could you direct me to the correct protocol for political visits to Israel and the Occupied Territories? My Member of Parliament visited Israel with the Conservative Friends of Israel and while there visited the Golan Heights as part of a trip organised by the Israeli Government.
Given that the Golan Heights are the sovereign territory of Syria, currently occupied by Israel, is there any FCO guidance about this kind of visit? I'm concerned that the presence of a British parliamentarian on occupied territory - escorted by an occupying force - legitimises that occupation. Should the Member have sought Syrian permission for the visit? Should he have remained on internationally-recognised Israeli territory? Is there any guidance for private citizens, MPs or elected government ministers?
Anyway, Paul got a terrible column out of it, which I covered here. He also managed to shoehorn his conflict holiday into a Parliamentary question:
I refer to my interest in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I have just spent a week in Israel and I came back and spoke to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Despite prejudices in this House, I can assure hon. Members that everybody to whom I spoke has an absolute thirst for peace, but one of the greatest obstacles to peace is the Israeli dilemma of how to trade off intangibles for tangibles. Israel will happily give up land, but how can it have guaranteed security and peace?
Firstly, there's no mention of the trip in his Declaration of Financial Interests yet. Only a line about his previous jolly with the Conservative Friends of India to Delhi (paid for by the Indian Government).
Moving on: I still don't know which Palestinians he spoke to. There's no evidence that he visited the Palestinian territories, and it seems unlikely that the Israeli government or the CFOI would have introduced him to their enemies. What's the point? Both sides know where the various parties stand. So I'm afraid I'll have to remain sceptical on this one until Paul furnishes us with details.
The rest is just hot air. People 'thirsting for peace' don't bomb buses or bombard civilian areas from air and sea. What those in charge on both sides want is victory, not peace. For the rest of the paragraph, Uppal is parroting Israeli propaganda without reflection. Israel doesn't have land to 'give up': Israel is illegally occupying Palestine and some of Syria, according to myriad international laws and UN resolutions. It shouldn't give up this land as part of a deal: it should give up this land and then pursue a peace treaty with Palestine. Israel gets 'guaranteed security and peace' by withdrawing to its internationally agreed 1948 boundaries, compensate the Palestinians thrown out of those borders, reverse the apartheid laws imposed on Israeli Arabs and respect the human and legal rights of Palestine and Palestinians. There are extremists on both sides who've made this a religious war, but improved legal and material conditions will cut off their oxygen.
Uppal's just a shill. Despite his protestations, he's taken money to expose himself to the Israeli government's propaganda machine and he's not concerned in the slightest with critically evaluating what they're telling him. He doesn't want to believe that not all Palestinians are terrorists, that they have justified grievances, or that Israel has behaved cruelly and unreasonably. Why not? Because it's not in his personal interest to find complications in his party's world view.