Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Campaign reply - Palestine Solidarity Campaign Lobbying Day

I have recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding the  in Parliament today.

In their emails they touched on a number of complex issues and there are several points I wish to raise in response.

The situation in Gaza is far from simple and the conditions are not simply the result of a siege but of the more than a decade long rule of Hamas.

Under their rule the humanitarian situation has dramatically worsened as funds have been consistently diverted to fund Hamas’s ever grander military ambitions. 

I am sure you will share my concern about Hamas’s ongoing presence in Gaza, and particularly its orchestration of the recent ‘March of Return’ campaign which has endangered the lives of both innocent Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the Gaza Strip due to the presence of Hamas, an internationally recognised terror group. For its part, Israel’s blockade has been in place since 2007 when Hamas violently ousted any Fatah presence in the territory and began firing thousands of rockets into Israel. Hamas has continued this violence, most recently seen in its launching of over 460 rockets indiscriminately into Israel.

Despite this threat, Israel continues to facilitate the delivery of legitimate humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza with thousands of tonnes of food, fuel, and medical supplies delivered every day.  The blockade has been eased in recent years with Israel permitting the delivery of construction materials with UN oversight, but I am in full agreement that more needs to be done to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Gazans.

With regards to the case of Ahed Tamimi, I welcome her release by the Israeli authorities in June this year, but have seen no evidence that she was mistreated by Israeli authorities.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the interrogation of minors is always carried out in Arabic. All minors brought before the court – during the investigation or thereafter – are represented by lawyers of their choice or lawyers provided for them by the Palestinian Authority. I have also been assured that isolation or solitary confinement is not used as an interrogation technique, and only in exceptional cases may a minor be held alone as a disciplinary measure following a disciplinary procedure.

On the subject of child detention and use of military courts, it is my understanding that if Israel were to use civil courts instead of military courts to try Palestinian youth, it would be accused of annexing the West Bank. Israel says that its justice system in the West Bank operates in accordance with the Geneva Conventions (as per Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an Occupying Power can use military courts).

It is tragic that so many Palestinian youths have felt the need to turn to violence. What is clear, above all, is that the need for a renewed peace process is more urgent than ever. Our Government remains committed to a two-state solution through direct negotiations, and all parties involved as well as the international community must step up efforts without delay.  

I trust this adequately answers some of the issues raised and I always happy to meet with my constituents to discuss any matter of concern to them. I will be sure to continue monitoring developments in Israel.