I am deeply concerned about the violence in Israel and Palestine. From mid-May it was particularly troubling to see violent actions over the holy month of Ramadan and the religious holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr, with attacks on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The situation facing many Palestinians is dire and there are, unfortunately, huge barriers to achieving peace. These barriers include the demolition of homes and the eviction of Palestinians in the occupied territories, the construction of illegal settlements and the threat of annexation.
This has been seen most recently in the expulsion of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. Tensions have escalated in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger over forced expulsions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, on land claimed by illegal Israeli settlers. Earlier this month, far-right Israeli activists marched the Holy City, chanting, “Death to Arabs” and “Arabs get out”, with Israeli security forces firing tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades on Palestinian protesters. I tabled a Written Parliamentary Question on this matter and you can also read my statement here.
I firmly believe that the UK cannot be a passive observer when it comes to events in the occupied Palestinian territories and the UK Government should press the Israeli authorities to end violations and injustices suffered by Palestinians when in contact with Israeli authorities. International law must be upheld and with our permanent seat on the UN Security Council and our historical role in Israeli-Palestinian affairs, I believe the UK has a moral duty to be proactive on this important issue.
That’s why, I wrote to the Prime Minister over the attacks on Al-Aqsa, urging him to condemn the shameful acts by Israeli forces and work towards a two-state solution. I also questioned him in Parliament during the Covid-statement, where I highlighted the stark difference between the vaccine roll out in Israel and Palestine. The UK Government must recognise the state of Palestine, work towards a two-state solution and suspend all arms sales to Israel.
My good friend, Dr Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, provided a helpful briefing organised by Labour Friends of Palestine and Middle East. He expressed his concern over civilian casualties and the attacks on the media tower in Gaza, in a clear attempt by the Israeli Government to suppress media freedom.
I attended and spoke at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally in Platt Fields Park, Manchester. It was incredible to see our great City expressing its solidarity with the people of Palestine. It has been concerning to learn that events in Israel and Palestine have caused a huge spike in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crime here in the UK. We must not let events in the Middle East allow hate to grow in our country. Together with my good friend and colleague, Alex Sobel MP, we have written an open letter in the Guardian outlining why we must stand together as communities for peace, justice and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine.
The news of a ceasefire is a welcome step which offers hope to the people of Israel and Palestine that this devastating escalation of violence will come to an end. The events of recent weeks have been appalling and the loss of life amongst Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including so many children, is heart-breaking. It is vital that this agreement is honoured.
The international community must now step up and provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza. This includes vital medical support as well as fuel to ensure rolling blackouts do not leave homes and hospitals without power.
I am a firm supporter of Palestinian rights and an advocate for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. A secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state is, I believe, the only way to secure a meaningful and long-lasting peace.
As the Vice Chair of the APPG on Palestine, I promise that I will keep fighting for the Palestinians and ensure that their voice is heard. You can read the latest statement by the APPG here.