In another two days the Palestinian
people would mark the 53rd year since their Nakba - Catastrophe
began. We the undersigned organizations and institutions write not
to recall the history of their dispossession and exile. We write
instead to solicit your intervention to end the human suffering
in Palestine and ensure that the Middle East is not plunged into
yet another war.
Despite your busy schedule heightened by the
launch of your election campaign, we presume you must have seen,
or at least heard, of the brutal murder of the four-month old
Palestinian girl, Iman Hijju. We have heard no official condemnation
from your government. All we have had is a rebuke by Minister
of Middle East Affairs, Brian Wilson, of the Syrian President
for describing Israelis as Nazis.
Sir, while you were launching your campaign
from that girls' school in southeast London this week Palestinian
children were scampering for shelter as their schools came under
fire from Israeli artillery and tanks. During the last quarter
of the year 2000, 49 cases of military attacks were recorded against
Palestinian schools in the occupied territories. In other words
2.7% of the 1,838 Palestinian schools were subject to this punitive
collective punishment. What would be your reaction if children
in British schools were subject to such terror?
Quite evidently schools are not the only targets
of Israeli state terrorism. Only last week, 5th May 2001, the
Israeli army fired more than 80 rockets into residential areas
held by the Palestinian Authority. Surely there are absolutely
no provisions under international law or in the accords signed
between the PLO and Israel that allow for such excessive use of
military force against civilians.
Prime Minister, the eyes of the nation and,
indeed, the entire world are upon you. The Palestinian people,
more than any other, are also awaiting your next move. They are,
of course, not hanging their hopes too high, as they know you
are preparing to receive the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon
in Downing Street. They would not be surprised if you entertain
him, exchange diplomatic courtesies, and issue a joint communiqué
calling for an end to Palestinian terrorism. Whatever the case,
we must remind you that it was Ariel Sharon who in August 1953
led an attack against the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
Fifteen Palestinians were killed. We can cite many more ghastly
atrocities but would suffice only to add the massacre at Sabra
and Shatila in which thousands were slayed.
On this the 53rd anniversary of the Nakba
the Palestinian people are not seeking emergency relief or financial
compensation for their losses and suffering. All they demand is
the full restoration of their national rights foremost of which
are the rights to return, self-determination and independence.
We urge your fullest political support for this just and noble
cause in the United Nations, European Union and other international
fora. May we suggest that the first step in this direction must
be the cancellation of Ariel Sharon's visit to 10 Downing Street.