MPs urge action on taxpayer money to Palestinian Authority

MPs have urged government action on the "£30 million a year" of taxpayer money that could be being used for "Palestinian Authority-endorsed incitement" to hate.

Conservative MP Gordon Henderson convened a debate in Parliament on Wednesday to "raise the issue of hate incitement against Israel and the west by the PA", citing examples such as official media denials of Israel's existence, the glorification of Palestinian terrorists and state media showing "a painting depicting Israel as an ogre with a star of David skullcap that impales and eats Palestinian children.

"Incitement to hate is pervasive in Palestinian school textbooks, on television programmes and at cultural and sporting events," he said.

The Sittingbourne MP expressed particular concern over the PA's payment of "a monthly salary to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons convicted of terror offences", which he said were "part-funded by the British taxpayer.

"The payments come from the PA's general budget, into which the UK contributes more than £30 million each year," he said. "I am unaware of any known safeguards in place preventing the use of UK aid to that end."

He noted the weak condemnation of this internationally, including from the UK, and that such activity "harms the peace process and any hope for a two-state solution.

"Ignoring hate education because we do not want to rock the boat will not help us along the path to peace.

"The government rightly hold Israel to account when Israeli policies stand in the way of peace in the region," he said. "By the same reasoning, it is important that they adopt a similar policy with regard to the Palestinians."

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone echoed his comments, saying: "Unless the UK government get cross about that incitement, it will not stop," while Labour's Louise Ellman suggested that the government "directs more of their funding to support genuine co-existence projects".

In response, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the government engaged "closely" with the PA to safeguard where the money was spent and ensure it was not used to "support Hamas or other terrorist organisations, either directly or indirectly".

But he added that the context of "popular anger against Israel" should not be forgotten. "That is not to minimise the damage done by incitement," he said. "We firmly believe that the PA, under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, are indeed firm partners for peace."

Last updated: 11:07am, April 3 2013