Since October 7th, I have heard from with hundreds of residents who have written to me following the horrific attacks in Israel and as the devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza has unfolded. I have spoken with residents at community events and at schools and with our interfaith leaders and local mosques and listened to their views.
I am in no doubt that we need to see an end to the hostilities – an end to the fighting on all sides. This was the subject of the main votes during the King’s Speech debate on 15th November. I condemn the violence we have seen in Israel and in Gaza. Neither Israel nor Hamas have been willing to countenance a ceasefire, with both sides at least beginning to accept a humanitarian pause. To reach a ceasefire we need steps now to create the space for dialogue and to move towards a permanent end to the violence.
This is also why I supported the amendment (R) which is an amendment that covers steps that must be taken.
Amendment (R) (Labour amendment) states categorically that
- there should be a cessation of fighting
- all human life is equal and there have been far too many deaths of innocent civilians and children in Gaza
- states that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to address the conduct of all parties in Gaza and Hamas’ attacks in Israel
- calls on Israel to protect hospitals and lift the siege,
- seeks a guarantee that people in Gaza who are forced to flee will return to their homes
- calls explicitly for an end to the expansion of illegal settlements and end to settler violence in the West Bank,
- demands that humanitarian assistance – food, water, fuel, electricity and medicine – be allowed in on a scale that begins to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza
- sees this as “a necessary step to a lasting end to the fighting and a credible political process to deliver peace and a two-state solution.”
It is a longstanding position of the Labour Party that the State of Palestine must be recognised, which I believe in very strongly as a key step to achieving a political solution. I have visited Israel and the West Bank on two occasions, the most recent being in June of this year with humanitarian organisations.
It’s why I am in touch with humanitarian organisations every day, getting updates on the ground and raising issues in Parliament and with Ministers, and continue to attend briefing meetings including with the Palestinian Ambassador, Jordanian and Qatari ambassadors and others.
Like everyone watching what is happening, I am horrified by the speed and the scale of violence. The only long term solution is a political solution. In the meantime a devastating humanitarian crisis is unfolding and the international community cannot stand by. On national radio in the first week of the conflict I was clear that international law must apply. That means humanitarian aid allowed in, ambulances, hospitals and aid workers protected. Civilians need to be kept safe. What we are witnessing in Gaza is in my view a disproportionality of attacks.
We need to see the hostages returned home, the defeat of Hamas and political dialogue to begin for a long term solution. The situation of containment and oppression as we have seen it cannot continue, and there must not be a re-occupation of Gaza by Israel. We condemn and need to see an end to illegal settlements in the West Bank. For an end to hostilities, all parties have to agree to a ceasefire, which both Israel or Hamas have made clear they are not prepared to do. This needs a greater focus from the international community. The ongoing conflict is not going to be resolved by war, and far too many innocent civilian lives have been lost – as of 15th November over 11,000 deaths including over 4,600 children – and Gaza now being described as a graveyard for children.
This is why I have spoken out in Parliament on the humanitarian crisis, and accountability under international law: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2023-11-08/debates/F42FB301-D582-424F-BE62-97E2C6511200/OccupiedPalestinianTerritoriesHumanitarianSituation#contribution-2921030F-9D18-452A-BBD2-E91DFDD16B1D
A doctor sent a message last night from Gaza saying, “We have worms coming out of wounds even after we do surgeries. Nothing is clean. Nothing is sterile.” It is clear that we need an urgent cessation of hostilities on all sides on humanitarian grounds, because the situation in Gaza is now unspeakable. At the same time, as well as condemning settler violence in the west bank, we need more action to bring an end to it. May I bring the Minister back to a question of accountability under international law, following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott)? Will the Minister confirm that the Government support the independence of the International Criminal Court and recognise its jurisdiction to address the conduct of all parties in Gaza and the west bank?
Hundreds of my constituents have written to me expressing horror at the attacks that have happened in Israel and, now, at the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza. One of them has 25 family members in Gaza. Al-Ahli is one of 22 hospitals in northern Gaza. In view of the hundreds killed last night, the children writing their names on the palms of their hands, and the mothers giving birth in the street as their homes are destroyed and their hospitals damaged, can the Foreign Secretary update the House on the action being taken with international partners now to ensure that hospitals and medical staff are being protected, given that he said earlier today that he was not sure of the situation relating to hospitals? It is estimated that there are 50,000 mothers in Gaza, including pregnant mothers. Will the Foreign Secretary update us on whether there is a plan for their healthcare, and on whether he is confident that that is being dealt with and urgently needed medical and humanitarian supplies are getting through?
I have also written to the Foreign Secretary to push for the UK to act on the opening of the Rafah crossing for delivery of humanitarian aid and to the Prime Minister on how data was being collected on the ground as there must be accountability under international law.
The situation has now also seen increasing settler violence in the West Bank, which I have raised previously in Parliament and the issue of illegal settlements and lack of enforcement.
I have also asked questions in Parliament on the Government’s position on support for UNRWA with whom I have met and advocated for in the past over many years, and for which I was part of a delegation that helped secure an increase in funding in August of this year. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2023-11-21/debates/17FFF91C-74DB-43CE-8944-63A2C996C5AC/details#
For many years I have actively worked in Parliament and cross-Party to call for the upholding of international law in Palestine, the recognition of the State of Palestine, support for the Palestinian people and a two state solution.
I am grateful to all who have been in touch and with whom I continue to be in contact. I will continue to work in Parliament pushing for international allies to be doing more to see an end to hostilities on all sides, and for pressure on Israel and Hamas for more sustained halts in the fighting which are the best chance of reaching a permanent ceasefire. These efforts need to be redoubled because that is the only way we can achieve a lasting peace, which is the responsibility of the UK and international community to work to achieve.