Shirley Williams endorses report on Israel and the Palestinians

 Catholic Baroness Shirley Williams has endorsed Christian Aid's latest report on the humanitarian situation in Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories. Speaking at the launch last Friday, the Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords said the report - Facts on the ground: The end of the two-state solution? - was an "absolutely accurate assessment" of the diminishing chances for a two-state solution. She said the vision of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side in their own lands was 'close to the end unless it is rescued in a way that frankly I cannot currently envisage.' Also speaking at the launch in the Lords was Christian Aid director, Daleep Mukarji, the Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish, Jessica Montell, B'Tselem and Nader Abu Amsha, YMCA, in Beit Sahour, near Jerusalem. B'Tselem and the YMCA are both Christian Aid partners in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The report tells the story of Israel's creation of facts on the ground - the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the separation barrier being built around and often inside the West Bank. It argues that these facts are further impoverishing Palestinians and strangling the economy of the Occupied Territories. Baroness Williams said the fact of the Holocaust had caused Europeans to fight shy of confronting the modern-day political problems of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. "Most Europeans, even of my generation and certainly of the generation of my parents, are quite rightly profoundly guilty about the Holocaust," she said. "Their sense of guilt about that outrageous and terrible abomination is such that they find it very difficult to speak freely and frankly to their Jewish friends here or to the Israeli government. "Yet the real mark of respect, of acceptance, of recognition of our equal standing before God is to speak to our brothers and sisters, honestly, frankly and with love, and to do so without fear that one will then be marked for ever as being from a particular discrimination or prejudiced background. "I am only going to say in a sentence; my late husband was Jewish, my parents were both on the Gestapo blacklist my family is intimately generation after generation both Christian and Jewish and I hope that that will act as some kind of immunisation against the almost inevitable charge of Anti-Semitism that anybody who criticises the policy of the current government of Israel is bound to face." Baroness Williams said that one of the so-called 'facts on the ground' discussed in the Christian Aid report was the continuation of the building of settlements. 'Those settlements put at risk any serious attempt to establish a two state solution and it is about time we recognise that,' she said. Echoing Christian Aid director Daleep Mukarji's sentiments, she said she recognised Israel's right to protect its citizens from suicide bombers. Speaking of the separation barrier she said: "Nobody, who profoundly cares about the desolate abomination of suicide bombers against innocent people, against children and even babies could possibly deny Israel the right to take steps to defend herself against them. "But why did the wall have to be built not along the 1967 Green Line - the widely recognised legal ad hoc border between Israel and the Palestinian territories?' She said this would have elicited very little protest from the international community and certainly not an adverse verdict from the International Court at the Hague. "It was built in such a way as to possibly define some future border, which so far absolutely nobody has recognised or admitted to, which would cut into permanent annexation of a substantial part of the West Bank," she added. To read the report visit:

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