Here is an extensive record of the debate on Gaza in Parliament on Wednesday 5 February 2014
Westminster Hall: Gaza (Humanitarian Situation):
– Sir Tony Baldry: Says he was moved to initiate this debate in wake of latest DfID Questions where minister outlined precarious humanitarian situation and UN’s dire predictions; recalls his own visits in 2001 and 2005: “After my second visit, I recall returning home and telling my children that I had no fear of death and I had been to hell, or rather that I could not imagine a state of existence or purgatory of such total hopelessness as being trapped in Gaza.” In 2010 PM described Gaza as a prison camp and in 2012 asked Israel to “do everything possible” to end the crisis.
– Andrew Smith: Why has international community proved so ineffective at putting effective pressure on Israel to relax “the horrific stranglehold on Gaza”?
– TB: Because for a long time it put its hope in the negotiations for a two-state solution.
– Alex Cunningham: Apologises for having to leave this important debate: “I am going for a medical. Such a thing is denied to the people of Palestine because of the pressures they are under.” Asks if TB can see any way forward, “or are we banging our heads ast a brick wall?”
– TB: Under international law Israel is the occupying power; remembers his personal tutor at university was Professor Colonel Gerald Draper, who had been a junior prosecuting counsel at the Nuremberg war trials; he alludes also to other prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity; quotes at length from UNGA investigation of Israeli attacks on Gaza flotilla, which concluded that a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza on 31 May 2010. “Since then, the situation in Gaza has deteriorated significantly, which is causing concern in all parts of both Houses of Parliament”; quotes at length from Lords debate of 27 January; cites what Christian Aid has told him, as the Second Church Estates Commissioner, in anticipation of this debate: “Israel’s prolonged closure of the Gaza Strip, as one of its occupation policies, continues to effectively punish 1.7 million Palestinians for the actions of a minority.”
– Sarah Teather: Says she visited Gaza last week; worried by the number of people affected by burns as they try to get around the lack of power.
– TB: Quotes further from WHO and Human Rights Watch on the effects of the closures which divide Gazans from their families in WB; When DfID minister tried to visit Gaza recently, he was prevented allegedly on security grounds; Israeli law bars Israeli journalists from going there; we have to rely on journalists like Harriet Sherwood; quotes from her 26 January Observer article.
– David Winnick: “The Israelis are taking every opportunity to make it difficult to access drinkable water”; half the population is 18 or under. “I emphasise the point that 90% of the water in Gaza is undrinkable, which is a scandal in itself.”
– TB: Agrees; “it is intolerable in any part of the world for large numbers of people to be deliberately denied decent drinking water for long periods of time.”
– Andrew Love: Commends TB for having “laid out clearly the appalling situation in Gaza and made the case that what has happened there constitutes a violation of international law, but we have not moved forward over the past five to 10 years. What does he suggest we can do to highlight the situation and put pressure on the Israelis to relent?”
– TB: Quotes Harriet Sherwood again on UNWRA having to feed half the Gazan population with a 20% drop in income; Gaza and WB must be kept together as a viable unit and potential state but cannot happen if Palestinian citizens are not allowed even to travel freely between them; people should be allowed to leave Gaza and work in Israel; Turkey and Qatar have donated fuel for Gaza but there are difficulties in the politics, and consequently in the logistics, of delivering it from Qatar; “Gazans need more electricity, a high-voltage line from Israel in the medium term and the ability to access natural gas for a Gazan power plant in the longer term”; Gazan business should be allowed to export to Israel and WB.
– Jeremy Corbyn: Commends TB for drawing attention to Gaza’s environmental situation, the water shortage, the inability to develop solar power and the lack of material for creating desalination plants.
– TB: Agrees, saying “Israel, the occupying power, does not seem prepared to allow people or exports to leave Gaza, and it seems equally unwilling to allow construction materials into Gaza.”; farmers suffer from lack of construction materials, restrictions in hours they can work on their farms; lack of clarity in size of buffer zones; quotes OCHA on 30-50% drugs at zero stock; plight of fishermen shot at; occupation in the long-term is not in the best interests of the occupiers either; quotes Sam Kiley in the Spectator on John Kerry’s insistence on the looming danger of Israel having “to face international isolation as a pariah state that denies rights to up to 2.5 million Arabs.”
– Stephen Phillips: This timely debate must lead to progress; we are talking in terms of months not years.
– TB: That is said also by Foreign Secretary and John Kerry. “As a lawyer, I think that there is a question under international law as to how long it is possible for part of the world to be occupied without such an occupied territory becoming part of the de jure state that is occupying it. The point that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made is that Israel cannot continue to be both a Jewish state and a democracy if it denies rights to 2.5 million Palestinians indefinitely. It would appear that we have months rather than years to resolve the issue. All that any of us can ask is that Israel, as the occupying power, complies with the norms of international law, and that we see some swift and speedy alleviation of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
– James Clappison: I share the desire at least for progress in the talks. “What signs has he seen from Hamas, the political power in Gaza, of willingness to participate in a peaceful settlement?”
– TB: “My hon. Friend, the chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, is of course right to bring Hamas’s role to the attention of the House. However, the state of Israel was created by the United Nations. It owes its whole de jure legitimacy to a UN vote in 1948. I would therefore urge my hon. Friend, before he tries to draw the attention of the House on to Hamas, to focus on the views and opinions of international lawyers whose mandate was also given to them by the UN General Assembly. So long as my hon. Friend and other supporters of the state of Israel—of which I am one—remain deaf to the clear advice that has been given about the illegitimacy of the collective punishment of the people of Gaza for the actions of a few, we are never going to see a resolution of the tragedy that is affecting so many people in Gaza.”
– Sir Gerald Kaufman: Israel tries to blame Egypt for closing tunnels but it is the Israelis who have imposed the blockade and are the occupying power. Israel’s culpability was also demonstrated in Richard Goldstone’s report for the UN following Operation Cast Lead. “After his report, he was harassed by Jewish organisations. At the end of a meeting I had with him in New York, his wife said to me, ‘It is good to meet another self-hating Jew.’ Again and again, Israel seeks to justify the vile injustices that it imposes on the people of Gaza and the west bank on the grounds of the holocaust. Last week, we commemorated the holocaust; 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being penalised with that as the justification. That is unacceptable.” Israelis are victimising children above all. “What is being done to those children—the lack of nutrition—is damaging not only their bodies and brains; it will go on for generation after generation. It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafés. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away.” It is all very well for the PM to say in Turkey that Gaza is a prison camp “but what is he doing about it? Nothing, nothing, nothing!
The time when we could condemn and think that that was enough has long passed. The Israelis do not care about condemnation. They are self-righteous and complacent. We must now take action against them. We must impose sanctions. If the spineless Obama will not do it, we must do it—even unilaterally. We must press the European community for it to be done. These people cannot be persuaded. We cannot appeal to their better nature when they do not have one. It is all very well saying, “Wicked, wicked Hamas.” Hamas is dreadful. I have met people from Hamas, but nothing it has done justifies punishing children, women and the sick as the Israelis are doing now. They must be stopped.” Those times are gone when we can just go on talking while we wait for a two-state solution. “Sooner or later, the Palestinians will say, ‘We are dying anyhow, so let us die for something.’ Let us stop that: I do not want a war. I do not want violent action, but the action that the international community takes must be imposed, otherwise hell will break loose.”
– James Clappison: Says Israelis sometimes say things about the Palestinians similar to what Sir Gerald Kaufman has said about the Israelis. “I pointed out that they were wrong to say so and that many Palestinians seek a peaceful solution and look forward to working with Israel in future if possible.” Referring to Sir Tony Baldry’s remarks
about the juridical and legal situation: “He will remember that that UN resolution—in 1947, I think—was accompanied by a proposal for a partition of what was then Palestine, under the British mandate, into an Israeli and a Palestinian part. The Israelis accepted that, but the partition did not come about. As soon as the state of Israel was created, the partition was made redundant through an invasion of Palestine by five Arab armies, for the purpose of attacking Israel. It is necessary to move on from there.”
– Sir Edward Leigh: Yes, but that is history; he must address the humanitarian crisis facing us now.
– JC: Says it is worth putting the history on the record. “I do not believe, and will not be persuaded, that the state of Israel has any interest in imposing the present conditions on the people of Gaza for the sake of it.”
– Yasmin Qureshi: “Come off it!”
– JC: It was hoped that the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 “would bring about a solution to Israel’s immediate problems”; it did not; there have been about 8,000 rocket attacks on Israel since then.
– Andy Slaughter: “I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is trotting out the usual Israeli propaganda. I went to Gaza three weeks after Operation Cast Lead, where 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. That was the ratio—100 Palestinian deaths to one Israeli death. Yes, of course we condemn rocket attacks, but let us remember—” [Chair Jim Hood says that is a speech and not an intervention]
– JC: Says he regrets all deaths on both sides, but says on this as on all other occasions it was Palestinian, Hamas or Islamic Jihad rocket attacks that began the problems.
“Israel has no interest per se in doing such things to Gaza.” It behaves like any other state would faced with rocket attacks, the digging of tunnels into Israel, and suicide attacks on border crossings. “Israel has behaved with restraint on many occasions and I hope it will always do so.” It is urgent to get a two-state solution, “but as I understand the matter Hamas has set its face against a peaceful solution in its charter [someone tries to interrupt] I may be corrected, but hon. Members can see the Hamas charter.” In recent times Hamas ordered withdrawal of its forces, preventing rocket fire, but “that has been interpreted in some quarters as giving a green light to rocket attacks” which intensified in January. The conditions in Gaza “cannot be seen in isolation”; says he too wants “progress on a two-state solution, compromise on both sides and, in the meantime, every possible flexibility and accommodation on the part of Israel.” Says that to his knowledge more construction materials have been recently
permitted into Gaza [Interruption]; hopes for improvements and that medical help will be facilitated. “I understand that Israel permits a huge proportion of Palestinians seeking medical treatment to leave Gaza and that many receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals; in some years, it is as many as half of those people.” [Interruption.] Says that Sir Tony Baldry should put that into the balance. Progress in the peace talks is urgent. “Two countries cannot live in such a state of conflict, with continual attacks by one on the other.” While he trusts the good faith of the PA, Hamas, which amounts to almost half the Palestinian population, is an obstacle to a peaceful solution as it stands. “We have been told many times that Hamas is about to make progress towards peace, or a statement, or give a sign that it is interested in peace. None has been forthcoming. I hope that those right hon. and hon. Members who take an interest in such things will use their influence with Hamas and the Palestinian side to turn them towards peace. At the moment they have set their face against peace, and they are the problem.”
– Yasmin Qureshi: Associates herself completely with Tony Baldry’s and Gerald Kaufman’s comments but dissociates herself from virtually all the comments of James
Clappison. “What is happening in Gaza is intolerable, and if any other country were inflicting that level of punishment on people, the whole United Nations, the Security Council and the whole international community would be up in arms. Yet, what do we have? Yes, there are some good people in this country and even in Israel who campaign against the actions of the Israeli state in not only Gaza but the west bank, but guess what? The leaders of most countries in the world are saying nothing and turning a blind eye. The situation has been going on for nine years. Everyone, from all parties—this is not a party political issue—and every one of our Foreign Secretaries have said, ‘Yes, we think this is wrong, and we all believe in the two-state solution. Yes, we are friends of Israel, and we have told Israel that it should not be doing this.’ But guess what? Nothing has happened.”
– David Winnick: “What would be the position if 90% of the water in Israel proper was undrinkable? Would there not be an outburst, and rightly so, of indignation and anger, as there should be over the situation in Gaza?” Sir Gerald Kaufman spoke about the people in Israel. “There are people in Israel—a minority, unfortunately—who take the same views as most of us on human rights and share our anger over the denial of justice to the Palestinian people. We should not forget those brave people in Israel who stand up for human rights—” [Chair tells him that is not an intervention, but a speech]
– YQ: Also praises the people in Israel and the Jewish people in this country who campaign actively for Palestinian rights. “I am sure that they are criticised by other Jewish people perhaps for trying to betray the state of Israel. However, the issue is not about a state of Israel, of Jews or of religion; it is about the millions of people who used to live in the state of Israel [sic], who have been made homeless and who have sought refuge in various parts of the world and have not been able to return to their country.” Particularly inhumane actions are being carried out in Gaza. “It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that Gaza is a prison…. Actually, there is a difference: in open prisons, people get clean water, food, medical treatment, and even books or television to watch at times.” Palestinians might rejoice if Gaza was no worse than that. “What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land—everything—were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished. It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.” In the WB and Jerusalem
Palestinians are being “turfed out of their homes”, which Israel replaces with hundreds of thousands of illegal settlements. “The policy pursued by the state of Israel is not helping to lead to a two-state solution. All it is doing is making Palestinians even more depressed and anxious. They think, ‘What hope is there for us?’, and they rightly ask, ‘What is the international community doing about this?’ Let us face it: if what is happening to Gaza, done by Israel, were happening to any other nation, the whole world would be up in arms, and rightly so. So why are we not getting the same in Palestine?”
– Sir Edward Leigh: Mr Clappison should be thanked for helping to ensure that both sides of the issue are heard. “I am sure that everyone in this Chamber is totally committed to Israelis being allowed to live in peace and security in their state. Given the appalling oppression that they have suffered historically, how could anyone disagree with that?” Everyone accepts that Hamas and the rocket attacks are appalling. “However, I want to focus on humanity. That is what this debate is about. It is not, in a sense, about high politics, the two-state solution, or why the state of Israel was founded, but about the suffering humanity and 1.7 million of our fellow human beings who are living in appalling conditions. It is not just that they are in a vast prison camp; unlike the rest of us, they do not have any right to economic self-determination or to travel—all the normal things we take for granted.” Cites horrific suffering of 17-year-old Mona Abu Mraleel, disfigured by burns, whose recovery depends on a hospital riddled by equipment failures, power cuts and shortages, on the brink of a health catastrophe. “That is daily life for 1.7 million of our fellow citizens. Despite the horrors of Hamas and the rocket attacks, we cannot punish the many because of the sins of a few. That is what this debate is about.”
– Andrew Love: Asks what chances are there for the peace process against that backdrop.
– EL: “We may have inadequate means, but we are parliamentarians, and at least we are trying to do our bit to highlight the issues.” Says he is ot pessimistic but goes on to talk about his recent visit to a hospital in Bethlehem run by a charity of which he is a part. “We do our best to run it properly, but how can we have a peace process when virtually every month ordinary Palestinians see a new settlement coming on the hillside? I saw for myself, travelling through the checkpoints, how people were humiliated. Israel has a right to peace and security, but surely the people of Israel and all of us must rise up and say, ‘There is hope for peace. They must stop these settlements, and they should start dismantling them. They must end the blockade of Gaza for the sake of the people who live there and the fishermen.’…. How can anyone fish just 6 miles out in filthy water? How can anyone live in a place where 90% of the water is undrinkable? How can farmers be shot just for going within a mile of an electric fence while going about their business?” If that was in any other part of the world “would our Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the UN not be stopping it? Yes, this is only a little debate in Westminster Hall and we are only Back-Benchers, but we must do our bit to articulate a sense of outrage that our fellow human beings are being treated like this, and we must spare no effort….. We must spare no effort in trying to persuade our Israeli friends that they are losing the battle—to put it that way—of world public opinion. They are not helping their cause. By all means, if someone is attacked, they should reply strongly in military terms, but not punish a whole people and reduce them to utter poverty and destitution. I say this as a strong supporter of the state of Israel, but there is a real danger that more and more people in the world believe that a people who were formerly oppressed are now becoming the oppressors, and that the state of Israel is thereby losing its soul. What is its soul? It is the soul of an oppressed people who have made a great and wonderful nation. But there are other nations in this world and they must be treated fairly and must have an equal right to health, dignity and freedom.”
– Jeremy Corbyn: Says that on his recent visit he was struck by the hope, determination and ingenuity of those trying to provide services and food against appalling odds. “At the same time, I was struck by the random nature of bombardments and attacks. In Operation Cast Lead, illegal weapons were used and the most appalling abuse was meted out against people. The abuse has not stopped. Random bombings and air attacks still take place.” In Gaza he talked to a survivor whose house was destroyed and family killed by a bomb that had fallen not long before. “That family had done nothing—they were just the victims of yet another random attack by an F-16 jet from a first world power, which had been supplied by another first world power, against people living in desperate poverty and under siege the whole time.” Gaza’s water shortage could be dealt with by sharing, co-operation and conservation. “Instead, the alluvial rivers that flowed into Gaza no longer do so because Israel stops off the water somewhere else.” The water is too dangerous to drink, desalination plants are unavailable, farming becomes impossible, what can the people do? “There is not really an economy in Gaza. The economy, such as it is, is what the UNWRA spends, what the aid community gives and what Qatar spends on capital developments. However, the ability to export food or anything else is so nastily constrained by the Israeli checkpoints that there is just disaster, destruction and waste. It is a humanitarian disaster. It is totally the responsibility of the power that is encircling Gaza and has brought this situation about. It is time that something was done about the situation, and rapidly.”
– Sandra Osborne: Says she first went to Gaza after Operation Cast Lead; situation was dire then but has got a lot worse since. The closure of over 2,000 tunnels
reduced the number of illegal weapons getting into Gaza, but it also stopped people accessing the everyday things they need to survive. “It is totally inhumane to close all those tunnels without easing the blockade.” Women and children do not deserve to suffer this just because of where they live or the political party that happens to rule them. As DfID Minister Alan Duncan has said, according to UN Gaza could be unliveable by the autumn. “That is telling, because it is not exactly diplomatic language or how you would expect a UK Minister to talk. I hope that the Government will take matters further and call on Israel to end the blockade. I will put specific questions to the Minister who is here today. The answers may help in the immediate situation, pending the end of the blockade. Will the UK Government insist that Kerem Shalom be opened for exports as well as imports? Will they push for Erez to be reopened for imports and exports, and if necessary fund more security scanners if there is a real need for them? Will they push Israel to organise a “land bridge” between Gaza and the west bank, so that exports can reach west bank markets? A lorry convoy system could be instituted immediately for that purpose. Will the Government push for the activation of the EU border assistance mission, which was agreed in 2005, to oversee the 2005 access and movement agreement and to address Israel’s security concerns independently? The arrangements should be immediately reinstated and a similar mission put in place at Erez and Kerem Shalom. Finally, as other Members have already asked, will the UK Government push for the fishing limit to be extended to 12 or 15 nautical miles?” Those questions should also be put to Israel; “they have a responsibility under international law for the position of the Gazan people and the misery they face. I hope that the UK Government will act as urgently as possible to deal with the situation.”
– Andy Slaughter: Pays tribute to his friend the late Del Singh, a supporter of Gaza. “Del was of Sikh origin, but we have heard today that Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of no religion at all have all strongly supported the people of Gaza’s right to self-determination and their simple right to lead a decent life.” Recalls his harrowing experience of visiting Gaza shortly after Operation Cast Lead. “It was the complete evisceration of a society, with the systematic and organised destruction of industry and villages. It was what can only be called murder, including the murder of whole families. There was shelling of hospitals, which was done knowingly, and white phosphorus was used. These were war crimes, just as the occupation itself is a crime against international law. To say that these are not deliberate and knowing acts by the Israeli Government is naivety or worse.” What is so distressing…. [ed: At this point James Clappison asks him three times to give way but he refuses to do so. Also at this point the live relay was interrupted; when it resumed JC could be seen standing up, having turned round to face and remonstrate with AS] … is that the situation has worsened after a sustained military assault; now it is impossible to get in now. “I found out this week that 30% to 35% of all the correspondence to the Foreign Office is about Israel-Palestine. Why cannot our Government, whether through their influence on the United States or their role in the EU, or unilaterally, do more to support the people of Gaza? That issue is clearly uppermost in the minds of the people of this country.” We had a briefing this week from Sir Vincent Fean, retiring
after 40 years, having spent the last three as consul-general in Jerusalem, who spoke about the incredible intolerable suffering in Gaza from the blockade.
“Unfortunately, as well as killing Palestinian civilians, the Israeli defence force is good at propaganda and saying that the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. The Israelis recently refused the offer of a scanner from the Dutch Government to allow goods to go in and out of Gaza. That sums up the fact that they want the blockade to continue and have no intention of helping the Palestinian people under any conditions. It is only through international pressure, brought by Governments such as our own, that the situation is going to be resolved.”
– Philip Hollobone: Says he has been twice to Gaza for which he sees no solution unless the security situation is sorted out and proper economic links are restored with Israel and Egypt. Suggests a water pipeline from the Nile to Gaza as in WW1. “The problem is the Sinai and the security situation there; Hamas-backed terrorists are just as much of a problem to Egypt as to the state of Israel. If Hamas is taken out of the equation, the security situation begins to be addressed and then the economic links between both sovereign states can be tackled. All of us want the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip sorted out, but we simply will not make any progress if all the condemnation is against Israel. Instead, we should be looking at the practical economic realities on the ground, where the Palestinians in the Gaza strip simply want to resume their trading life—as they always did—with both Israelis and Egyptians.”
– Grahame M. Morris: Backbenchers’ power is limited. “I first make my declaration in reference to the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I am concerned, because anyone who speaks up for justice for the Palestinians and speaks out against the abuses of human rights is characterised by the pro-Israeli lobby as anti-Semitic, an apologist for terrorists and a holocaust denier or worse….. I object most strongly to the vilification of hon. Members, including me, when we speak up on these issues.” To suggest that Gaza’s suffering is a natural disaster beggars belief. “As the occupying power, Israel should be held to account by the international community. It is important that we Back-Bench MPs hold our Ministers to account and that our Ministers hold the Israelis to account for their actions.”
– Gavin Shuker [Shadow Minister for International Development] Israel must ease restrictions on humanitarian aid to Gaza. We support two state solution. “The previous Labour Government worked tirelessly with our international partners to help achieve that situation.” People feel frustrated about the lack of progress. Looks forward to conclusions of the International Development Committee inquiry into the effectiveness of DFID’s spend in the OPTs. In 2009 Labour Government gave an additional £15 million at the height of the conflict. “Has the Minister considered additional funding to meet the costs of December’s flooding and associated humanitarian issues?” How is she tackling the short-term and long-term crisis? Destruction of tunnels has damaged Palestinian economy, with some £250 million being taken out of key sectors and some 20,000 jobs being lost. DFID has committed £94 million of bilateral aid to the OPTs over the past financial year. How is that split between the territories? Will any spending be shifted in response to the humanitarian situation?
– Lynne Featherstone [standing in for Alan Duncan, who is visiting Nepal]: Reiterates that the situation in Gaza is untenable. Responding to the points that have been raised, she says HMG welcome the modest extension of the opening hours at Kerem Shalom during recent storms. “We continue to push for exports, and there is no security argument against exports that we can understand. The Dutch recently funded a scanner at Kerem Shalom that remains unused, so there is currently no case for the UK to provide another scanner, although we understand the frustration. Only the easing of Israeli restrictions will relieve the situation. Conversations are currently ongoing with EU partners on possible broader assistance.” Exports to the WB via a land bridge “would only be possible with peace and better movement and access.” Lack of progress is frustrating, “but at least talks are taking place”. Regarding drinking water, EU is doing important work on water and sanitation in the area. “A division of the water supply is crucial for both countries in any two-state solution.” The accidental burns caused by trying to access the power supply highlight need for long-term power solution. The underlying problem with sewage is lack of power for sewage pumps. With regard to medical supplies, “obviously restrictions mean that patients cannot always access specialist treatment”. Hamas has been “condemned by both sides of the House as an awful organisation…. designated a terrorist organisation, and it has to renounce violence, recognise Israel, prove that it has changed and be willing to make peace, without which it is very difficult to move forward.[Andy Slaughter asks her to give way but she won’t] With regard to the high proportion of correspondence to the FCO about the OPTs: “The UK public are hugely interested in the peace process, which must make progress. DFID receives similarly high levels of parliamentary and public interest in that subject.” This is a dark time for the people of Gaza who are struggling to survive. “The UN has assessed the situation as close to breaking point, and a return to violence is increasingly likely.” The
humanitarian crisis, the poverty and unemployment are not a new problem. “The root of those problems is Israeli movement and access restrictions. We understand Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and we have recently seen increases in the number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. We condemn such actions wholeheartedly, but they are the actions of a few and should not automatically mean increased suffering for the many. We continue to push Israel to ease those restrictions…. A stifled Palestinian economy is not in Israel’s security interests. Poverty and hopelessness drive radicalisation. The restrictions on legitimate trade drove transactions through the tunnels, which benefited Hamas to the tune of some £90 million a year in taxation. The Israeli restrictions on fuel and construction material imports are the root of many problems in the area. Actions by Egypt to close the illegal smuggling tunnels have undoubtedly made the situation worse, but ultimately the responsibility lies with Israel, as the occupying power, to ease the restrictions that make life for Gazans so difficult. We make that point to Israel strongly and regularly.” DFID supports UNRWA’s job creation scheme, providing 52,000 jobs; contributes to the World Food Programme, providing food vouchers to 285,000 people; supports UNRWA to build 22 schools; and by supporting more than 340 small companies it helps to develop Gaza’s private sector. “To sum up, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is increasingly precarious. Our partners tell us that the situation is close to breaking point, and we need to see peace negotiations and a two-state solution that includes Gaza. We need to see Israel— [Chair calls “Order”]
NB: Hansard video[the recording begins at 3.39 pm, although the debate actually started at 2.30 pm. The Recording Unit writes: Due to a technical failure the first part of the Westminster Hall sitting from yesterday afternoon is not currently showing on the website. We hope to have the full version available in the archive later today.