PalestineFebruary 4th, 2015
I have received a number of emails asking for my views on Palestine. My response is below:
Like you, I was profoundly affected the conflict in Gaza this summer, and the tragic loss of life which it entailed. I believe it is imperative that a negotiated settlement based on peace and recognition of the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to national independence and security is concluded as soon as possible.
I believe that Israel should have the right to peacefully coexist with neighbouring countries. I firmly reject Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in all its forms – as well as Islamophobia and Xenophobia. Moreover, I do not believe that any theology should ever be used to justify oppression, injustice or tyranny, the hostile occupation of foreign territories, the deprivation of basic human dignity or the denial of freedom of conscience, expression or association.
I am half-Northern Irish and childhood visits to the Province deeply affected my approach to conflict resolution. I always seek to understand both sides in these sorts of situations. There is wrong on both sides – and suffering on both sides – and unless we accept that, we will never be able to effectively work for peace.
Furthermore, the Israel/Palestinian conflict has to be understood in the context of the fiendishly complex history of the Middle East. As such, I believe that there are, unfortunately, no easy answers or straightforward routes to peace.
I urge the UK Government to uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel. YES/NO
YES – I am committed to seeing a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two state solution, international law and a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.
I believe it is important that the UK Government upholds the principles of equality for all Palestinians and Israelis by respecting human rights and applying international law in all relations and dealings with Israel and the Palestinians.
I consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable. YES/NO
YES. It is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The International Court of Justice has also concluded that they are illegal.
The illegal settlements and their continued expansion in the West Bank remain key obstacles to resolving the conflict.
In achieving these principles, what are your views on the following steps that a future UK Government could take:
Do you agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine?
I was pleased that Labour MPs voted to recognise the state of Palestine (as part of a Two State Solution) in a parliamentary vote in October 2014. While this vote was non-binding, it was deeply symbolic. Labour has consistently supported the principle of recognising statehood for the Palestinians.
Do you agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately?
The Labour Party supports an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza, allowing the free movement of trade, aid and people for the purposes of ending the humanitarian crisis there. But I believe that it is imperative that this is not used as a carte blanche for Hamas to rearm and renew the conflict.
Do you agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain?
Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land are illegal according to international law. Accordingly, Labour has taken and will maintain domestic action to introduce labeling transparency and will seek a Europe-wide approach to settlement products. Labour will not encourage or support any investment or financial activities within illegal settlements.
I believe it is important, however, that any boycott campaign is targeted at Israel’s illegal activity and doesn’t attempt to widen the scope to include all Israelis – or, worse than that, all Jews. That is how legitimate campaigning turns into Anti-Semitism.
Moreover, I also believe that it is important that any boycott activity doesn’t end up unintentionally harming the prosperity of Palestinian families and communities.
Do you agree that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations?
I believe that it is right that international pressure is put on Israel to withdraw from settlements in Palestinian territories and that Israel is held to the human rights standards laid out in Article 2 of the EU Association Agreement.
Equally, I believe that it is crucial that the international community upholds the “right of the state of Israel to exist” in all its dealings with the country. So, trade with Settlement businesses is one thing; trade with Israel within its internationally recognised borders is quite another.
Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law?
I do not like the idea that the UK Government sells weapons to any regime that would use them for oppression, injustice or tyranny. Moreover, by supplying weapons to one side but not the other, the UK Government makes it harder to undertake a neutral role as peacemaker or peacekeeper.
Nevertheless, it has to be recognised that Israel is currently surrounded by hostile nations and that some of its neighbours do not recognise its right to exist as a nation state. So, Israel should have a right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks even if it should not have the right to go on the offensive against Palestinian civilians.