The father of a British peace activist left in a coma by an Israeli army bullet has accused the Foreign Office of showing more concern at the killings of Israeli citizens than investigating Israeli responsibility for the shootings of Britons.
Anthony Hurndall said he would press for a meeting with the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, next week to express his dissatisfaction at the government’s failure to apply serious pressure to Israel for an open investigation into the shooting of his son, Tom, 21, in Gaza and two other UK citizens by the Israeli army in recent months.
In November, Iain Hook, who was working for the UN, was killed in the Jenin refugee camp. Last week, a British cameraman, James Miller, was shot dead in the Gaza Strip.
In all three cases, the Israeli army has claimed the victims were in the presence of Palestinian gunmen or caught in crossfire, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
Mr Hurndall said Britain was allowing an Israeli cover-up, despite having promised there would be a full inquiry into the shooting of his son. He contrasted the UK’s statement of support for Israel after a British suicide bomber murdered three people in a Tel Aviv bar with its reaction to the shooting of UK nationals by Israeli soldiers.
“I have expressed to the embassy strongly my unease at the fact that immediately following the bombing at the bar in Tel Aviv and the killing of three Israelis, the British government jumped to give a statement of support for Israelis and to freeze funds and make arrests.
“In contrast, the almost passive reaction of the British government at the shooting of three of its nationals in Israel is very disturbing,” he said.
Mr Hurndall, who is in Israel where his son is in hospital, also criticised the Israelis for lack of reciprocity. The army has refused to allow him to meet officers in command of the unit responsible for shooting his son.
“There’s an enormous difference between how the British reacted to British citizens’ involvement in killing Israelis and the complete lack of cooperation and a complete silence over what happened to British nationals here,” he said.
Mr Hurndall is not alone in criticising the Foreign Office’s failure to vigorously pursue inquiries into the shooting of unarmed Britons.
Six months ago, Mr Straw and Clare Short, the international development secretary, promised a full investigation into the killing of Iain Hook. But the Israelis have since all but buried the inquiry and some of Mr Hook’s British colleagues have accused the Foreign Office of being less concerned with exposing the circumstances of his killing than with not further straining relations with Israel at a time when Tony Blair is viewed with increasing suspicion for his promotion of Palestinian statehood.
UN workers complain that “trigger happy” Israeli troops are rarely called to account for the killing of civilians. Most victims are Palestinians, many of them children. But critics say that it is a reflection of a lack of accountability within the army that soldiers apparently believe they can shoot foreigners with impunity.
Last week, Britain also demanded a “full and transparent investigation” into the killing of James Miller, but colleagues are sceptical that the issue will be pressed.
The tone of the inquiry was quickly set by Israeli military officials who anonymously sug gested Mr Miller was shot by a Palestinian or was caught in crossfire. The defence minister, General Saul Mofaz, told the Israeli cabinet that there had been “an exchange of fire in the area, and that it is still unclear as to how he was killed”.
Numerous witnesses at the scene said the cameraman was killed by fire from an Israeli armoured vehicle while carrying a white flag and wearing large and clear identification that he was a journalist.