Statements made by Bradford MPs about the Israeli assault on Gaza
Response received by constituents emailing Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe
8 January 2009
Thank you for your recent e-mail to Gerry Sutcliffe MP regarding the terrible situation in Gaza.
Gerry and the other Bradford Labour MPs have called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the disproportionate response by Israel.
This is a copy of the recent statement made by Gerry:
"Like many people in Bradford I am appalled at the loss of life in Gaza, particularly civilian life, and call on the international community to maintain pressure to create a ceasefire so that a sustainable and peaceful solution can be found.
"I have offered my full support to the Prime Minister's call for an urgent and immediate ceasefire from both sides. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been talking on a daily basis to their counterparts in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories and in the wider Arab world. There's also a debate taking place at the United Nations and there is intense diplomatic activity to try and get a ceasefire.
"Although it is not an easy situation to negotiate, the government is working night and day to use its influence to bring hostilities to an end. I spoke to the Foreign Office on Monday to pass on the concerns of the many people who have contacted my office about this situation.
"I will post further updates on my website about the situation in Gaza as the situation develops."
Letter received by a constituent who contacted Bradford West MP Marsha Singh
16 January 2009
Further to my letter last week, I would like to update you on my activities in parliament with regards to the situation in Gaza.
On Monday the Foreign Secretary David Miliband made a statement on Gaza and I asked the following questions in response.
Mr. Marsha Singh (Bradford, West) (Lab): "Will my Right Hon. Friend accept that condemnation has brought no relief to the people of Gaza? The killing goes on. Is it not time for stronger action? Is it not time that we expelled the ambassador of Israel and brought our ambassador back from Israel? Is it not time that we called for international sanctions against Israel?"
David Miliband: "My Hon. Friend is right to say that there has been a collective failure, because the internationally expressed will of the community of nations has not been followed either by Hamas or by Israel. However, I do not agree that a policy of isolation would help either Britain's influence or the prospects of peace in the middle east. It is very important that we continue to speak without fear or favour on these issues - that we speak publicly, using occasions such as this, but that we use the opportunity to speak privately as well."
I also attended the launch of Labour Friends of Palestine on Monday. The meeting was very productive and I look forward to working with likeminded people. An Early Day Motion has been tabled on this which I along with 81 other MPs have signed. A enclose a copy of this for your information.
Yesterday there was a topical debate on Gaza. I successfully managed to be called to speak quite early on in the debate. Please find the text of my speech below as extracted from Hansard.
Mr. Marsha Singh (Bradford, West) (Lab): "What is important today is not any discourse on the past or on what may happen in future, but how we get a ceasefire and stop the carnage in Gaza. Let me say at the outset that Hamas has to bear some of the blame for what has happened; if somebody fires a rocket at my house, I am going to fire one back.
"However, the actions of the Israeli Government and military have been completely and utterly disproportionate. The situation is not the result of an aberration on the part of the Israelis - it is not something new. On 30 April 2008, John Ging, the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, told the International Development Committee that the humanitarian situation was extremely grave. He said:
I would characterise the situation here as shocking in terms of the deterioration in the humanitarian situation. I also have to say it is shameful, what we are now witnessing first-hand here and on the ground. Both the principal issues continue to be the access issues, whether it is for equipment or whether it is for supplies. Also the violence underpins the humanitarian situation here in Gaza. When it comes to violence and that pervasive sense of fear and danger that is created in every household by any situation here, I will just update you on the latest statistics. From January of this year 344 Palestinians have been killed and 756 have been injured, and in those figures are the deaths of 60 undisputedly innocent children and a further 175 children injured.
What did the international community say? Nothing. What was our response to the crisis that was already happening? Nothing. He went on to say:
What we are not seeing is the accountability that one would expect when it comes to the use of lethal force, and that is leaving an ever-growing sense of impunity, bad faith and a sense of despair among the general population.
This was the situation of the Gazan people at that time. In March 2008, Christian Aid, with other NGOs, published a report that said that
the severity of the situation has increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on the movement of goods and people.
The report outlined the gravity of the situation: the rising unemployment, lack of basic medical supplies, blackouts, economic collapse and denial of emergency treatment outside Gaza. It described the situation as a "humanitarian implosion". The blockade of Gaza turned Gaza into one huge prison, and that is the reality that the Gazan people have faced in 2008. The Palestinian people of Gaza were already living in a humanitarian hell, and I cannot find the words to express what they are living in now.
I said earlier that the Israeli response was disproportionate, but I find that word completely inadequate to describe what the Israelis are doing. They have used F-16 jets, helicopter gun ships, missiles, artillery, tanks and even phosphorus. What is the result? One thousand dead and thousands injured; utter destruction of the civilian infrastructure, including schools and power stations; and utter collapse of the sewerage system. Save the Children said in a briefing yesterday that at least 184 children have been killed - I think that the figure is now over 300 - and more than 600 injured. An estimated 80,000 to 90,000 people have been displaced, among them 45,000 to 50,000 children. Health services are collapsing, ante-natal care has been suspended, and all vaccination programmes have been interrupted. The list goes on and on, and so does the killing, the brutality, the inhumanity and the disregard for the rules of war.
Yesterday, I read an even more chilling account in The Independent, which quoted B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, as saying that at least three Palestinians in Gaza were shot dead yesterday as Israeli soldiers fired on a group of residents leaving their home on orders from the military and waving white flags. That is absolutely disgraceful. I described the situation as a humanitarian hell. Is there anything worse than hell? Well, if there is, it exists now in Gaza, and the Gazan people are living in it.
Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza. It must be held to account by the international community. What we have to do today is send the strongest possible message to Israel. Arms embargoes or other embargoes are fine, but we must say today that we will expel the Israeli ambassador and recall our ambassador. That will be a shock to the Israeli system, and they may then begin to listen.
I will contact you again when I have any further updates