Caabu Patrons and Delegates speak in House of Lords debate on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Posted by on 11 Jun 2018

On 7 June 2018, Caabu Patrons Lord Steel of Aikwood and Lord Peter Hain spoke at House of Lords debate on the situation in the Palestinian Territories. The debate which comes in the aftermath of  the worst violence against Palestinians since the

2014 Israel-Gaza conflict and the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The debate, secured by Lord Steel, can be watched here at 11:40:53 and read here.

Beginning on 30 March and expected to finish on 8 June, Palestinians in the Gaza strip have been holding weekly protests along the perimeter fence with Israel as part of the ‘Great March of Return.’ The intensity of these protests was only exacerbated by US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the 14th May. The response of the Israeli forces to these protests has been one of excessive force,killing 131 Palestinians and injuring a further 13,900.A response which has left the Gazan healthcare sector struggling to cope.

Lord Steel of Aikwood, a Caabu Patron, who introduced the debate opened by remarking on the high toll of recent Palestinian casualties in Gaza:

It was that last event that provoked the mass demonstration at the Gaza fence, dealt with not by water cannon but with live ammunition from the Israel Defense Forces. That resulted not only in the deaths that I mentioned but in over 3,600 people being injured. One Israeli soldier was wounded. According ​to the World Health Organization, 245 health personnel were injured and 40 ambulances were hit.”

He moved on to outline his support for a two-state solution to the conflict and the swift recognition by both the UK and European Parliaments of the state of Palestine stating:

We cannot allow the Israeli Government to treat Palestinian lives as inferior to their own, which is what they consistently do. That is why our Government should not only support the two-state solution, but register our determination and disapproval of their conduct by accepting the decisions of both Houses of our Parliament and indeed the European Parliament and recognise the state of Palestine without further delay.

Other speakers, including  the Marquess of Lothian, joined with his support for a two-state solution, highlighting it as the only fair solution:

“Just as I am a friend of Israel, I am a friend of Palestine. Just as I believe in Israel, I believe without qualification in the statehood of Palestine. I believe in a secure Israel alongside a viable and independent Palestine. In short, I believe in the two-state solution because I can see no other lasting or fair alternative. But it must be based on fairness, and fairness to the Palestinians is today in very short supply.” 

However Lord Hain, another Caabu Patron, countered these calls for a two-state solution, arguing  that a two-state solution, despite being  favoured internationally, is no longer viable solution, commenting that:

“For decades I have favoured the internationally supported two-state solution as the best plan for peace and the fairest outcome, but ​is this now in any way feasible? Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of his Government and MPs have recently spoken out against it, endorsed by the renewed “Greater Israel” discourse of the growing Israeli right calling for the annexation of Palestinian territories. Negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed, as has a reliance on the US to deliver Israeli cooperation. Europeans, meanwhile, have been unable to deliver the settlement freeze they advocate.....I am making a plea for honesty because it seems that the international community is publicly sheltering behind the policy of a two-state solution, while privately knowing that it has become a convenient mantra rather than a deliverable policy.​” 

He moved on to highlight the harsh nature of Palestinian life in the West Bank, remarking  that:

“Today, the situation of Palestinians living on their own land resembles a harsh civil rights struggle. Gaza is under Israeli siege. Palestinian life in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is untenable because they have little or no say over the running of a land that has increasingly become an archipelago of isolated Palestinian territorial islands in a sea of Israeli-controlled land, checkpoints, bases and settlements.”

Baroness Sheehan, part of a Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians delegation to the West Bank in February 2017, expanded on the devastating human consequences of Israeli policy in Palestine:

“Let us start with the Israeli Government. Their actions include: the demolition of homes for which planning permission was repeatedly sought but not granted by the Israeli authorities; the demolition of schools; forcible transfers; illegal settlements on occupied land; the forced evacuation of Palestinian villages such as Khan al-Ahmar, which is under daily threat; the confiscation of land in occupied territory; and collective punishment…

 

...There is the blockade of civilian populations. A 2012 UNWRA report found that without radical change, Gaza would be unlivable by 2020—many would say that it is unlivable today. Then there is the imprisonment of children, torture, the denial of clean water and the denial of sanitation development. Save the Children reported that three children drowned in pools of open sewage. Then there is the denial of medical assistance, the detention without trial of Palestinians and the restriction of basic construction materials, which runs counter to international classification of dual-use goods. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports the denial of entry for materials essential for the maintenance and repair of fishing boats. Lastly, there is the imprisonment of conscientious objectors to military service.”

Baroness Morris of Bolton, who in December 2014 was part of a Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians delegation to Palestine, called for the recognition of the state of Palestine as the first step towards lasting peace in the region:

Palestinians in Gaza and throughout the Occupied Territories simply long to enjoy the civil rights which we all take for granted and the freedom to live ordinary lives. Recognition of the state of Palestine would be the first step in that long journey.”

This call for recognition was seconded Lord Judd; who travelled to Palestine in December 2011 as part of a Caabu parliamentary delegation. Judd also expanded to condemn Trump’s actions in Jerusalem remarking  that:

“We cannot escape the issue of Jerusalem and the provocative action by the President of the United States which was designed to destabilise the region. I am convinced that we have to stay with the two-state approach, but if we are to do that, the recognition of Palestine cannot be delayed.”

This condemnation of Trump’s behaviour was backed up by former Caabu delegate Baroness Northover who said that his decision recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, “has serious implications for the peace process.”

Lord Warner, who was part of a Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians delegation to the West Bank in April 2016 and  to Gaza in 2010, chose to highlight in his response to the recent issues in Palestine the use of  lethal force by the Israeli military stating that:

“On the evidence available, little attempt was made to disperse protesters by non-lethal means such as tear gas or water cannon.”

Lord Steel concluded the debate by calling once again for the recognition of the state of Palestine, his support for a two-state solution, and his belief that a properly policed Jerusalem can be the capital of both a future Palestinian and Israeli state.