a long period of time of occupiers and occupied, because however one looks at it, using words as neutrally as possible, the Israeli defence forces are occupying the West Bank and Gaza. I am interested as a lawyer in how that situation in international law is dealt with, and it seems to me international law has dealt with it by the Geneva Conventions—in civilised nations that is how it is done. I cannot see and I do not understand why a human rights organisation would not wish to see the Geneva Conventions applied in that occupation as anywhere else. I put that question again to see if I get any different answer.

  Ms Schro­der: If it was like "anywhere else" everybody would agree, but as you can see it does not apply.

  Q131  Chairman: So you are saying the Geneva Convention should not be applied?

  Ms Schro­der: I am saying that everything you refer to as international law is always applied in a very different way to Israel than any other nations.

  Q132  Chairman: Are you saying international law should not be applied in the Occupied Territories?

  Ms Schro­der: I think you do not want to understand, I made a very clear statement, if it was a world where you did not have very specific actions taken against Israel—and I explained before what I think is so specific against that country because I do not think everybody has understood that well. I see at the same time the human rights violations in Israel sanctioned, but many other much worse violations elsewhere are not. So should I not wonder why they are applied in Israel but not in many other places?

  Q133  Chairman: At the present moment there are war crime trials going on, the international community is taking action against those accused of war crimes in Sierra Leone, in Rwanda, in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, these are all areas where the international community is taking action. Anyway, you have given your answer and that will have to stand on the record.

  Ms Schro­der: This is a very good example, this trial against Milosevic, because if you look at the civilian victims killed by the NATO-led war against Yugoslavia, in the logic of the court there should be many other people in front of it who will never have to justify their actions in front of any court.

  Dr Samuels: May I ask you a question?

  Q134  Chairman: Of course.

  Dr Samuels: I think your use of the word "occupation" requires definition. The Geneva Convention, as far as I remember, was never raised in terms of the Jordanian and Egyptian occupation of these territories you are discussing today. Israel unilaterally withdrew from occupied territory of Lebanon and yet the war on the Lebanese border continues with the claim that Israel is in fact still occupying the Shaba Farms, which is in fact Syrian and not Lebanese. The definition of occupation, where an occupation begins, where it ends, is it conceivable do you believe, Mr Baldry, that were Israel to unilaterally to leave these territories and just exist on the other side of the fence—even if that fence were on the green line—all the claims against Israel would end? Would there not be claims for Tel Aviv, for Haifa, for Jaffa? Do you not believe this would be a continuing process because this is not a war just for the West Bank and Gaza?

  Q135  Chairman: The difficulty is this, is it not, international law generally hates a vacuum. One cannot have people without citizenship, without rights, without remedies. For a long time the international community has been striving through the peace process, through the road map, through the quartet, to find a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. There will come a point, if that does not work, where the international community is going to say that every citizen, every person, every individual who is within the boundaries of the state of Israel is de jure a citizen of Israel. One cannot have a situation where there are large numbers of people within one state who are effectively stateless. So if the two-state solution cannot be found to work then international law is going to say de jure and de facto there is a single state?

  Dr Samuels: Are you asking me?

  Q136  Chairman: I am putting it to you as a question. There was a question mark at the end of that statement.

  Dr Samuels: I personally and not institutionally, and not in any way beyond myself, do believe in a two state solution. I believe it is inevitable and it has to happen in order to allow both communities to divorce. I think all of the plans for a new Middle East and the illusions of functional interdependence between these two peoples have been disappointed over these past few years and I do not see any possibility of doing that without division. I think that separation should allow both to develop for themselves. That does not mean to say that when you talk about occupation the claims will come to an end, I am certain they will not. I am certain that even with the most benign administration in this state of Palestine, no matter what its dimensions or where its borders will be, it will not be enough for the Palestine programme of some elements in that country. Coming back to this question of the Geneva Convention, the Geneva Convention applies to civilians but unfortunately within these territories the acts of violence and terror are committed by ostensible civilians, they may not be wearing uniforms, but they are terrorists and therefore the whole thing has to be seen within a prism of sensitivity to the victims of terror. I come back to the responsibility of your Committee, Sir, in its role of providing guidance to the EU in the spending of funds to see those two shekels being paid out for Kalashnikov bullets to kill British citizens living in Israel.

  Chairman: Thank you. Thank you for coming and giving evidence, and thank you, Ms Schro­der, for coming from the European Parliament.

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