In Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Questions on 18 July 2023, British MPs pressed the government on issues regarding Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Egypt’s imprisonment of British-Egyptian citizen Alaa Abd El-Fattah. Below are various video clips and questions taken from this parliamentary session, but the whole thing can be watched here and read here.
Forced evictions, illegal settlements, healthcare, and anti-boycott bill
Conservative MP Flick Drummond, a previous Caabu delegate, raised the issue of illegal Israeli settlements throughout Occupied Palestinian Territory in the West Bank. Flick Drummond stated: “In just the first half of 2023, the Israeli Government promoted 12,855 housing units and 10 new outposts.” Both MPs questioned the government's position, as the number of Israeli settlers in the past year has soared to 750,000.
Labour MPs Imran Hussain and Richard Burgon, both former Caabu delegates, raised the issue of forced evictions, specifically Nora Sub-Laban, a Palestinian woman whom they had met with on their Caabu delegation in 2016. On 11 July 2023, Sub-Laban and her family were forced out of her home of 70 years in the old city of Jerusalem. Hussain asked, “What is the Government’s red line? How many more Palestinian grandmothers must be forcibly evicted.” More about this can be read here.
Conservative MP Paul Bristow spoke about the deaths of Palestinian children in Israeli military operations. He urged the Israeli government “to show compassion and restraint”.
Mohammad Yasin asked about UK support for the International Criminal Court investigation into “the killing of innocent Palestinians.” Mick Whitley pressed the government on actions to curb settler violence.
Labour MP Helen Hayes, who visited on a parliamentary delegation in February 2023, highlighted how Medical Aid for Palestinians has had to start providing bullet proof vests and helmets to medical workers in the West Bank because of the increase of attacks they are facing. She asked about the results of Lord Ahmad's recent meeting with the Israeli Ambassador and whether he has demanded Israel grant access to medical care for Palestinians according to Israel’s obligations under international law.
Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy MP decided to focus on Israel-Palestine:
“Recently in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories we have seen new illegal settlements announced, increasing violence and terrorist attacks and a rise in civilian deaths. All those steps imperil a two-state solution, yet the Government’s focus has been on their ill-conceived and badly designed Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.”
He raised the issue of increased illegal Israeli settlement building, “increasing violence and terrorist attacks”. He criticised the government and brought up what he described as the government’s “ill-conceived and badly designed Economic Affairs of Public Bodies bill (better known as the anti-boycott bill)”. He went on to highlight how British diplomats had raised issues about how the bill “would breach our obligations under UN resolution 2334” and asked “why is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), undermining UK foreign policy?”
Detention of British-Egyptian Citizen Alaa Abd El-Fattah in Egypt
Vicky Foxcroft mentioned the letter signed by over 100 UK Parliamentarians about Egypt's detention of British-Egyptian citizen Alaa Abd el-Fattah. She asked the Foreign Secretary to commit to making a statement at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in September to condemn the treatment of Ala’a at the hands of the Egyptian government.
Similarly, shadow foreign office minister Catherine West MP argued for consular assistance for British citizens as a right, such as Alaa Abd El-Fattah. West condemned the British government, saying: “Agtar Singh Johal, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Morad Tahbaz, Mehran Raoof and Jimmy Lai - all high-profile British citizens detained abroad, whose families have severely criticized the Government’s weak, complacent and inconsistent record in supporting them.”
Repatriation of British citizens from Syria
David Davis MP urged the government to review their policy on repatriating British citizens from Syria. Davis states that Britain must make these policy changes to avoid "international embarrassment. “He also said: “Our independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has said that, without action, this will become our Guantanamo.”
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee Sarah Champion MP and former Foreign Office Minister Vicky Ford raised issues of atrocities in Sudan. Kearns urged the British government to show leadership in calling the Darfur conflict a crime against humanity and asked how they planned to create a “protective wedge between civilians and militias.” Champion made a point of questioning the UK’s stance on the crisis, coaxing them into action. Vicky Ford asked the government to look into sanctioning banks associated with warring generals.
Lyn Brown, a Shadow Foreign Office minister, inquired about the steps Britain and international allies are taking to support an ICC investigation. She said, “Eighty-seven bodies were found buried in a mass grave last week, and fears are growing of genocide . . . but what steps are the Government taking with international allies to ensure that the International Criminal Court has the resources needed to investigate and to hold those responsible to account?"