National policy responses

Statement on Israel’s Gaza Response

Date: 18.05.18 | in: Foreign Affairs

I am shocked and saddened to read reports of the violence and killings in Gaza at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Every death in conflict is a tragedy and civilian loss of life more so. Among the dead were eight children, including 8-month-old Laila Anwar Ghandour and there can be no justification for soldiers killing children and babies or Fadi Abu Salameh who is an amputee who lost his legs.

This outbreak of violence is a direct consequence of the reckless decision made by Donald Trump to open an embassy in Jerusalem, formally recognising it as the capital of Israel. His insistence on provoking tensions in a complex and volatile part of the world is either a display of astonishing disregard for human life or criminally naive. It has made the prospect of a lasting peace more distant and has made further bloodshed almost inevitable.  Donald Trump was warned by myself and other parliamentarians, the British Government, European Governments and many US Republicans not to move the Embassy to Jerusalem. However, he did it and must bear some responsibility for what happened, moving us further from restarting talks towards gaining a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

I join the voices from the international community in condemning the actions of the Israeli Defence Force who have shot and killed innocent civilians and do not agree with Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that it was a ‘glorious day.’ The Senior IDF Communications Officer himself admitted that the IDF had failed to minimize the number of casualties. The Netanyahu Government doesn’t speak for me or for many Jews in the UK or elsewhere. I agree with Foreign Office Minister when he called for a full Independent Investigation. As a democracy, Israel should respect the right to freedom of assembly and right to protest as a cornerstone of democratic values.

Last month I asked Foreign Office Minister Mark Stuart how many arms were sold to Israel in the last 5 years (https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-04-13/135726)  and found the level of arms sales to be extremely high. 169 export licences were issued last year including the types of arms that were used at the Gaza border. Now is the time to suspend the active licenses and have a moratorium on arms sales to Israel. We need to consider moratoriums for many other countries as well where it is clear that UK arms have been used against civilians.

The situation in Gaza and the path to peace needs partners on both sides. Hamas who are the Government in Gaza have not acted in a way to protect Gazan civilians. Although there is a lack of clarity about Hamas’s role in the protests, it is clear is that they co-opted this non-violent demonstration. Hamas have refused to accept medical aid trucks sent by the IDF on Tuesday as relief for those wounded in the clashes. After the Kerem Shalom crossing reopened, trucks carrying medical equipment and basic necessities began entering the Strip. Hamas refused to accept the supplies from the trucks and ordered its men not to unload them. Hamas need to bear responsibility for these actions and in criticising the actions of the IDF, I will not act as an apologist for Hamas.

 

I believe firmly that this conflict will only be resolved by both sides accepting and recognising the other as legitimate nation states, not just coexisting but thriving as neighbours. This is a difficult but achievable aim that is only made harder by a US president who is stoking up tensions and polarisations and has obliterated the US’s chances of being recognised as an honest broker in peace negotiations.

I feel pain and sadness for those who are burying loved ones today.

 

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