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Alan Duncan withdraws Palestine video after pressure from Jewish leaders


By Joseph Willits 
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International  development minister, Alan Duncan, has withdrawn a video posted onto the Department for International Development’s website during a visit to Palestine. The withdrawal comes after the sensitive video and comments made in front of an Israeli security wall, drew criticism from Jewish leaders.

Standing in front of the security wall in the West Bank, Duncan stated that:

 “The wall is a land grab. It hasn't just gone along the lines of the proper Israel boundary.  It's taken in open land which actually belongs to Palestine. Israeli settlers can build what they want and then immediately get the infrastructure so that takes the water deliberately away from Palestinians here.”

Both the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (DfID) claimed last week that the comments made by Alan Duncan were a reflection of UK government policy.   The Jewish Chronicle reported that this week, both departments were “at loggerheads” with one another.

Both the Israeli embassy in London, and the Jewish Board of Deputies made their dissatisfaction quite clear.  Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies said that “Mr Duncan's apparent disregard for Israel's legitimate security concerns is of great concern”. On Monday, a letter which copied in International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, and Foreign Secretary William Hague, was sent by Wineman demanding that the video should be taken down.  The video was taken down shortly afterwards. 

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London defended the security wall, saying that:

"The reality on the streets of Israel was one where Palestinian suicide attacks scattered the limbs of hundreds of innocent civilians across buses and restaurants.Claiming that the security barrier, which has prevented the deaths of thousands more Israelis, is not for security purposes, shows a disrespect for Israeli life, and we are therefore convinced that this could not be the official British government position.”

The purpose of Duncan’s visit to Palestine earlier this year was to pledge British support and aid to 35,000 Palestinian providing primary education, to help create 3,000 jobs in the area and to offer payments to 215,000 people in order to buy food and medicine.  The video has seemingly managed to draw attention away from the issue of providing much needed provision to the Palestinians, and the signing of an agreement between the DfID and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.   

A DfID spokesman said that “some elements [of the video] had been misinterpreted” yet the department maintained “a consistently held Government position that settlements are illegal and are an obstacle to peace”.  The spokesman also pledged the Coalition’s commitment “to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that sees a “sovereign and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a safe and secure Israel, based on 1967 borders”.


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