THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER 2014
- Desmond Swayne [in “Health Systems (Developing Countries)” debate]: Replying to the debate, he opens his rebuttal of criticism that the Government was slow to react to the Ebola crisis, with: “First, we were distracted by the terrible events in Gaza.”
WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER 2014
– Sir Alan Duncan: “Will the Deputy Prime Minister unreservedly condemn what appears to be the killing this morning by the Israeli defence force of the Palestinian Government Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who was doing nothing more than protesting in his own country against illegal demolitions and the destruction of ancient olive groves by the state of Israel? Will Her Majesty’s Government join in international pressure demanding a full investigation and then calling, should it be so justified, for the prosecution of the soldier who struck him?”
– Nick Clegg: “Of course I and the Government will urgently look into the circumstances around this killing. Of course we condemn all unwarranted acts of violence on all sides in the middle east. I am not familiar now with the circumstances of this particular death, but clearly we want to see restraint exercised on all sides, we want to see an end to illegal settlement activity and to indiscriminate violence being inflicted on innocent Israeli citizens, and a demonstrative move on all sides, which will involve difficult compromises, towards the two-state solution, which is the only means by which peace and security can be delivered to all communities in the middle east.”
Commons Oral Answers
- Nigel Dodds: What discussions has Defence Secretary had with other EU member states on export licences granted to Israel?
Commons Written Answers
TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER 2014
- Anti-Semitism debate in Westminster Hall tabled by John Mann:
– John Mann: [excerpt] During the summer of 2014, the significant escalation of violence in the middle east provoked a major increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK and across the world. Anti-Semitic incidents reached record levels in July, when the Community Security Trust recorded the highest ever monthly total of such incidents in the UK. The trust has been keeping records since 1984, and over the past two years it has exchanged data with various police forces to improve respective accuracy. In July, 302 incidents were recorded, which represents an increase of more than 400% from the 59 incidents that were recorded in July 2013. By comparison, 304 incidents were recorded in the first six months of 2014. Before July, the highest ever monthly total had been for January 2009, which also coincided with a period of conflict between Israel and Hamas. Of the 302 recorded incidents, 51% involved direct reference to the ongoing conflict. All incidents require the recording of evidence of anti-Semitic language, targeting or motivation alongside any anti-Israel sentiments. Of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded in July, 101 involved the use of language or imagery relating to the holocaust, and 25 of those showed evidence of far-right political motivation or beliefs. Most commonly, references to Hitler or the holocaust were used to taunt or offend Jews, often in relation to events in Israel and Gaza. Of the 302 incidents, 25% took place on social media. [ passage omitted ] I will give hon. Members some examples of what I am talking about. On a march through central London, demonstrators verbally abused a Jewish woman who was with her two children, telling them to “burn in hell.” The reality for British Jews is that most are Zionist, with various levels of emotional and familial attachment to Israel, so the communal concern about Israel and conflict-associated anti-Semitism is significant. Of course, supporting the Palestinian cause is not anti-Semitic, but when someone shouts “Child murderer” at a British Jew, or daubs that on a synagogue, that is anti-Semitism.
– Guto Bebb: [excerpt] It is shocking that before the situation in Gaza arose this summer, figures from the Community Security Trust showed a 36% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in this country. Obviously those figures were dwarfed by what happened in July as a result of the terrible events in Gaza. What comes out clearly from those figures is that the Jewish population in the United Kingdom are being equated, in the minds of many people who feel strongly about that issue, with the state of Israel. It is important to challenge the language used in that context. If such language gives rise to attacks on Jewish cemeteries and individuals in various parts of this country, there is something wrong with the rhetoric being used. We have a responsibility in that discourse. It is an area of huge emotion, and we have a responsibility for ensuring that we are careful in our use of words. I am afraid that the experience of the past few weeks in this place indicates that even hon. Members of this House are not taking the issue seriously. I will not relate these to the individual Members concerned, as I have not had time to forewarn their offices, but I have a few examples of comments made in the House that highlight my concerns. In the recent debate on the Israel-Palestine situation, one hon. Member said: “My hon. Friend is absolutely right. You cannot appeal to the Israelis’ better nature, because they do not have one. You can, however, threaten them financially.” [ed: this was Sir Gerald Kaufman in the Westminster Hall debate on 1st December] That is a disgraceful slur. It is the age-old slur of the Jews being keen on money, used in the context of an attack on the Israeli state. That type of language equates the old hatreds that exist, unfortunately, in many parts of Europe with an attack on the Israeli state, and any hon. Member making such a comment should ask themselves whether they are contributing to the increasing number of attacks that we are seeing in our society. When we speak, we have a responsibility to be very careful about what we say. In the same way, last week one former Minister said on the BBC that there was a “powerful financial lobby” supporting the state of Israel. What is quite shocking about that comment is, first, that it came from a former Minister and, secondly, and even worse, it was not even challenged by the BBC. A “powerful financial lobby”—the implication was that everybody would understand who that lobby was; in other words, it was accepted as part of our discourse about the issue of Israel. [ed: he may be thinking of Sir Alan Duncan’s saying on The World at One: “we all know the United States is very much in hoc to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics”; that interview with Martha Kearney was on 14th October] When we see the figures from the CST highlighting the increase in the number of attacks as a result of what happened this summer in Gaza, we have an obligation to make sure that the language we use does not pander to prejudice. Unfortunately, our track record across all parts of the House—the two examples I have given are from different parts of the House, unfortunately—clearly shows that we need to be much more careful in the way we use language. [ passage omitted ] In the same way, I am absolutely fed up of hearing about the so-called Jewish lobby. It is highlighted as something extremely powerful that has the ability to change people’s minds in this place. Well, I saw no evidence of the “Jewish lobby” being particularly successful when there was a recent parliamentary debate about the recognition of Palestine. If the ever-powerful Jewish lobby was really that successful, I suspect that this House would not have voted for that motion, even with only a minority of MPs taking part in the vote.
– Jim Shannon, Eric Ollerenshaw, David Burrowes, Mike Freer and Lyn Brown also made speeches; there were interventions from Lee Scott, Matthew Offord, Paul Uppal and Andrew Stunell. Stephen Williams replied for the Government.
- Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the economic benefits to Israel of operation Protective Edge; and to what extent has the UK benefited from the testing of weapons during that action?
Lords Written Answers