‘Militant’ settlers treating Palestine ‘like it’s a biblical theme park’

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‘Militant’ settlers treating Palestine ‘like it’s a biblical theme park’

Labour and Conservative MPs condemned settlements and appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak out during his forthcoming visit

A settlement in the West Bank
A settlement in the West Bank

The militant Israeli settler movement is treating Palestine “like its own biblical theme park”, an MP has warned.

Labour and Conservative politicians both condemned the policy and urged the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to speak out against injustice when he visits the occupied territories later this year.

It comes a month after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding a halt to the settlement-building.

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) said: “There is an increasingly militant settler movement which treats Palestine like its own biblical theme park.”

Labour MP Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) said: “Palestinian Christians are suffering the effect of the settlement.

“Two weeks ago I stood on the hills behind Bethlehem and saw how the six-lane motorway and the wall (also known as the West Bank barrier) are carving through Palestinian farmland.

“Their houses are being demolished, and I met a young man whose family had lost 18 trees which are now being sold on the internet for £30,000.

“So when the bishops and archbishops go to the occupied territories, please could they make vocal their witness to the injustice which is currently happening?”

Dame Caroline Spelman, the Church of England’s representative in the Commons, said the Archbishop of Canterbury intended to visit the occupied territories later this year.

She said the Church of England worked with other Christian organisations “to end poverty and bring justice to the occupied Palestinian territories to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike”.

She added: “Speaking out about injustice is precisely what church leaders do, and they do it well.

“And when the Archbishop does visit, I’m sure he will be looking very closely at the injustice.”

Former international development minister Sir Desmond accused the Government of cosying up to Donald Trump with a “significant shift” in its policy towards Israel.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson blocked the EU foreign affairs council from adopting a resolution supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The move came after Mr Johnson declined to attend a Middle East peace conference staged by France in Paris on Sunday.

President-elect Trump has called for Britain to adopt a more pro-Israeli stance.

Sir Desmond said: “With the decision of the backbench committee not to schedule a debate on settlements, and the destruction yesterday of Umm al-Hirran, is there a possibility of a Government statement on what appears to have been a significant shift in Government policy over very recent days, as we cosy up to the incoming American administration, in granting complete impunity to Israel.

In reply, Commons Leader David Lidington said: “The Government policy on Israel and Palestine has not changed.

“We remain committed to a two-state solution involving a sovereign, independent, viable Palestinian state living alongside Israel, with mutually agreed land swaps where appropriate and with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states.

“Our view on the settlements remains that they are illegal in international law and it is that that is at the heart of the United Kingdom’s policy.”

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