Letters: Israel’s never-ending occupation

These letters appear in the 26 March issue of The Independent

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Finally the White House is prepared to state the obvious, even if five decades too late (report, 24 March). When the White House chief of staff states that: “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end,” it signals that the Oval Office is at last recognising that Israel must bring this never-ending occupation to a close.

But when the White House and Benjamin Netanyahu eventually decide to kiss and make up, will leading figures from the administration drop this line? They should not. Moreover, it would be welcome to hear such statements from the British Prime Minister too.

Whatever solution is agreed upon, nothing can go forward while the occupation lasts. A Palestinian state cannot be free under occupation. It is the hourly, daily, yearly denial of the basic freedoms that any people should enjoy and an act of aggression that has to be brought to an end.

Chris Doyle

Director, Caabu

Advancing Arab-British Relations, London EC4


Many readers will be shocked and amazed at Kim Sengupta’s report (24 March) on bombs in Gaza houses. The Israelis invaded and massacred 2,200 Gazans last summer. This should shock all of us. The Israeli influence on our media is such that many people have become conditioned to think this illegal and amoral behaviour to be acceptable – that Israel is a “normal” law-abiding country.

We should react strongly against the military occupation of Palestine. Sadly it is not surprising that we do not do so when our Government permitted the continued selling to and buying arms from Israel even when it was illegally invading Gaza.

We should decry Israeli actions just as we should be ashamed of our own hypocrisy.

Dr CJ Burns-Cox




Netanyahu’s declaration, as reported in Haaretz, that “there will be no Palestinian state if I win” is evidence of his total hypocrisy and duplicity at the Kerry peace talks. The US has made huge, honest efforts to achieve peace, and its failure leaves only Europe to bring pressure for change.

We need to ensure the discrimination against the Palestinians ends, by insisting that the same visa requirements are put in place as for Israelis. Last week we hosted a small Palestinian trade mission from the Bethlehem chamber. It would have been larger, but two solid businessmen were refused and two more decided the Germans were easier and went to try to purchase their equipment there, knowing they could move on through the Schengen countries if necessary.

Equality would bring home to both sides that Europe can be an honest broker. Second, the open access of Israeli companies to the EU market should be curtailed, by the suspension of the associate status on human rights grounds.

Then, if that does not lead to real negotiations, sanctions. Sanctions were instituted when Putin nabbed Crimea; Netanyahu is doing the same in the West Bank day in, day out, and must be stopped.

Peter Downey



Bethlehem Bath Links

I read your coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict with interest, but I take a different view to that of The Independent, because I believe the conflict really is all about a decent democracy protecting itself from terrorism and bitter hatred from all sides of its borders.

As truly regrettable as most of the deaths were, if any state had missiles flying over and into one of its major metropolitan centres, I very much doubt that said state would take no action and simply hope for the best. Nor would I expect any nation to stand by idly were an enemy to be creating underground tunnels into its land.

Is that what the pro-Palestinians would have wanted – for Israel to take a pacifist approach and just hope for the best? Israel is a legitimate nation that has a right to protect itself. The Jews know all too well what can happen when those who hate them passionately are not stopped. It is thus understandable and commendable for Israel to target Hamas and Hezbollah.

Sebastian Monblat

Sutton, Surrey


‘Philanthropic’ GM is no such thing

We have to dispel the myth of “philanthropic GM” (a fabulous oxymoron) mentioned by Frank Shotkoski, a former employee of Syngenta (the world’s third biggest seed and biotechnology company) in the article on the GM debate moving to Africa. Genetic modification is a biotechnology that is driven primarily by corporations and scientists working in the private sector. This means they are inevitably more concerned with profit-making, pleasing shareholders and obtaining research funding, than empowering farmers to have more control over their food system.

Corporations are attracted to GM because they can patent new seed varieties and recover their research investments by selling seeds together with proprietary inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Rather than pushing for “philanthropic GM” and helping corporations increase their control of seed markets, we should be supporting the right of farmers to freely save, develop and exchange their own seeds. Only by recognising the importance of farmer-led innovation in the development and preservation of seed varieties, will we ever stand a chance of creating a truly sustainable and resilient food system.

Dr Ian Fitzpatrick

Global Justice Now

London SW9


Oliver Wright’s investigation (“The future of GM: The greenhouses where Monsanto ‘plays God’ with the future of the planet”, 24 March) fails to mention that Monsanto’s main source of revenue is the weedkiller RoundUp. Its active ingredient, glyphosate, was declared a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency last week.

Most of the market for GM seeds is for RoundUp Ready crops, genetically engineered to withstand blanket spraying with this weedkiller, which is sold as a package with the seeds. Spraying RoundUp on GM crops has devastated populations of the Monarch butterfly in the United States, as it leads to massive habitat destruction. It has also led to resistant superweeds on half of US farmland. A new generation of GM crops, resistant to more toxic weedkillers, is now being promoted as the answer to this problem, but will only make things worse for the environment.

Dr Helen Wallace

Director, GeneWatch UK

Buxton, Derbyshire


The menace of wet wipes on beaches

I have read Jonathan Owen’s enlightened article (19 March) relating to the number of wet wipes now washed on to our beaches.

Although I rarely use wet wipes myself, my wife is a regular user and has, until now, occasionally discarded soiled wipes down the toilet in the belief that they were biodegradable. We are thankful for your article which has clarified the point and she now tells me that she will, in future, be disposing of soiled wipes in with the general waste.

I am, however, at a loss to comprehend the general tone of your article. Surely blame for the problem, if blame is to be made, must lie both with the water companies and the manufacturers: water companies who, even in this enlightened 21st-century, still consider it appropriate to discharge untreated (and unfiltered) effluent straight into the sea, and manufacturers who, in  light of the above, manufacture the product  in material which is not  biodegradable.

Kenneth J Short

Deal, Kent


Ukip MEP should step down

Janice Atkinson claimed that she was “elected to represent the constituents of the South-east of England” but, in truth, nobody in the region voted for her, even among the bewildered souls who voted Ukip (report, 23 March). Since she gained her seat because of her place on the party’s list for the region, and since she has been expelled from the party, her berth in Brussels should be occupied by the next person on the Ukip list.

Richard Jeffcoat



Now that’s what I call junk mail

Further to the recent correspondence on stopping junk mail, we first of all need to define what constitutes this unwanted correspondence. For some it is free newspapers and magazines, for others it is advertising leaflets and others party political literature. Speaking personally I regard those windowed brown envelopes with utility bills that fall on my door mat as junk mail: can someone tell me how I can stop those?

Cliff Woodcraft



The death of Mark Duggan

After your August 2012 editorial “Mark Duggan’s death still needs explaining” we at least expected the headline “Independent Police Complaints Authority clears police who shot Mark Duggan” in your 25 March edition. But you’re probably right that it’s about as newsworthy as “Pope believed to be Catholic”.

Mary Pimm & Nik Wood

London E9