The deterioration in the situation in Gaza over the last few days has shaken the world. The unacceptable increase in violence requires an immediate international response, and I have sought to reply to those who have contacted me via email as soon as possible with an update from Westminster.
Monday alone saw over 50 Palestinian protesters killed in Gaza, with a further 2,000 injured in the latest clashes triggered by President Trump’s reckless decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Those numbers include children and medical personnel who were at the scene trying to deliver medical attention.
Palestinians have now endured 70 years of displacement, 51 years of military occupation and, in Gaza, more than a decade of blockade. It is estimated that in the region of 9,000 families still remain displaced following the 2014 conflict in Gaza, as they are unable to rebuild. The region is without electricity for most of the day making sanitation, cooking, and healthcare almost impossible.
Although we were not allowed to enter into the Gaza strip, I visited Jerusalem and the West Bank in November last year and met with organisations including the PLO, Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem as well as visiting refugee camps and Bedouin communities at risk of demolition.
I kept a video diary whilst I was there which captured the desperate situation. I have shown this footage to Halifax Friends of Palestine and you can watch a short version of this online here.
I have used this experience to work with colleagues to continually push the Government, in letters and debates, to do more to bring about an enduring peace in the region, for both the West Bank and the Gaza strip, and to hold Israel to account for their violations of international law in the occupied territories.
I have also joined with my colleagues from the trip in lobbying businesses such as ‘Air BnB’ to withdraw accommodation in the Israeli illegal settlements in the West Bank as tourist destinations. This work is ongoing but is something we feel very strongly about and will continue to pursue.
On Tuesday in the House of Commons Chamber I attended Labour’s urgent question to the Government on the situation and can assure you that the Government Minister for the region was left in no doubt that Labour MPs wanted to see immediate condemnation of Israeli actions in the area, and a renewed focus on a peace process to bring about an enduring peace, based on human rights for all.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and EU Representative Federica Mogherini have called for an independent and impartial investigation which I support wholeheartedly.
One of my first contributions as a newly elected MP in 2015 was to secure a parliamentary debate which considered the UN’s report into Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Estimates suggest that in that conflict between 2,125 and 2,310 Gazans were killed and between 10,626 and 10,895 were wounded. That included 3,374 children, of whom over 1,000 were left permanently disabled. It was the UN’s full report into that conflict which gave us the evidence base to truly uncover the scale of the humanitarian crisis and why I believe that the case for a full UN investigation into this week’s hostilities is self-evident.
I will continue to follow the situation closely and raise the issue both nationally and internationally wherever possible to seek to bring peace to the region, based on mutual respect and the upholding of international law and human rights.