THURSDAY 9 JULY 2015
- Questions to the Leader of the House:
– Holly Lynch: Yesterday I secured a 90-minute Westminster Hall debate to consider the report of the United Nations independent commission of inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. The debate was chaired by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), who did a great job and made every attempt to accommodate the contributions of all those who attended. Unfortunately, the debate was so over-subscribed that speeches were limited to two and a half minutes with no interventions. It was agreed by everyone, including the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), that we would seek to bring the issues to a debate in this Chamber, so that we could explore them in more detail. Can the Leader of the House give us the time to do that?
– Chris Grayling: I probably cannot, because I do not have the time to give to the hon. Lady, but I can tell her that we set up the Backbench Business Committee precisely for these purposes. It can allocate time for when we return in the autumn, and this is precisely the kind of thing for which that debating time should be used. I hope that she will approach the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who now chairs the Committee, and put on his agenda the fact that the House would very much welcome the opportunity to debate this matter.
Commons Oral Answers
- In response to Hilary Benn’s Written Question on asylum seekers, Home Office figures reveal that from the Occupied Palestinian Territories the number of asylum seekers and grants for main applicants for each of the last five years were as follows:
2010: 180, 30
2011: 213, 27
2012: 156, 22
2013: 102, 30
2014: 161, 40
- Ben Howlett: What are the eligibility criteria for entry to the UK for citizens of (a) Palestine and (b) Israel?
Nos 2-3 Commons Written Answers
- Refugees and Migrants from Asia and Africa – Motion to take note moved by Lord Alton:
– Lord Alton: In the 1980s I visited Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps at Shatila and Sabra; leave people to fester in a refugee camp such as those and you create cannon fodder for terrorists and militias. I wonder whether the new refugees will suffer a similar fate of being in camps 30 years later. [extract]
– Lord Marlsford: In April 2013, I visited a UN school for young Arab boys aged eight to 12 in Bethlehem in the West Bank. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life to see their bright eyes sparkling with hope. [extract]
– Lord Desai: I believe that the global solution could be as follows, although it is rather Utopian. There are a number of countries in the world that are empty, for example a lot of those in central Asia such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan et cetera. The density of population in those places is sometimes fewer than 10 people per square kilometre, whereas ours in Europe is somewhere between 200 and 300 people. It seems to me to be a very good global solution to take people who want to leave their country for whatever reasons to countries that have room for them. [!!!!!] [extract]
– Earl of Sandwich: Palestine is another country where the UN mandate has made it almost impossible for UNRWA workers to remain independent. It is a paradox that aid workers the world over are trained to be neutral while inevitably they take the side of the victims. [extract]
WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 2015
- UN Independent Commission of Inquiry (Gaza):
On the first anniversary of Operation Protective Edge, backbench MPs held a 90 minute non-votable debate in Westminster Hall. It was led by Holly Lynch, new Labour MP for Halifax, with Philip Hollobone in the chair. In order to accommodate the 20 or so who wished to speak [Bob Blackman; Gerald Kaufman; Matthew Offord; Richard Burden; Tania Mathias; Louise Ellman; Andy Slaughter; Debbie Abrahams; Jim Shannon; Grahame M Morris; Andy McDonald; Mark Durkan; Dawn Butler; Naz Shah; Cat Smith; Jo Cox; Stephen Kinnock; Imran Hussain; Philippa Whitford; Kerry McCarthy] the Chair did not allow interventions. With the exception of Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Louise Ellman and Jim Shannon, most other MPs welcomed the UK endorsement of the UNHRC report, urged HMG to recognise the State of Palestine, and emphasised their constituents’ concern over the UK-Israel arms trade. Dr Philippa Whitford spoke powerfully about her experiences of working as a surgeon in Gaza during the first intifada. Winding up, Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, voiced frustration that such an important debate was not held in the Main Chamber with more time. He promised to reply to MPs’ questions in writing. Click on the links for the full Hansard transcript. Excerpts are transcribed here>
- Questions to DfID Secretary:
– David Burrowes: How does last week’s Gaza resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council help aid efforts when it draws an equivalence between Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation, and Israel, a democratic state defending itself against attacks on its citizens?
– Justine Greening: The UK is deeply concerned by the terrible human cost to both sides of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as underlined by the findings of the UN report that my hon. Friend refers to. We, along with our EU partners, voted in support of the resolution on the report last week. We would have preferred to see a text that gave more weight to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence and to the threat that Israel faces from militant groups operating from inside Gaza, including Hamas.
Commons Oral Answers
- David Jones: What recent representations has Foreign Secretary made to the Israeli authorities on expansion of settlements on the West Bank?
- Tobias Ellwood [replying to Bob Blackman’s Written Question to the Foreign Secretary on Iran: Terrorism]: The Iranians are fully aware of our concern about their military and financial support to groups such as the military wings of Hizballah and Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are all proscribed in the UK. This support undermines the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East. [extract – restating the UK position that the proscription applies to the military wing of Hamas, not to Hamas in its entirety]
- Richard Burgon: What recent assessment has DfID Secretary made of the humanitarian effects of the blockade of Gaza?
- Andrew Turner: What assessment has DfID Secretary made of her Department’s contribution to progress on a peace settlement in the Middle East through its support to the Palestinian Negotiations Affairs Department?
Nos 3-6 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning safe passage for the flotilla carrying medical equipment and solar panels for electricity to Gaza?
- Lord Warner: Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 June (HL502 and HL503), what assessment have HMG made of the reports, on 29 June, that Israeli forces boarded and took control of a Swedish vessel in international waters on route to Gaza with humanitarian aid and with a number of European citizens on boards; and what representations have they made to the government of Israel about this?
- Baroness Tonge: What has so far been the result of the internal processes launched by the Israeli Defence Force to investigate specific cases of military engagement?
- Baroness Verma [replying to Lord Alton’s Written Question on Syria: Refugees]: There are also 560,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria and thousands more in neighbouring countries, including many who have fled Syria. [extract]
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with European partners on the case for banning European Union entry to Israeli settlers convicted of violence?
Nos 7-11 Lords Written Answers
TUESDAY 7 JUL 2015
- Baroness Tonge: Have HMG discussed the recent UN report on Operation Protective Edge with the government of Israel? If not, do they intend to do so?
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with European partners concerning the case for mediating an agreement on international supervision of the Port of Gaza; and what assessment have they made of the difficulties that stand in the way of such an agreement?
Lords Written Answers
MONDAY 6 JULY 2015
- Debate: The political situation in the Gaza strip – introduced by Baroness Tonge:
– Baroness Tonge: This week marks the first anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza named, rather euphemistically, Operation Protective Edge. We are also remembering the attack on London’s transport system on 7 July 10 years ago and, even more recently, the attack on British holidaymakers in Tunisia. These events are not unconnected. When by our actions over years and decades we teach people to hate us, we can expect only that they will, whether we are Jews or gentiles. Consequently, ISIL is now at the gate—I prefer to call them barbarians. Gaza is a tiny strip of land of 139 square miles—the size of Boston in Lincolnshire. It has 1.8 million people. Hamas has ruled in Gaza since it fought and deleted Fatah there in 2007, following Hamas’s victory in the European Union-monitored election for the Palestinian Authority in 2006, when it was not allowed to form a Government. Our Government backed the view that the wrong side had won. That is our version of democracy. Indeed, we took a similar view when we backed the coup that deposed President Morsi of Egypt. Israel has blockaded Gaza ever since then and launched three attacks on the hapless people there since 2008. Operation Protective Edge was the most vicious attack so far on these people, who live in an open prison and have no means of escape. During the operation, 2,251 people were killed, 551 of them children. Thousands more have to live the rest of their lives with terrible injuries. Half a million were displaced from their homes and it is to be remembered that the Israelis claim to have warned people of the impending attacks on their homes with the so-called knock on the roof, but when there is no safe place to escape to because you live in such crowded conditions, some preferred to stay put. Such cynicism on behalf of the IDF. Ambulances and their personnel were attacked and 77 health facilities were destroyed. Only a tiny proportion were found afterwards to have been storing weapons of some sort. MAP has just published its report on the heath facilities remaining in Gaza. Some 261 schools were destroyed and Gaza’s universities were damaged severely. Small factories and other places of work were targeted—the list goes on and on. An average of 680 tank and artillery shells each day pummelled the densely populated areas in the course of the 50-day war, twice as many as during the previous attack. Water supplies, sewage disposal and electricity supplies have been disrupted and not restored. UN-Habitat estimates that 71,000 housing units are needed. Gaza has been reduced to rubble in many areas and the people survive as best they can. Yes, Hamas was at fault too. The Minister is always telling me in her replies to my Written Questions that the rockets fired by Hamas are the main cause of the problem. I have to point out that on every occasion any Member of this House or the other place has met Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, he has repeated his offer of a prolonged ceasefire together with recognition of the state of Israel within the 1967 boundaries. In the absence of any response from Israel or its allies, including our Government, the firing of rockets into Israel is what they have been forced to do as a form of self-defence from the prison that is Gaza. During Operation Protective Edge, those rockets from Gaza killed six civilians and 67 military personnel. It bears no comparison to the force and cruelty of the response by Israel, a cruelty now confirmed by testimonies of soldiers of Israel’s own defence force in the Breaking the Silence movement. They are very brave men to speak out. “Disproportionate” was a favourite word used by our politicians. With that word they appeared to condone what was going on last summer. The Prime Minister, in fact, made no comment at all. There is so much to report that to save time I must refer noble Lords to the UNHCR [ed: she means UNHRC] report, which has just been published, which gives detail to what I have said. It has now been referred to the UN General Assembly, mandating UNHCR [ed: read UNHRC] to monitor the implementation of its recommendations. I thank the Minister and our Government, because they have, together with the European Union, have supported that motion, but the blockade continues and no reconstruction is visible to the people there. Rubble and filth remain. Nearly 64% of the population of Gaza is under the age of 24. They are malnourished and have reduced access to education in which Palestinians have always prided themselves. Industry in Gaza is practically non-existent, half the agricultural land is unusable, and now the tunnels have been closed by Egypt there is no commerce to speak of either. Excluding the little children who have their own terrible physical and psychological problems as a consequence of Israel’s action and the fear of more to come, that is still a huge number of young people traumatised by years of conflict and depravation. They are undereducated, unemployed, unable to escape and filled with a burning hatred of Israel and her backers in the West. There is a growing dissatisfaction with the Hamas Government within Gaza. Hamas in response is becoming stricter in enforcing Islamic code on all Gazans. If a recent report of the Times of Israel is correct, ISIL is putting pressure on Hamas to become more and more extreme. More and more young people in Gaza are giving their support to Islamic Jihad, which is responsible for most of the sporadic rocket fire from Gaza now. ISIL is there too. If young people from the United Kingdom are inspired to leave their homes to join ISIL, we must surely understand how the young people of Gaza may behave. Is this what western Governments want? Is this what Israel really wants? Israel is already active in the Sinai desert between Israel and Egypt, and has been for some years. If ISIL gains ground in Gaza, what will Israel do then? Are we going to see another attack on the imprisoned people of Gaza until they are reduced to pulp? I have just been to the memorial service for the genocide at Srebrenica, and I wondered whether in a few years time we might have to attend a memorial service for what we have let happen to the people of Gaza. I hope not. It makes it imperative that our Government—who are responsible for this whole mess in the first place by betraying the Arab people, from the Sykes-Picot agreement and Balfour Declaration onwards, and by our subsequent blind support of the Israeli Government—insist on talks with Hamas by all parties. We must realise that they are now the moderates, even though there are signs that they are getting tougher on the people of Gaza as they themselves are challenged. Will our Government consider changing their policy towards Hamas as they did years ago with the IRA? In conclusion, will the Government consider an arms embargo on Israel until a two-state solution is achieved? The Export Control Act 2002 is quite clear. I was on the Committee considering that Bill when I was in the other place. We should not sell arms to any country that would use them for internal repression or external aggression. Whichever way you look at Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians, it fulfils one or both of those criteria, yet we continue to sell arms or armament parts—military equipment—to Israel. Will we talk to the businessmen and academics of the Israel peace initiative to restart the talks on the two-state solution based on the Arab peace plan—an initiative that comes from the people of Israel themselves? Will they insist that Israel recognises the right of Palestine to exist, and support this at the United Nations? I end as I started. The barbarians are at the gate. Our civilisation is in danger. This is one area where we could make a huge difference.
Link to the transcript: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/150706-0002.htm#15070616000123
for the video: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/chan28.pdf @ 17:36:08