Tony Blair's government is involved in a cover-up over the killing of the British United Nations (UN) official Iain Hook, who was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in 2002.
Last week the foreign office flatly refused to release the information it holds on Iain’s death, saying this could damage relations with Israel. The refusal came in response to a request made by BBC News under the Freedom of Information Act in January this year.
Iain Hook, 54, was shot as he stood in the UN compound at the West Bank town of Jenin in November 2002. The Israeli army forced an ambulance to wait for 25 minutes while Iain bled to death. An inquest into his death has yet to be completed.
Rejecting the BBC’s request, the foreign office official John Gillan said other information on the killing could not be released because it related to the “formulation or development of government policy”.
In the opinion of the foreign office minister Baroness Symons, this information constituted private discussions between officials that would “inhibit the free and frank provision of advice” if released.
Iain was an official with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
He was funded by Britain’s Department for International Development to head a project rebuilding the centre of Jenin refugee camp after it had been flattened by an Israeli assault.
A UN source told Socialist Worker, “It’s hardly surprising that the British government is reluctant to make clear the circumstance of Iain’s death.
“The UN itself has suppressed a report on his death. The government has refused to give out this information rather than upset the Israelis, even though Iain was a British citizen and an employee of the government.
“The circumstances in which Iain was killed were quite straightforward. He was shot in the back after he had been on the phone to the Israelis for several hours trying to get his people safely out of the UNRWA compound. The Israelis claimed Palestinian fighters were in the compound. This was never the case. An Israeli soldier decided he was going to shoot Iain.”
New Labour has refused to condemn Israeli murders of British citizens in the Occupied Territories. Israeli soldiers also shot peace campaigner Tom Hurndall in April 2003 and documentary maker James Miller in May 2003, both in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. American Rachel Corrie was also killed when she was crushed under an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah in March 2003.
Sophie Hurndall, the sister of Tom, told Socialist Worker, “If you look at all the cases — Tom, Rachel Corrie, Iain Hook, James Miller — Israel has had a systematic policy of cover-up. It has directly lied about these events to protect its soldiers.
“The US and British governments have not gone out of their way, even though these cases have involved their citizens, to pressurise Israel to do what is right. There are hidden dynamics in the relationships between these countries. But the very least the US and Britain can do is stand up and demand an inquiry into the deaths of their citizens.
“Palestinians are dying in similar circumstances every day. We had to campaign for six months on the TV and in the papers before Israel admitted Tom hadn’t been armed or been shooting at them. The BBC case just adds to the deeply shocking state of affairs.”