UK Jews slam Green Line property alert

Zionist Federation expresses concern that government's rhetoric could encourage extremists

Brown 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Brown 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A British Jewish community organization has condemned the British Foreign Office's decision to issue a warning against the purchase of property in the Palestinian territories. The Zionist Federation (ZF) has written to British Foreign Minister David Miliband expressing concern with the ruling as well as the "current rhetoric" employed by the government. In a statement, the ZF said that using language such as "illegality" could encourage extremists "by raising unrealistic expectations." "Indeed in other respects the government's language is much more careful," the ZF statement went on to say. "For example, it always refers to 'withdrawal from settlements' rather than 'withdrawal from all settlements' or 'withdrawal from the settlements'. This is a correct reflection of the position adopted by moderate Palestinians who accept that land swaps will be part of any final negotiations." The ZF was responding to a report in The Guardian newspaper on Friday, which has since been confirmed by the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, that the Foreign Office is to issue a warning against property purchases over the Green Line, including east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Claiming that the Geneva Convention cannot be applied in most of the territories, as they have never belonged to a sovereign state, the ZF said the Foreign Office has "no legal basis" to assert that settlements are illegal under international law. The London-based organization states that the Palestinian territories have "never been recognized as sovereign territory" and that the Geneva Convention was designed to "prohibit the forcible transfer of population into occupied territories", such as was practised by the Nazis and USSR before and during World War II. The ZF says that Israeli settlers went there voluntarily and that Israel is "entirely within its legal rights to retain territory that continues to be used as a base for attacks against it." In a letter in Tuesday's Guardian, ZF vice-chair Jonathan Hoffman said: "Israel has proved that it wants peace - by negotiating peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan - and is prepared to give up land, by withdrawing from Gaza. Hoffman added that in the midst of the Annapolis process, the British government "must support the voices of moderation and not those of extremism."