Gaza parliamentary debate chaos indefensible says MP - The Leamington Observer

Gaza parliamentary debate chaos indefensible says MP

Leamington Editorial 2nd Mar, 2024   0

I AGREE with the many people who have observed that the way many in the House of Commons conducted themselves during last week’s debate on events on Gaza was indefensible and profoundly disappointing. Nobody emerged from it with any credit. I could use this column to give you my views on the procedural issues that have arisen or the decision-making of the Speaker, but none of this is really the point. The point is that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering through a brutal conflict in Gaza which we can all agree needs to stop as soon as possible. Procedural wrangles in the House of Commons make it look like Parliament is not taking the matter sufficiently seriously, which only increases everyone’s frustration and anguish that the fighting, and the suffering, continues. There is however a hard truth here – the conflict in Gaza does not continue to rage simply because British Parliamentarians have not chosen to stop it. A nasty habit is emerging among some politicians of implying, and perhaps even believing, that calling for something to happen is the same as making it happen. Calling for peace is not the same as delivering peace. Delivering peace requires painstaking work which is only effective when it is not done in public and often involves talking to people you would ideally prefer not to engage with at all. I know that the UK Government is doing some of that work, as UK Governments of different political colours have done too in that troubled region of the Middle East, but here are two more hard truths. First, what is happening in Gaza is part of the most intractable geopolitical problem in modern history. It will not be resolved easily, or it would have been done by now. Many have tried. Second, the UK is not without influence, but ours are not the most influential voices on the parties to this conflict. Hamas will listen to a few nations in the region only and Israel will only really be influenced by the United States. So, suggesting that the fighting has not stopped in Gaza because UK politicians have not called for a ceasefire, even if we could agree that using that specific term would be appropriate, is naïve. Worse, it is allowing a small minority to convince themselves that seeking to intimidate legislators in this country is legitimate because those legislators could stop the killing in Gaza if they really wanted to. Wrong on both counts – intimidation is never a legitimate form of persuasion and I know of no legislators in this country who do not want the killing to stop.


I am not, however, arguing that there is nothing we can do, nor that there is no hope for an end to the conflict. The most urgent need is for more aid to reach those who need it, and the UK has considerable capacity and expertise in delivering it. We are already contributing more aid than almost any other country in the world. Secondly, we can both support Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international law, which includes by the way the right to defend against the further attacks which Hamas have declared they are determined to perpetrate if they can, and condemn acts which go beyond that right. Language matters, however, especially language, which has deep significance. Throwing around terms like ‘genocide’, ethnic cleansing’ and ‘war crimes’ is more likely to inflame the conflict than to end it if we are not sure that such terms, which have both moral and legal resonance, really apply. I am afraid it is not the case that acts leading to any civilian death, even multiple civilian deaths, automatically constitute war crimes. However, it would also be wrong to think that war crimes would be impossible in this conflict, as in any other. Given the global attention on, and global significance of this conflict, I believe the UK should make available its expertise in preserving evidence of potential war crimes in Gaza so that investigations can be carried out, where appropriate and when it is possible to do so, just as we have elsewhere. I have written to the Foreign Secretary to make that suggestion. Thirdly, we can contribute to ongoing international efforts to resolve the wider problem, in the context of which the current conflict is set. There must be a two state solution – a viable, secure Israel and a viable, secure Palestine – and we cannot accept the views of those who want only one of those states to exist. It follows that any suggestion Palestinians should not return to Gaza must be rejected and the continued establishment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land is unacceptable. Our goal should be to stop the fighting now and in the future.

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