Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:15 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Mobarik Baroness Mobarik Ceidwadwyr 7:15, 5 Mawrth 2024

The Middle East is a part of the world that the UK understands, and, in turn, the UK is held in affection there. It is with concern, therefore, that I hear from long-standing friends there that those feelings are changing. We are seen as either bystanders or complicit in the current conflict in Gaza. My noble friend the Foreign Secretary, however, deserves appreciation for his leadership in expressing that the state of Palestine be recognised, and calling for accountability for crimes committed by both sides in Gaza. The change of tone from the United States is an indication of his influence.

The dream of the Palestinian people is the same as for all people: freedom; security; food and shelter; and some degree of hope for a better future through education and employment. I condemn the Hamas terrorist atrocities of 7 October in the strongest possible terms, but the indiscriminate killing of so many innocent Palestinian civilians is causing such outrage, anger and sorrow across the region and throughout the world that Britain’s ongoing support for Israel’s war in Gaza is damaging our equally important relationships with other allies in the region. It is as if the Palestinian people have been dehumanised to such a degree that some people in this place, and in the other place, do not even recognise the enormity of the injustice being committed against the Palestinian people, so many of whom are children, bombed and starved for crimes they did not commit. International humanitarian law does not permit collective punishment, but that is what is happening in Gaza. It is wrong, and it must stop.

We proclaim the rights of the child, but when it comes to the rights of Palestinian children, our lack of action during these past five months makes a mockery of that declaration. How many potential artists and scientists have been simply eliminated? So much talent is, literally, being killed. If we wish to generate a better future, this is not the way to do it. Our credibility, our legitimacy and our role as a country central to the contemporary global world order are because of our adherence to and support for the rule of domestic and international law, and justice and fairness. The British people are fair and expect their representatives in Parliament to be fair and just on their behalf. Even if we were simply to consider our own interests in much of the Middle East, we have to show ourselves as fair brokers. It is vital that we make every effort towards ending this ghastly situation, and I know my noble friend the Foreign Secretary is working tirelessly to do this.

The United Kingdom has a legal, moral and historical obligation to make every endeavour to help both sides make peace a reality, but the process for a lasting peace cannot be ambiguous; there are no partial solutions. Our support for international efforts towards, on both sides, a full, immediate and permanent ceasefire—not just for the six weeks stipulated by the United States—is essential, as is the safe delivery of aid without obstruction. Can the Foreign Secretary say why medical equipment, such as ventilators and anaesthesia machines, is being refused entry by Israel?

Also needed is the immediate exchange of Israeli hostages and non-Hamas Palestinian detainees, and the forcible displacement of people to stop. There are now 1.5 million in refugee camps in Rafah. We need the reconstruction of Gaza to start and, ultimately, those displaced to be able to go back to where they once lived. Furthermore, the illegal occupation by Israel of the West Bank in east Jerusalem must end. Hundreds have been killed there since January last year.

As for Gaza, in 2010, the House of Commons Hansard shows that my noble friend, then the Prime Minister, said that

“we are not going to sort out the problem of the middle east peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/6/10; col. 583.]

Yet Israel has recently stated it wants to remain in overall security control of Gaza and select the Palestinian technocrats that it chooses to run it. Can the Foreign Secretary say whether he believes that that would be in any way acceptable or have legitimacy in the eyes of Palestinians? Most would argue that having two independent separate states is the only solution. It is a right of the people of Israel to have peace and security, as, too, it is for the people of Palestine, in two separate independent states that recognise each other’s right to exist.