To the right Honorable David Mcilveen, DUP MLA
Having recently read your statement
regarding the release of an Israeli soldier, Sgt Gilad Shalit, from his imprisonment by Hamas, I feel compelled to seek clarification on several issues which have caused me much angst.
As a Politics student in Queen’s University Belfast, I have been educated in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for three years, and have personally become engaged in the struggle for adequate human rights which both communities are facing.
In relation to the comments that have been made regarding Sgt Shalit, it would seem you are portraying a prejudiced attitude to the Northern Irish public by placing emphasis and value towards human rights of Israeli citizens only and no mention of Palestinians. It would seem fair that if one is to argue for better human rights, then it should be approached from the point of view that better human rights are deserved for all – not just one fraction of the community.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to explain to you why I believe your statements reveal that you hold a biased viewpoint and I would appreciate you taking the time to consider my points.
Firstly, regarding paragraph 2 of your statement, you mention that the treatment of Sgt. Shalit by his captors was, “not only inhumane, but…illegal under international law.” While I completely agree with what you say here, I find it disappointing that you don’t and indeed are yet to mention the conditions in which Palestinian prisoners are held in, which are often either equally or a great deal worse than that of any Israeli held to date by the Hamas. The Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli prisons prior to the prisoner swap for Sgt. Shalit were kept in conditions that were deemed unsatisfactory by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in its report on the 2008–2009 Israeli offensive.
In the same paragraph, you state, “the Red Cross were not even permitted access to Gilad during his incarceration”, yet fail to mention that the Palestinian prisoners, some who were released as part of the swap, were denied visits from Human Rights NGO’s and even family members for the vast majority of their imprisonment, while also subject to actions such as sleep deprivation, being held in stress positions and were largely kept in isolation, which is also inhumane and illegal-similarly to the treatment Sgt. Shalit constituting the crime of torture.
One question which I would propose you answer addresses why you have never publicly condemned the similar types of illegal and inhumane treatment that so often degrades Palestinians prisoners as equally to that of Israelis.
A further issue which raises much concern regards the first paragraph of your statement, where it is noted that, “Sgt Shalit was only 19 years old when he was abducted and at the time was not even a full time soldier”. Abduction is a traumatic experience, especially at 19 years old, which is why I would like to share information about other instances of abduction which have occurred towards youths and children from the Palestinian community by Israel. Approximately 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army. The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison. Since 2000, more than 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained. The information I have obtained is from addemeer.org and is a reliable source. As of 1 February 2012, there were approximately 166 Palestinian children detained in two Israeli prisons and detention centres, including: Ofer and Megiddo. Out of these, at least 26 were under the age of 16.
The purpose of this letter to you is not to undermine the suffering which Israelis have endured at the hands of the Palestinians, but to ask whether you believe the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli forces warrants a similar condemnation to that which you levied at the Palestinians. Given the position of power and influence which you currently exert on the Northern Irish public, I strongly believe you are in an excellent position to help people form a more accurate opinion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through stating the importance of human rights for both sides of the committee.
I would like to formally request a response to address my concerns on these issues.
Thank you for your time and attention,
Secretary of QUB Palestine Solidarity Society
Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union