British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was barred by Israel from visiting a Palestinian village that has been terrorized by Israeli settlers and forced to evacuate, according to a report by Middle East Eye.
Cleverly had planned to visit the West Bank village of Ein Samiya during his three-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories in September, but Israeli authorities rejected his request, citing security concerns. The same reason was given to prevent the visits of Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who also wanted to see the situation in Ein Samiya.
Ein Samiya is a village of about 170 Palestinian Bedouins who have lived there for decades. However, in May this year, they decided to leave their homes after facing constant harassment and violence from nearby Israeli settlers, who have been trying to take over their land. The settlers have attacked the villagers with stones, guns, dogs, and firebombs, as well as cutting off their water and electricity supplies.
The villagers have also suffered from repeated demolitions of their homes and structures by the Israeli authorities, who claim that they are built illegally. The latest demolition took place in mid-August, when the Israeli army destroyed an elementary school in Ein Samiya that was funded by the British government. The school was one of several projects that the UK has supported in the West Bank to provide education and services to the Palestinian population.
The villagers are now scattered across different locations in the West Bank, living in tents or rented houses, without access to basic amenities. They have appealed to the international community to intervene and protect their rights and dignity.
Show of Solidarity
Cleverly’s visit to Ein Samiya was meant to show solidarity with the villagers and express concern over their plight. However, he did not mention anything about Israel’s refusal to let him go there in his public statements after his trip. He only said that he had “constructive discussions” with Israeli and Palestinian officials on various issues, including the peace process, regional security, trade, and cooperation.
Some observers have criticized Cleverly for not speaking out against Israel’s obstruction of his visit and its violations of international law and human rights in the occupied territories. Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Middle East Eye that Cleverly should have “spoken out” and “made clear his displeasure” at Israel’s actions.
“To remain silent in the face of such injustice is inexcusable. It has happened all too often,” Doyle said. “The UK government must stand up for its own projects and for the rights of Palestinians under occupation.”
The incident has also raised questions about Israel’s policy towards diplomatic visits to the West Bank, especially to areas that are under threat of annexation or settlement expansion. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told Middle East Eye that Israel would “look at each visit specifically” and decide whether to allow it or not based on security considerations.
The spokesman said that Israel feared that such visits could “lead to escalation” and “violence”, without elaborating on what kind of violence or who would be responsible for it.
The West Bank is home to nearly three million Palestinians and more than 600,000 Israeli settlers, who live in settlements that are illegal under international law. The settlements have been expanding rapidly in recent years, encroaching on more Palestinian land and resources. The settlers often clash with the Palestinians, who resist their presence and dispossession.
The UN has repeatedly condemned Israel’s settlement policy and called for an end to its occupation of the Palestinian territories. However, Israel has ignored these calls and continued to pursue its agenda of colonization and domination.