I am appalled by recent events in Israel and Palestine and I totally oppose the Israeli ground operations which are resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians.
Though Israel states that its forces are targeting primarily Hamas militants, the UN has made it clear that the vast majority of Palestinians killed and injured in the fighting have been civilians. I have been horrified by some of the photographs and stories coming out of Gaza in the past few days and weeks; the shelling of buildings like the Al-Aqsa Hospital and the UN-run schools in Beit Hanoun, Jabalya and Rafa is clear evidence that it is innocents who are suffering due to this military incursion. It is particularly upsetting to see the number of children killed – estimates suggest 1 in 4 of those who have died are children - and the physical injuries and psychological trauma suffered by those who have survived.
The Labour Frontbench has been clear in its opposition to Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. On 14th July – before this incursion began – the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, stressed in Parliament that there could be no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and urged William Hague (the then Foreign Secretary) to make clear Britain’s disagreement to a full-scale ground attack on the Gaza Strip. On the 21st July he released a statement which was critical of these operations, urged Israel to heed calls from the UN to respect both human rights and international humanitarian law, and called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Ed Miliband expressed similar sentiments on 31st July when he asserted the Labour Party’s opposition to Israeli ground operations, stating that “the Israeli incursion into Gaza is both wrong and unjustifiable. It is wrong because despite the history of provocation from Hamas, it has led to the killing of so many innocent men, women and children. Because it will fail to act as a deterrent or as a solution for the rocket attacks and precisely because it risks the recruitment of a whole new generation of Palestinians to the cause of Hamas. And people across the world are asking ‘how many more children and civilians will die before a cessation of violence is achieved?’ I urge both sides to take a step back and agree to an immediate ceasefire.”
I sincerely hope that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and the Egyptian government are successful in brokering a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Palestine and that serious negotiations can begin working towards ending this present conflict and establishing a longer term peace based around a two state solution. Only active and genuine engagement from both sides in the peace process can give any hope of a lasting resolution to the problems in the region. I fear that given the increasing Israeli encroachment onto Palestinian land, the prospect of a two-state solution based on 1967 borders has become ever more remote, but that certainly remains the Labour Party position and mine.