- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

LONDON British politicians and leading newspapers have reacted with fury to Israel's military siege of the West Bank town of Jenin, accusing the Jewish state of war crimes and describing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a "blustering bully" and "a fool."

The British government announced it was clamping down on sale of weapons to Israel, accusing it of breaking promises. Parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman, a prominent figure in Britain's Jewish community, said Mr. Sharon's actions "are staining the Star of David with blood."

And European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, a staunch Conservative and adviser to former British Prime Minister John Major, yesterday called for an international investigation into what happened at the Jenin camp.

The British government was particularly angry about Israel's use of armored personnel carriers built on the chassis of British Centurion tanks. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the rules on arms exports to Israel would be tightened.

He told Parliament that Israel had promised that such exports "would not be used in the occupied territories." But after "unsatisfactory answers" from the Sharon administration, "we can no longer make decisions in respect to arms exports to Israel on the basis of those undertakings."

Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw rejected Mr. Sharon's insistence that his army's actions against the Palestinians were part of any anti-terrorism move and said that Israeli attacks had been "extremely unhelpful in the global campaign against terrorism."

Mr. Kaufman, a Jewish leader in Parliament, aimed his anger at Mr. Sharon, whom he described as a "blustering bully" and "a war criminal."

"Sharon is not simply a war criminal, he's a fool. He says Jerusalem must never again be divided, yet Jerusalem is divided in a way it has not been for 35 years.

"It's time to remind Sharon that the Star of David belongs to all Jews and not to his repulsive government," Mr. Kaufman said. "Now, the state of Israel is a ghetto, an international pariah."

Mr. Patten, quoted in the Guardian, a British daily, said Israel must accept a U.N. probe of what happened in Jenin or face "colossal damage" to its reputation.

"It is in Israel's interest to behave like a democracy that believes in the rule of law," he said. "If Israel simply refuses all genuine calls for humanitarian assistance; if it resists any attempt by the international media to cover what is going on, then it is going to provide oxygen for all those who will be making more extreme demands."

London-based human rights group Amnesty International said a delegation it sent to examine reports of "a major humanitarian and human rights disaster" had been denied entry to the Jenin camp and a government hospital.

Some British newspapers were scathing in their denunciation of the Israeli government's claim that it had sent armored forces into Jenin to crush a "production line for terrorists."

Janine di Giovanni, a correspondent for the Times, reported from the scene that Jenin "was not only a town of fighters, as Israeli soldiers told me. It was a town of women, children and old men, who have seen the camp grow into a warren of ramshackle homes over half a century."

Miss di Giovanni said the refugees she had interviewed "were not lying. If anything, they underestimated the carnage and the horror." She added that rarely "have I seen such deliberate destruction, such disrespect for human life" in more than a decade of war reporting.

Phil Reeves, reporting from Jenin for the Independent newspaper, described the situation as "a monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up" for two weeks. "Its troops have caused devastation in the center" of the refugee camp, and "thousands of people are still living amid the ruins."

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