We supply the weapons. We have not been seen as even-handed.


October 14, 2014
Sarah Benton

The House of Commons debates the recognition of state of Palestine / 3

Hansard
October 13, 2014

9.41 pm

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to contribute to the debate this evening. I congratulate my hon. Friend (Grahame Morris) on securing the debate and on enabling the space to be created for such powerful arguments from both sides of the House that tonight is the time for the UK to send a clear message that we recognise Palestine as a state. Those who say that this is just a gesture and that it does not matter what the UK Parliament says are simply mistaken. Our historical position in the world in relation to Israel and Palestine, the fact that we still hold a highly influential position and have a close relationship with the United States, and the foreign policy positions that we have taken over many years, mean that we can now send an incredibly powerful message from this House tonight.

This is the right thing to do morally, but it is also the right thing to do politically. It is important in relation to all our other foreign policy in the region that we should be seen to be even-handed and fair, and that we should no longer be accused of having double standards or of failing to stand up for the Palestinians. We have to give our support to those Palestinians who believe in a political route to self-determination based on non-violent action and international pressure. All too often, those people feel that they have not been given that support by the United States and the United Kingdom.

My constituents gave me a clear message this summer that they did not believe that the Israeli response was proportionate to whatever was happening in Palestine. Between 8 July and 27 August, there were 2,104 Palestinian deaths, including those of 495 children. In that period, there were 72 Israeli deaths, seven of which were civilians. The UK urged Israel to avoid civilian deaths, but made no condemnation of Israeli actions. The then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated on 23 July:

“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes”.

She also condemned Hamas for “indiscriminate attacks”.

Recognition of the state of Palestine would mean a more regulated relationship between the international community and Israel and Palestine. At the moment, we are not seen as being even-handed. Whatever people in this House might believe, the reality is that we are the ones who are supplying the components for the weaponry being used against the Palestinians. I asked a series of parliamentary questions this summer and did not get any answers out of Ministers, but on 2 August The Independent detailed the weaponry being used against civilians in Palestine that had been produced from components made by the UK—in particular, that being used by drones and tanks against civilian populations. I say to the House that we need to send a clear message tonight that we are even-handed, that we believe in justice and that we recognise the Palestinian state.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): I congratulate the hon. Member for Easington… on securing this debate on a matter that is important to many people throughout the UK, Wales and Arfon. My local authority, Gwynedd, has taken a lead in condemning the Israeli Government for the indiscriminate violence used in the recent attacks in Gaza and will not invest in or trade with Israel. Gwynedd sees this debate, and our vote, as a key measure of our concern for Palestine, and of progress on the peace process and on a two-state settlement. That process is vital for both Palestine and Israel alike. People in Palestine who long for progress and peace, and many Israelis, will take encouragement from a positive vote here tonight. For we can vote for politics, for discussions between equals and for an end to war, or we can stall, find excuses and point to the latest outrage. That will help and encourage nobody, other than those who choose the gun, the rocket, the air strikes and the blockade.

Our Government can decide to recognise Palestine. We make our own policy and we are subject to no outside veto. We can recognise Palestine, we can judge that the time is right, and we have a responsibility to seize the opportunity and to wield our influence as a permanent member of the Security Council, as a member of the Quartet, and as the imperial power historically responsible for the mandate. Others today have discussed the history of this question but I will not. I will just say that throughout my adult life there has been war between Israel and its neighbours. We have seen constant invasion, the expropriation of territory by the supporters of war in Israel and, to be clear, repetitive retaliation and a determined cry from the war party, “Not now, not just yet, not until they have stopped it.” That “it” could be bus bombings, hijackings or rockets, but whatever it is at the time we have seen constant blocking and constant concentration on the latest outrage. Those Israelis and Jewish people across the world who work for peace, reconciliation and a just settlement have been sidelined, ignored and worse. Recognition of Palestine by the UK would call time on this constant conflict.

I have heard arguments that the vote tonight will change nothing. We have seen such arguments in an article in The Daily Telegraph today by my close neighbour, who is unaccountably not in his place, the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb). He says that the vote is “non-binding and has no implications for British foreign policy.”

Paradoxically, he says that it will damage decades of hard work towards peace. He says that “international opinion won’t be swayed by a few squabbling MPs on Britain’s Opposition benches” but also that the motion “damages Britain’s role in the Middle East”.

With such confusion and contradiction coming from one opponent—

Sir Alan Duncan: Does the hon. Gentleman not find it astonishing that having tabled an amendment and withdrawn it, and clearly feeling so strongly about this issue, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy [Guto Bebb] then advocates abstaining not just from the vote, but from the debate itself?

Hywel Williams: I know him of old and I am not surprised. As I said, with such confusion and contradiction coming from just one opponent, let alone opponents of the motion as a group, it is not surprising that many of them will, apparently, choose to abstain tonight.

I want to take the opportunity to reject yet again the conflation of opposition to the Israeli Government’s war policy with supposed enmity towards the Jewish people. That is a peculiar charge, given that a significant number of Jewish people support peace. It will hardly surprise anyone in the House to hear that Plaid Cymru MPs say that to recognise Palestine is to recognise Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination. We support the rights of all people to self-determination, and that is why we will support the amended motion in the Lobby tonight.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) on securing this debate and on setting out the case for recognising Palestine. I support the motion and the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) because it is the right and just thing to do. It is time to act to save the prospect of a two-state solution. The feeling among my constituents, a great many of whom have contacted me about today’s vote, is strong. From the hundreds of e-mails and letters I have received from Nottingham South, one message above all stands out. It is simply that our Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

Throughout my life, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has ground on and on. We have seen a chronic cycle of violence, stalled negotiations and recrimination. Today, Parliament has the opportunity to reiterate and confirm our resolve to help end the suffering and conflict that began before I was born and continues to this day. It is not just the people whom we represent who are looking towards this House in the hope of finding leadership on this matter, and it is not just the people in Palestine. People across the world look to Britain because they are conscious of our historic role.

More than 60 years of history frames today’s debate, but this summer’s violence in Gaza is very much in our minds. All of us were horrified by the images we saw from Palestine this summer. We saw shocking images of dead and wounded civilians—men, women and of course children—shattered homes and wrecked lives. I am sure that we were also appalled by the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from positions within Gaza. We cannot stand by and allow this conflict to continue. Sadly, it seems that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution is narrowing. That is why it is time to show political leadership in an effort to break the impasse, providing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) said, a bridge to negotiations.

Britain recognised the state of Israel in 1950. Recognising Palestine now is about equality of treatment. It is about sending a message that a peaceful lasting solution depends on both parties, Israel and Palestine, coming to the negotiating table as equals. It is about sending a message to Israel that it should recognise the state of Palestine as the state of Palestine has recognised Israel. It is about sending a message to Palestinians that gives them hope that freedom is possible, resolve in rejecting the path of violence that brings no solutions and belief that a diplomatic and political settlement can be reached.

Last week, Sweden became the 135th state to recognise Palestine, joining 134 other members of the United Nations that have already done so. Britain can and should join them. Israel has a right to exist in peace and security and Israelis have as much to gain from the peace process as Palestinians. A just and lasting resolution is needed. We have an opportunity tonight to bring that possibility closer. We must grasp it.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): A power struggle is going on not just in the whole Arab world but within Palestinian society, between those who believe in a democratic and secular way forward and those who believe in political Islam that will wipe out not just moderate, secular Arabs but the Christians and the other religious minorities in Palestine. This motion is about not just the question of recognition but what kind of Palestinian state will be created—whether it will be a state that is in the hands of Hamas or, even worse, al-Qaeda elements within Gaza. It is about whether we, at this time, as an international community, recognise the momentous challenges that are facing the whole region. It is not possible for us to go on as we have for the past 15 or 20 years. The programme “The Gatekeepers”, to which some Members have referred, was very clear. It talked about a series of missed opportunities, and only one Prime Minister who had the courage to take the necessary action, paying for it with his life. I am talking about Yitzhak Rabin. The fact is that the current Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Government do not have that courage and are not doing that.

I speak as a long-standing friend of Israel. I have been denounced as some kind of Zionist child killer by certain people in e-mails and on Twitter. I was even attacked today when I said I was going to vote for the motion by somebody who thought, “No, he can’t possibly be.” The fact is that this is an historic moment because the Palestinian people need a way out of the despair they face. We as an international community—the United States must also heed this message—must help the moderate forces in Fatah by getting their strategy, which is to take the issue internationally, to provide the way forward. Otherwise, the people who believe in the rocket attacks, the suicide bombs, the destruction of civilian communities and the killing of children—not just Israeli children but their own children, who are used as human shields—will gain the ascendency.

This is not a position that Hamas wants brought to the UN, and Hamas opposed the previous attempts by the Palestinian Authority. The leader of my party was quite right when he said that Hamas is a vile terrorist organisation. We need to support Fatah and the democratic and secular voices in Palestinian society. This is the chance for us to do so and for that reason I will vote for the motion and support the amendment. I hope that all other friends of Israel in this country will understand that this is the right thing to do.

Grahame M. Morris: I will wind up very quickly. I thank everyone who has participated in the debate. I counted more than 43 Members who made speeches and numerous interventions. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for having the foresight to allocate time in the Chamber. We have had a tremendous debate. I am perhaps a little biased, but it is a rare occasion on which the House speaks with one voice, as I think it has this evening. Excellent points have been made. It would be unfair to pick out anyone, but some people have made excellent contributions.

I want to impress on the Minister, in view of everything that has been said—he has sat patiently and he is a decent man—the need to reflect on the debate. The will of Parliament has spoken tonight. It is the right thing to do to recognise Palestine and I hope that he will go away and implement the motion.

Amendment agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put.

The House divided:

Ayes 274, Noes 12.

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane
Abrahams, Debbie
Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob
Alexander, rh Mr Douglas
Alexander, Heidi
Ali, Rushanara
Allen, Mr Graham
Anderson, Mr David
Ashworth, Jonathan

Bacon, Mr Richard
Bailey, Mr Adrian
Bain, Mr William
Baker, Steve
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Dame Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benyon, Richard
Betts, Mr Clive
Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman-Woods, Roberta
Blenkinsop, Tom
Blomfield, Paul
Bottomley, Sir Peter
Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Bridgen, Andrew
Brooke, rh Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr Russell
Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Campbell, Mr Ronnie
Carmichael, Neil
Caton, Martin
Champion, Sarah
Chapman, Jenny
Clark, Katy
Clarke, rh Mr Tom
Coaker, Vernon
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Creasy, Stella
Crockart, Mike
Crouch, Tracey
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John
Cunningham, Mr Jim
Cunningham, Sir Tony
Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic
Danczuk, Simon
David, Wayne
Davidson, Mr Ian
Davies, David T. C.
Davies, Geraint
De Piero, Gloria
Denham, rh Mr John
Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas
Donohoe, Mr Brian H.
Doran, Mr Frank
Doughty, Stephen
Dowd, Jim
Doyle, Gemma
Dromey, Jack
Duncan, rh Sir Alan
Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela
Eagle, Maria
Edwards, Jonathan
Efford, Clive
Elliott, Julie
Esterson, Bill
Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Fuller, Richard

Gapes, Mike
Garnier, Sir Edward
George, Andrew
Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl
Gilmore, Sheila
Glindon, Mrs Mary
Goodman, Helen
Greatrex, Tom
Green, Kate
Greenwood, Lilian
Grieve, rh Mr Dominic
Griffith, Nia

Hames, Duncan
Hamilton, Mr David
Hancock, Mr Mike
Hanson, rh Mr David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harvey, Sir Nick
Healey, rh John
Heath, Mr David
Hemming, John
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Mr Stephen
Hermon, Lady
Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg
Hilling, Julie
Hodgson, Mrs Sharon
Hollobone, Mr Philip
Holloway, Mr Adam
Hood, Mr Jim
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr George
Hunter, Mark
Huppert, Dr Julian

Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Jamieson, Cathy
Jarvis, Dan
Johnson, Diana
Jones, rh Mr David
Jones, Graham
Jones, Mr Kevan
Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Khan, rh Sadiq

Latham, Pauline
Lavery, Ian
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr John
Leigh, Sir Edward
Leslie, Charlotte
Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma
Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian
Lilley, rh Mr Peter
Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn
Long, Naomi
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr Andrew
Lucas, Caroline
Lucas, Ian
Lumley, Karen

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr Khalid
Mahmood, Shabana
Main, Mrs Anne
Malhotra, Seema
Marsden, Mr Gordon
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, Jason
McClymont, Gregg
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonald, Andy
McDonnell, John
McGovern, Jim
McInnes, Liz
McKechin, Ann
McKenzie, Mr Iain
McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael
Mearns, Ian
Menzies, Mark
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moon, Mrs Madeleine
Moore, rh Michael
Morden, Jessica
Morrice, Graeme
Morris, Grahame M.
Mudie, Mr George
Mulholland, Greg
Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa
Nash, Pamela

O’Donnell, Fiona
Ollerenshaw, Eric
Onwurah, Chi
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby
Phillipson, Bridget
Pound, Stephen
Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick
Reed, Mr Jamie
Reid, Mr Alan
Reynolds, Emma
Riordan, Mrs Linda
Ritchie, Ms Margaret
Robathan, rh Mr Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, rh Sir Hugh
Robertson, Mr Laurence
Rotheram, Steve
Roy, Mr Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, rh Dame Joan
Russell, Sir Bob

Sanders, Mr Adrian
Sarwar, Anas
Sawford, Andy
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr Virendra
Sheerman, Mr Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shuker, Gavin
Skinner, Mr Dennis
Slaughter, Mr Andy
Smith, Angela
Smith, Nick
Smith, Owen
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, rh Sir Nicholas
Stephenson, Andrew
Stewart, Bob
Straw, rh Mr Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, rh Sir Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry
Swales, Ian

Tami, Mark
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Mr Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Thornton, Mike
Timms, rh Stephen
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Mr Andrew
Turner, Karl
Twigg, Derek
Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith
Vaz, Valerie
Vickers, Martin

Walley, Joan
Ward, Mr David
Watts, Mr Dave
Weir, Mr Mike
Wharton, James
White, Chris
Whiteford, Dr Eilidh
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mr Mark
Williams, Roger

Williamson, Chris
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wollaston, Dr Sarah
Wright, David
Wright, Mr Iain

Yeo, Mr Tim

Tellers for the Ayes: Alex Cunningham and Crispin Blunt

NOES

Beith, rh Sir Alan
Blackman, Bob
Djanogly, Mr Jonathan
Dodds, rh Mr Nigel
Freer, Mike
McCrea, Dr William
Mills, Nigel
Offord, Dr Matthew
Paisley, Ian
Shannon, Jim
Simpson, David
Syms, Mr Robert

Tellers for the Noes: Jeremy Corbyn and Mike Wood

Question accordingly agreed to.

13 Oct 2014 : Columns 129-130

Resolved,

That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House has voted emphatically tonight to support the recognition of the Palestinian state. That is good news, which will be well received by many people, and we should bear witness to those thousands who marched and demonstrated and those thousands who e-mailed us.

If I may, I will briefly explain why I and my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Mike Wood) were tellers for a position that we do not actually hold. It was to ensure that democracy could take place and that Members could record their vote, because those who were opposed to the motion declined to put up tellers. We have thus ensured democracy here tonight. The constituents whom we all represent will be able to see what influence they were able to have on their Members of Parliament, ensuring that this historic vote took place.

Mr Speaker: Residents of Islington North and the nation at large are now fully apprised of the motivation of the hon. Gentleman and of his colleague. I thank him.

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