UK worried by ‘Israeli intolerance’

Report concerned that Knesset law targeting minorities, human rights defenders reflects “a growing climate of intolerance in Israeli society."

William Hague (R) 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
William Hague (R) 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
The United Kingdom expressed concern that Knesset legislation targeting minorities and human rights defenders reflects “a growing climate of intolerance in Israeli society,” it said in a 2011 quarterly human rights report released Thursday.
The report is an addendum to the UK’s annual report, “Human Rights and Democracy: The 2010 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report,” which in part focused on 26 countries of concern with respect to human rights, including Israel.
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The 2010 report was posted on the Internet, with an addendum for the first quarter of 2011. The UK Foreign Office said that it would publish updated quarterly reports online throughout the year.
In its first quarterly report on Israel in 2011, the UK critically noted Knesset legislation on the withdrawal of funds from NGOs that participate in Nakba Day events. It also chastised the passage on the first reading of a bill that would impose fines on Israeli citizens who participate in, or encourage, boycotts against Israel – including the settlements.
The 2011 first quarterly report took issue with the detention of Palestinian children under 12, and the Israeli demolition of Beduin homes and villages in the Negev.
“The Al Araqib Bedouin village in the Negev, which has been demolished 21 times in total, and nine times since the beginning of the year, is of particular concern,” the report said.
On a positive note, the report stated that it welcomed efforts by the Israeli government to tackle discrimination, and to reduce inequality between Jewish and Arab citizens.
Turning to the Palestinians, it stated it was concerned about “allegations of human rights abuses by Palestinian security forces.”
The 12-page 2010 report attacked Israeli actions in Gaza, east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and continued settlement construction. It also noted concern over the failure of Palestinian militants to renounce violence, as well as allegations of abuse in Palestinian prisons.
Additionally, it criticized Hamas’ human rights record in Gaza, and the continued Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel’s southern border.
It also emphasized concern about Hamas’ failure to release Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held captive in Gaza since June 2006.
But in speaking of the report in London on Thursday, Foreign Secretary William Hague did not focus on Israel or the Palestinians when he spoke of countries with poor human rights records. Instead he reserved his global statements for countries such as Libya, Burma, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Our report concludes that the human rights situation in Iran is bleaker now than at any other time in the last decade; with more executions per capita than any other country and more jailed journalists than anywhere else in the world,” Hague said. “We continue to work hard with other countries to highlight and take action against human rights abuses in Iran.
“The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate the huge consequences of suppressing people’s basic and fundamental rights, and are just the start of a process which will no doubt lead to similar demands elsewhere in the world,” Hague concluded.