Our political parties must be honest about responsibility for the cycles of violence in Israel and Palestine


Palestinians check the damage caused after a 15-floor building was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on May 13, 2021

JJP wrote to all the main political parties following the weekly debates in Parliament during and after the recent escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, in which 269 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in 13 days. In our letters we lobbied the parties about their attitudes to responsibility for the violence.

The Conservative Party stood out for its callous unwillingness to hold Israel responsible for its actions. Our letter to James Cleverly, Minister for the Middle East is below.

 

James Cleverly MP                                                                            8 June 2021

Minister of State for the Middle East

Dear Mr Cleverly,

We are writing following the recent House of Commons debates about the dangerous, escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians. All people of good will share a profound relief that a ceasefire was achieved and the immediate crisis has passed.

We were however appalled that your unequivocal condemnation of Hamas firing rockets at locations in Israel was not matched by condemnation of Israeli bombing and shelling of Palestinian civilian locations. All military attacks on civilian locations are immoral and illegal. We are sure your FCO officials have advised you of that.

That the Conservative Party continues to defend Israel by falling back on arguments of states’ right to self defence and duty to protect their citizens, with the methods limited only by the principles of necessity and proportionality, betrays a wilful blindness to the history of the occupation.

Israel has been belligerently occupying and settling the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza for 54 years. The occupation has long since become illegal because of its duration and Israel’s obvious intention to retain much of the occupied land.

By any rational interpretation of the facts, the recurring cycles of violence are caused by the occupation, and therefore responsibility for them rests with successive Israeli governments. We urge the Conservative Government to acknowledge that. Not,only would it be right, it would also send a message to Israeli political leaders that they cannot continue indefinitely to act as if they are above the law.

That message should be followed by action. Experience has shown that criticism by the international community, appeals to international law, or appeals to Israel’s best interests do not bring about long term change in Israeli policies, especially with right wing Israeli governments. We also urge the government, therefore, to join with other willing governments and tell Israeli Prime Minister Bennett there will be consequences if Israel does not agree to negotiate meaningfully to end the occupation.

Arthur Goodman

Parliamentary and Diplomatic Officer

c.c., Dominic Raab, Secretary of State

rocket damage at a house in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, on May 12, 2021,

The Labour Party recognised that attacking civilians is illegal and immoral, as much for Israel bombing Palestinian apartment blocks in Gaza as for Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing rockets at towns and cities in Israel. Labour, however, has yet to publicly acknowledge that the 54-year illegal occupation is the cause of the recurring cycles of violence, and that Israel therefore bears responsibility for them. We will continue lobbying the Labour Party on this vitally important issue.

Like Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party both recognised that Palestinian rocketing and Israeli bombing are equally illegal and immoral. To their credit, they also recognised Israeli responsibility for the recurring cycles of violence.

 

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