Below you will find updates from my regular newsletters that discuss events in Gaza and Palestine.
Palestine: Road Map to Peace
I joined my Labour colleague, Tahir Ali, MP for Birmingham, Hall Green who led a Westminster Hall Debate on 17 November entitled 'Palestine: Road Map to Peace' calling for recognition of the Palestinian State and sanctions against Israel.
‘I remember that in 2003 when the first road map to peace was introduced, there were some 50,000 settlers occupying the west bank. Eighteen years on, there are now close to half a million. What was a possible route to peace seems to have been lost greatly by the vast numbers taking land in the west bank. Does my hon. Friend not feel that the situation is far worse now than it was when the road map was first talked about, and is it not the case that we have seen Israeli Prime Ministers since who are not interested in the two-state solution, but instead in a one-state solution, and that is Israel?
My hon. Friend says that our goal must be a two-state solution, and he mentioned the contributions of previous US Presidents in trying to broker a solution. He will be aware that the Biden Administration have voiced opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion plans, saying that they will damage the prospects for a two-state solution. Our Government can play a role. However, does he not think that the Biden Administration—the US Administration is the Government to which the Israelis probably listen the most—should play a major role in pursuing that and putting pressure on the Israelis to make it impossible for them to rule out the two-state solution through de facto developments on the ground?’
Recent events in Palestine
I recently met with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to discuss the latest developments surrounding Palestine and related areas. Topics of discussion included arms sales, ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, illegal settlements, the call to ban the purchase of illegally produced goods and the Human Rights Watch Report on Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.
As you may well know, I have previously visited Palestine and experienced first hand the daily mistreatment of Palestinians by Israeli government forces. The recent cycle of violence in Palestine and Gaza was horrifying and led to a heart- breaking loss of life. My Labour colleague and I strongly condemned Israeli air strikes that caused more than two hundred civilian casualties, including dozens of children. There can be no justification for actions that caused such high numbers of civilian casualties and which destroyed medical facilities, schools and the offices of international media outlets.
The forced evictions of Palestinians from Sheik Jarrah and other communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must stop. Such actions entrench divisions and make peace harder to achieve. Labour believes that international law must be adhered to in all circumstances. There must also be urgent humanitarian support for Gaza, which already faced a desperate situation prior to this latest outbreak of violence. There must be an end to the blockade which has led to an acute humanitarian crisis. We support the recognition of Palestine and and we have continued to press the Government to immediately recognise Palestine, as more than 140 other countries have done.
The recent change in the Israeli Government from Benjamin Netanyahu to Naftali Bennett is little cause for hope as the new Prime Minister will lead a diverse coalition of parties with a razor-thin majority of 60-59. The first test however was the vote to extend a controversial temporary law that keeps out Palestinian spouses and affected thousands of families. While this a victory for the Palestinian families, elsewhere the new Prime Minister has vowed to “ensure Israel’s national interests in Area C” which makes up around 60% of the area of the West Bank and was to be handed back to the Palestinians as part of the Oslo II Accord.
A pro-Palestinian march and rally was organised on the Preston Flag Market on 22nd May 2021. Below is the statement that I provided to campaign organisers to be read out on the day:
'I am sorry that I cannot be here in person to attend this rally but make no mistake that I stand with you on the issue of Palestine which is under attack even as we speak.
All of this violence has stemmed from the forced evictions that were taking place in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and also the attack on Al Aqsa Masjid during Ramadan. I am horrified at the indiscriminate nature of the attacks in Gaza where innocent civilians, including almost 60 children in Gaza, have been killed in one week alone. More than a thousand people in Gaza have been injured. This constant bombardment has damaged the infrastructure to the level that it will be incredibly difficult to get crucial supplies and medical treatment to those affected.
Adult’s and children’s lives hang in the balance and I’m sure we can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to face the daily loss of life of the young and innocent, especially when we see our own children free to live, learn and play in peace.
The international community must make a stand and use all available resources to stop the loss of life. I have already raised this with the Foreign Secretary asking him to join the call with the United Nations to uphold international law and an immediate end to the violence by withdrawing the IDF. I have also urged him to impose immediate and meaningful sanctions on the Israeli Government whilst the illegal actions and evictions are taking place. I know many of you have written to me and I have to date received around 1300 emails calling for action. Rest assured, even without these email campaigns, this is an issue that is close to my heart and I will continue to pressure the Government into driving forward actions to bring peace to the Palestinian people.’
While the global community is handling the Covid-19 outbreak, the Israeli government is forging ahead with the illegal annexation of parts of the West Bank on 1st July 2020.
The recently formed national unity government of Israel is continuing to act illegally in threatening to annex Palestinian land. I have written to the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP to reiterate that the Israeli Government’s intention to pursue this course of action is in direct contravention of international law, is deeply concerning and risks significantly undermining efforts to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. I also demanded that the Government impose sanctions should the proposed annexation go ahead.
I will continue to monitor the situation and press our government to act with urgency on this matter.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign
I recently met with members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to talk about the health and welfare of people in Gaza. The situation in Gaza has been horrific as it is effectively an open prison, where people are blockaded from external supplies of medicine, food and materials. In addition, President Trump's decision to withdraw financial support for United Nations Welfare Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) is a bitter blow for the Palestinians.
However, there is some relief in the fact that there are country donors who are willing to try and fill the gap left by US withdrawal of support and these countries include Kuwait, Germany, Norway, France, Belgium, Ireland and the EU. This has not totally replaced US finance but is a strong step in the right direction.
UNWRA are running a global campaign to raise awareness and funds for Palestinian Refugees called #DignityIsPriceless. You can sign the petition here to show your support.
Recent Events in Gaza
To date, I have received nearly 350 letters and emails about the terrible events in Gaza, which transpired on 14th May 2018. I was horrified to learn of the reaction of the Israeli forces that occurred on the day of Nakba, which is the displacement of individuals following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948. It has now been estimated that a minimum of 60 people were killed and nearly 2500 people injured. Many of whom were unarmed protestors and bystanders, who posed no real threat to Israeli forces at the Gaza border, only to be hit by snipers after coming within 300-100 meters of the border fence.
I fully support the Labour Party’s stance to condemn the actions of the Israeli government. It is my understanding that it was not just an overreaction from Israel but a culmination of weeks of excessive force which should not be ignored by the international community.
The deplorable decision of President Trump to open the US Embassy in Jerusalem on 14th May 2018 has escalated the situation further. In my many visits to the region, I have seen first-hand the plight of the Palestinian people and believe that the antagonistic actions of the Israeli Government and the blockade need to be stopped.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has called for an independent investigation into the incidents to determine whether international law has been broken and I have raised this issue with the Foreign Secretary to urge the Government to show support for an investigation. You can read the Minister's response here. I have also submitted a Written Parliamentary Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Please note that I have also signed EDM 1163, which condemns the violence against protesters in Gaza.
I believe that the United Kingdom should recognise the Palestinian State and welcome that the Labour Party have previously committed to recognising the Palestinian State. This situation requires strong diplomacy so that peace in the region is found by means of a viable two state solution.
Image below: speaking at a rally about Palestine and Gaza on Preston Flag Market in July 2014 .