The escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, involving the bombardment and invasion of Gaza, during the Christmas period, although not totally unexpected, was nonetheless a shock in terms of both its speed and scale. The ferocity of the attacks and, in particular, the fact that around 34% of the casualties and injuries have involved children is hugely distressing. Although I have no hesitation in condemning the Hamas rocket attacks, Israel’s behaviour in terms of its blockade of Gaza, illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and current military activities is simply unacceptable, as is the muted response from Western Governments.
My Response to the Conflict
My letter to Bill Rammell MP
Co-Signed Letter to Gordon Brown
EDM on BBC, Sky and the DEC Appeal
As soon as I was able, after being away over Christmas, I signed up to a statement condemning the attacks and I have subsequently put my name to the following, more comprehensive, Early Day Motion on the subject:
EDM 408: GAZA
That this House expresses outrage at Israel's overwhelmingly disproportionate use of force in Gaza which continues to inflict massive civilian casualties, particularly amongst children and which has involved strikes on aid convoys, United Nations schools and medical personnel; calls for an immediate ceasefire including the end of Israel's attacks on Gaza, the withdrawal of its troops and the cessation of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel; further calls for the demands of the Security Council to allow the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical treatment to be implemented and for the end of the long-term Israeli blockade of Gaza; further calls on the Government to initiate proceedings, with the other High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention, to require the protection of civilians in times of war and to require accountability for military action which contravenes the Convention; further calls for an arms embargo on both sides and for the remit of any international forces deployed to include protection of Palestinian civilians from blockade and attack as well as the prevention of arms supplies which threaten Israeli civilians; further calls on the European Union to demonstrate that the continued implementation of its Association Agreement with Israel is conditional on Israel's respecting human rights; demands that Israel stops blocking international journalists from entering Gaza; and calls on the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve the lasting settlement of a secure and independent state of Palestine alongside a secure and independent Israel.
My only point of disagreement with this statement is that I would like to see an immediate suspension of the EU-Israel agreement that gives preferential trade access to Israel. This is an issue that I have raised a number of times during my time as an MP, calling on the UK Government to argue for such a suspension within the EU.
I have also signed a number of other EDMs on this matter, which can be viewed by searching the EDM Database. The relevant EDM numbers are 370, 378, 399, 400 and 423.
In order to express my concerns, and those of many constituents who have contacted me about this issue, I have written to the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the Middle East, Bill Rammell, about the ineffectiveness of international diplomacy thus far to pressurise the Israelis to negotiate a ceasefire. A copy of this letter is included below. I have also signed a letter that my colleague, Jeremy Corbyn MP, has delivered to Downing Street, which is also included below. I will also make sure that the Government is sent copies of all further communications that I continue to receive from constituents and will make my feelings about the situation known whenever the opportunity presents itself.
A large number of constituents have contacted me to express their concern and anger at the situation in Gaza. I share their concerns and enclose copies of the communications I have received.
Israel's attacks on Gaza have been both excessive and disproportionate and come after the long Israeli blockade, which must surely have contributed to the Hamas decision to end the ceasefire. Despite the official claims that only Hamas-linked locations have been targeted, there is no definition of this term (and Hamas were, after all, legitimately elected to govern Gaza) and the civilian deaths and casualties inflicted so far have been simply unacceptable. I have no hesitation in condemning the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Palestinians in Gaza but see Israel's response as an opportunistic attempt to further extend its control on Palestinian territories.
I welcome the Government's response of deeming the attacks disproportionate and calling for a ceasefire However, the further escalation of the conflict into a ground offensive into Gaza City and Khan Younis demonstrates the ineffectiveness of diplomatic efforts in persuading the Israelis that excessive military force of this kind is bound to be counterproductive and will inevitably sharpen the sense of injustice in the Region. The declaration of President Bush, that Hamas are to blame, was unhelpful to say the least and I would like to see the British Government speaking out against this interpretation of events and challenging the Israelis to make clear what their objective is, whether they have a post-conflict strategy prepared and how this fits in with the "road map" towards the two state solution.
The conflict in Gaza should not be seen in isolation. I am also concerned by the continuing expansion of settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, by the confiscation of Palestinian land, by the proliferation of checkpoints and by other restrictions on Palestinian movement. It is frustrating that such behaviour is so often met with silence from Western Governments, including our own, and does not lead to restrictions on the preferential treatment met ed out to Israel such as the EU-Israel Trade Agreement.
I should be grateful for your response to these concerns and, if the Government is not willing to reassess its relationship with Israel, an assessment of how the current attacks fit into a long-term strategy for sustainable peace in the Middle East.
LYNNE JONES MP
Israel’s attack on Gaza
The first full day of Israel’s attack upon Gaza (Sat 27th December) was the bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967, and since then, Palestinians are being killed on average 75 a day, with one Israeli being killed every 2/3 days. The attack on the UN building earlier this week has only made matters worse.
• Israel grandstands about having pulled out of Gaza some time ago yet it continued frequent raids and targeted assassinations and it never relinquished control of the airspace, the borders and the waterways.
• Settlements beyond Gaza, in other parts of Palestine, continue to be expanded in huge numbers, and properties there are being advertised for sale in the UK, as part of Israel’s wider claim to the most resourceful areas of the region, regardless of borders.
• Illegal produce from these settlements continues to be sold.
• The illegal and convoluted wall continues to be built far from the Green Line for much of it.
• Checkpoints controlling Palestinians’ every move continue to multiply.
• The very occasional access to Gaza ensures only sparse supplies of medical supplies, food and other vital living ingredients, and the humanitarian crisis in this tiny and overpopulated area continues to worsen.
Contrary to repeated claims heard in the media, this ceasefire broke down recently because the Israelis killed a number of Palestinians and Hamas reacted. That said, despite the ceasefire, Palestinians (adults and children) have been either killed or arrested by the Israeli government throughout the “peace process” and in huge numbers: 546 killed including 76 children since the latest round of peace talks began. It cannot be overstated that weapons of war do not discriminate between individuals and combatants, and as the photographs of victims flood into our inboxes and onto our television screens the Government must make it clear that:
- An unequivocal ceasefire needs to be activated
- The siege on Gaza must be called off
- The EU-Israeli Trade Association Agreement (now well and truly violated in relation to its human rights clauses) must be suspended
- The sale of arms and military parts to Israel must be suspended
We eagerly await your reply.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Neil Gerrard MP
Michael Connarty MP
Diane Abbott MP
Peter Bottomley MP
Derek Wyatt MP
Colin Breed MP
Lynne Jones MP
I was shocked by the refusal of the BBC and Sky News to broadcast the Disasters and Emergencies Committee's appeal for funds for Gaza and do not believe that their justification of maintaining impartiality is valid in this situation. To record my views on this matter on the Parliamentary record I signed the following Early Day Motion, along with 121 other MPs (so far):
EDM 585: DEC GAZA CRISIS APPEAL
That this House is astonished by the refusal of the BBC and Sky to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Gaza Crisis Appeal; considers that the explanations given for this decision by BBC spokespersons are both unconvincing and incoherent; and draws attention to the fact that people wishing to obtain information about the Gaza appeal can contact the DEC by visiting www.dec.org.uk.