Letter: Reactions to the massacre of Palestinians at Hebron

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Sir: Although the callous gunning of more than 50 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron shocked the world, let us not forget that early as October 1990 at least 18 Palestinians were gunned down by Israeli police. This latest massacre (the gravest in 26 years of Israeli occupation) exposes the wickedness of swelling religious terrorism in the region. This terrible butchery cannot be dismissed as an act of yet another 'deranged' person. The Israeli occupation authority is guilty for having failed to provide sufficient protection to Muslim worshippers praying in hotly disputed religious sites.

The massacre once again opens up the file on the legality of the Israeli settlements. Legally, the Gaza Strip, West Bank and the Golan Heights are all characterised as occupied territories. Israel's control over that area has never been sanctioned by international law or the international community. Under international law, the occupant exercises authority on a de facto basis and is not a sovereign power. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is also a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the occupant from transferring its civilian population into occupied territory. The implantation among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of settlers munitioned with religious zeal and arms is a recipe for continuous friction.

But one should not be oblivious of Israeli and Jewish human rights campaigners who have painstakingly advocated Palestinians' right to self-determination and statehood. Indeed, regional harmonisation should not rest upon the mercy of extremists on both sides. Being a Muslim Arab does not prohibit me from acknowledging that violations of international law are not exclusive to Israeli governments. The whole region is rife with atrocious human rights abuses. And inasmuch as authoritarian Arab regimes expect Israel to disgorge occupied territories, these very regimes should also ponder their own human rights records.

Yours faithfully,


London, WC2

26 February