Newly published documents have revealed considerable concern amongst British officials about human rights abuses experienced by Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli authorities.
The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are a stark contrast to the warm support offered to the Israeli government in public by Prime Minister Theresa May and other leading Conservatives. Some information regarding contacts with Israeli officials was redacted.
In April 2017, an email sent from the British Consulate General in Jerusalem noted the “widespread use” of administrative detention – that is, without charge or trial – by Israeli authorities, including “15 [Palestinian] children held without charge during reporting period”.
In July 2016, meanwhile, an email sent from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv reported that “the number of minors detained in East Jerusalem…has exploded from previous years”, and described “the reintroduction of the use of administrative detention of minors” as a worrying trend”.
The same email acknowledged “limited progress” in the Israeli authorities’ adoption of recommendations made by a UK-sponsored Children in Military Custody report in 2012. “Overall”, the email states, just “one of the 40 recommendations…has been substantially implemented”.
Other emails from British officials note Israeli forces’ abuse of detainees, and use of lethal violence against Palestinians, including Khaled Bahar, “shot and killed” by an Israeli soldier “from a distance of about 20 meters, striking him in the back as he was running away”.
Last month, in a separate Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the Foreign Office declined to identify what boundaries of the Israeli state the UK government recognises. Meanwhile, another FOI revealed that up to five British nationals are currently detained in Israel – the precise number of reported cases was withheld, “to avoid the risk of identifying the individuals concerned”.