“The Biggest Detention Camp in the World”

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The British ambassador to Israel, Sherard Cowper-Coles, said he is “proud” of his comments that were published Monday in which he described the Occupied Palestinian Territory as “the biggest detention camp in the world.”

He told Ha’aretz Monday that the comments he made that were published in the Yedioth Ahronot daily, were “exaggerated, but broadly true.”

“The territories are the largest detention camp in the world, in which 3.5 million people live,” Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said citing him Monday.

“You have reduced the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to two vast concentration camps, you are imposing collective house arrest on hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and you are hunting down innocent people in the streets,” the ambassador told the Israeli daily.

The ambassador made his comments during a meeting with the Israeli general overseeing the administration of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Amos Gilad.

Cowper-Coles was reported criticizing Israel for continuing to build illegal settlements, for “the unnecessary humiliation and harassment” of Palestinian civilains at checkpoints, unnecessarily uprooting trees and making life difficult for the international welfare organizations.

According to Ha’aretz, his comments, which he says he does not regret, were made “in the spirit of friendship.” He said he was “very shocked” by what he has seen in the territories, “as anyone else who visited there would be.”

The Israeli paper also quoted the Ambassador as telling Israeli officials that Israeli treatment of ordinary Palestinians was “absolutely unacceptable.”

Moreover, he said Israel was acting “in violation of the Geneva convention” and accused Israeli forces of displaying “instances of a lack of professionalism” amid reports of soldiers looting property during military operations in Palestinian cities and towns.

On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres admitted that TV images of Israel’s rampage against Palestinian civilians were creating a lot of hatred for Israel in Europe.

Peres, who said Israel was being “quietly boycotted in Europe,” reportedly asked, “Why can’t we destroy all these homes in one operation?” fearing the bad publicity it accompanied.

Two other Israeli officials made similar remarks highlighting anti-Israeli feelings in Europe.