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Yesterday Israel killed at least 118 Palestinians in Gaza bringing the number of those killed since Israel launched its assault to over 29,000. 1.7 million Palestinians are displaced, sheltering where they can in the cold and the rain. The UN has warned that hundreds of thousands in Gaza are on the brink of starvation. In the face of all this horror, yesterday’s scenes in Parliament were a disgrace which shamed our democracy. People were appalled by the sight of political leaders playing parliamentary games, using backroom deals and shameful ruses all to impede a vote on a motion calling clearly for a ceasefire. Labour’s opposition to the SNP motion on the basis that it accused Israel of war crimes is testament to a complete failure of moral leadership. Is Keir Starmer seriously trying to assert that he doesn’t regard the bombing of schools, mosques and hospitals, the killing of over 12,000 children, the forced displacement of 1.7 million people and the denial of food, water and essential medical supplies as war crimes, even when Israel is on trial in the world’s highest court for the crime of genocide?  

In contrast to the complicity of our political leaders with Israel’s genocidal acts, the last few days have reemphasised the moral purpose of those who have refused to be silent and who have protested, rallied, and marched in the hundreds of thousands calling for a ceasefire to end the genocide.  This week over 80,000 emailed their MPs ahead of the ceasefire debate. More than 3,000 came from across the UK to lobby their MPs in person, in one of the largest physical lobbies of Parliament in history. Shamefully, most were denied entry, ending up queuing for over 4 hours in the rain as extraordinary measure were introduced to limit the number who could meet their MPs face to face. We will be writing to the Serjeant at Arms to address our concerns regarding these unprecedented actions, and are grateful to John McDonnell MP for raising this as a point of order in the chamber.  

We are aware of reports that MPs safety was put to the speaker as a rationale as to why he should violate normal commons procedures to allow the Labour amendment to be heard. The issue of MP’s security is serious but cannot be used to shield MPs from democratic accountability.  There has been much discussion of protests outside of MPs homes. PSC does not support such protests and believe MPs have a right to have their privacy respected. However, we absolutely reject any argument that it is unacceptable for peaceful protests to take place outside of MPs offices, or that  people coming to peacefully lobby their MPs on the issue of Palestinian rights should be treated as a security threat. We regard such narratives as further examples of the attempts to suppress support for the Palestinian people’s legitimate struggle for liberation, including the attempts to demonise and use repressive measures against those marching in unprecedented numbers for the past few months.

The events in Parliament yesterday were further evidence of the absolute disconnect between most MPs and the public, with opinion polls making clear that the vast majority of the British people support a call for an immediate ceasefire and by 2 to 1 believe Israel’s assault on Gaza is unjustified.  

Those in public office who fail to take action to prevent the crime of genocide should expect to be held to account for that failure, including via the ballot box.