Since the brutal acts of terror committed by Hamas, which killed 1,200 innocent civilians in Israel including young children, we’ve all seen the deepening humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. The concern for me and for the Labour Party is how best to relieve the suffering of innocents and reduce civilian deaths in Gaza. Although there has been some welcome aid and essential utilities getting into Gaza over the last couple of weeks, the amounts are totally insufficient to meet the humanitarian emergency on the ground.
This is why, as Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, I’ve worked closely with others in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, including Keir Starmer, to pursue high level diplomatic talks with partners in the region to press the case for longer humanitarian pauses in the fighting to get aid, food, water, fuel, electricity, and medicines into Gaza to help those civilians in desperate need.
Humanitarian pauses are the only practical step now to get much more aid in to relieve the suffering of innocent Palestinians. We have argued this case alongside the US, EU and the UN relief chief – who have all been making the same calls. The UN’s head of relief, Martin Griffiths, has called humanitarian pauses the “only viable option to get relief items into Gaza right now.”
This is why I voted in Parliament alongside my Labour colleagues to:
- Condemn Hamas for their brutal acts of terror, which led to the murder of 1,200 innocents on 7 October.
- Argue for the immediate release of all hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October, including British citizens.
- Alleviate human suffering, especially the lives of children, and including both Israeli and Palestinian.
- Demand full compliance with international law, as Israel exercises its right to defend itself against the threat of terrorism by Hamas and to reinforce the jurisdiction of the ICC to address the conduct of all parties in Gaza.
- Protect hospitals and argue the need to lift the siege conditions in Gaza, so vital aid can get in and alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinians.
- Prevent further escalation in the region by requesting the UK Government work closely with the international community.
- Guarantee the right to return for people in Gaza forced to flee their homes due to this conflict.
- Demand an end to the expansion of illegal settlements and wider settler violence in the West Bank, to help progress towards a lasting peace in the region.
- Argue for longer humanitarian pauses to the fighting in Gaza to get much more aid in, allow the movement of civilians, and as a step towards an enduring end of fighting as soon as possible.
- Stress the longer term aim to establish a diplomatic and political process to deliver a ‘two-state solution’, with a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state, to create a lasting peace.
I know many constituents are asking me to endorse an immediate ceasefire, and I completely understand why people are calling for this. But I don’t believe arguing for a ceasefire now is the most practical or achievable approach at this time.
First, humanitarian pauses are the only practical way now of getting more aid in and alleviating the suffering in Gaza, which everyone wants to see. No ceasefire can exist unless – and until – both sides agree to the calls.
Second, more than 200 Israeli hostages, including British citizens, are still held by Hamas. Any ceasefire now, leaves Hamas fighters, weapons, and command centres in place to launch more deadly terror attacks against innocent civilians in Israel – which Hamas have declared they will do.
This last point lies at the heart of current conflict, and international law. Every nation has the right to defend itself and its citizens under UN conventions. After the terror attack of unprecedented scale and brutality on 7 October, Israel has a right to self-defence by taking out Hamas fighters and military capacities to prevent further terror attacks.
However, Israel’s right to self-defence is not a ‘blank cheque’. Israel must act in line with the Geneva Conventions. This means Israel must ensure that its military action is targeted on Hamas to protect the lives of innocent civilians; that basic services and aid to civilians is stepped up; and the siege conditions on Gaza are lifted.
Beyond the fighting, there needs to be a long-term political two-state solution. Keir Starmer has declared ‘Labour will fight for that cause’ and pledged – if we get a Labour Government – that we will lead a new push for peace, working with international allies to create a sovereign Palestinian state and a secure Israel as part of a just lasting settlement.
I will continue to work hard in Labour’s efforts to pursue these aims and protect innocent civilians in Israel and Palestine.
I hope this helps in answering your concerns, and if you have comments on the points I have set out then I’d welcome hearing further from you.