Press Release 22 December 2004

To convene a conference/meeting in the absence of the major contributor to violence and terror in the area, the state of Israel, is to convey the message that peace can somehow be attained without Israel contributing to the process. It conveys the erroneous impression that peace lies only at the door of the Palestinian under occupation.

Mr Blair is reminded that:

-it is the Palestinian people who are under a brutal military occupation, not the Israelis

-it is the rights of the Palestinian people which continue to be dismembered – including the right of return to their own homes and land

-withdrawal/redeployment/disengagement from Gaza by the occupation forces and colonial settlers is not part of a peace plan, it is part of Ariel Sharon’s strategy to retain ultimate control over Gaza and its imprisoned population while, at the same time, reinforcing the occupation of the West Bank including occupied East Jerusalem

-while he panders to Ariel Sharon and his constant changing cabal of ministers, the excesses of the occupation continues unabated. The people of Gaza and the West Bank continue to be terrorised, injured and killed by the occupation forces. Their homes continue to be demolished. The settlement programme continues as usual. Israel’s apartheid Wall continues to destroy the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian people.

Mr Blair is also reminded that a conference is not required to help the Palestinian “reform” their system of government or promote their emerging democracy. The Palestinian people, themselves, have long demanded their own reforms – free from Israeli and US diktats. Here in Scotland, there have already been visits by delegations from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to observe the mechanics of government.

Scottish Friends of Palestine’s public petition to the Scottish Parliament, asking the Parliament to consider ways in which good practice can be shared by the PLC, was positively received. Interestingly the major constraint was finance. The Parliament was willing to consider all forms of assistance which did not incur expenditure.

Tony Blair could learn from this. Abandon his proposed show piece conference and put the money saved to effective use.

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