CFI Vice-Chairman John Howell OBE MP condemned the premise of a report on the treatment of Palestinian minors in the Israeli justice system, which he said gave “only the mildest condemnation of the Palestinians for their actions”.
He began by referring to the 2011 riots in the United Kingdom, where “more than 3000 arrests were made and more than 1000 people were issued with criminal charges. Around half were under 21, and 26 percent were between 10 and 17. Some 21 percent were arrested for bottle or stone throwing, and 158 male youths aged 16 or under were given custodial sentences”.
The MP for Henley underlined: “That is not a description of Israel; it is a description of the United Kingdom. It is a shame that the balance applied to other parts of the world is not applied to Israel”.
He made clear that “by concentrating on one aspect of the situation in the Middle East, the report gives only the mildest condemnation of the Palestinians for their actions – using young people as human shields, training young people to attack the Gaza/Israel fence in the full knowledge of the consequences, or getting young people to pull the trigger or detonate the bomb”.
Mr Howell added that “just as we take a strong line in many other countries where children are used as soldiers, we should see that as reprehensible in the Palestinian Territories. You cannot see a young person as an innocent when they are throwing stones or holding a Kalashnikov”.
He emphasised that “the quickest and best way to end all forms of detention” is for the international community to “encourage the Palestinians to educate young people properly, in the ways not of hatred but of peace”.
Mr Howell concluded by criticising the report’s dependence on the United Nations, which has made “almost as many condemnations of Israel as it has of the rest of the world put together” since the end of the Second World War”. “That cannot be right and falls into the hands of the antisemites whom, in Europe, we should deplore all too much”, he said.
The Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group, Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP, also contributed in the debate, highlighting that “unlike many of its neighbours, Israel is a democracy and has a long history of upholding our shared democratic and human rights principles”.
He stressed: “Let’s not forget that the main perpetrators of human rights abuses in the region are terrorist groups, such as Hamas, who often use stone-throwing children as cover for their operatives or, most cynically of all, locate their mortar emplacements near schools and hospitals, using children as human shields who all too often become casualties of retaliatory air strikes. We then see harrowing footage of casualties in the media, which Hamas uses very effectively for propaganda purposes”.
Mr Goodwill said that we must “show solidarity” with Jewish people in the face of antisemitism: “We do not need reminding of that here in France. As I travelled in on the tram this morning, I saw an armed police guard outside the synagogue here. Sadly, not all political parties in Europe have shown steadfast determination to root out antisemitism”.
Read the full transcript of the debate here.