Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Gaza in Parliament

Too busy to blog during the days at the moment, and too tired now... But quick update on Gaza.

Very good statement from David Miliband in the Chamber on Monday. Loads of MPs tried to get in, but the Speaker cut the debate off after an hour. Very clear message from the Foreign Secretary, repeating calls for an immediate ceasefire and endorsement of the EU position that Israel's response was 'disproportionate'. Spoke to several Labour MPs who have been at the forefront of campaigning for the Palestinian cause over the years, and general feeling is that David is doing sterling work on this.

Gaza also came up at the PLP meeting, with Gordon saying that we're focusing on two objectives (obviously apart from the immediate task of securing a ceasefire): to get the crossings re-opened, and to end arms-smuggling through the tunnels.

Not long after that I received an urgent email from a constituent about the rumoured threat to the Free Gaza ship, asking me to call David Miliband. As it happened, I picked up the email on my new gadget-thingy whilst in a briefing on Gaza for Labour MPs with Bill Rammell, the FCO Minister for the Middle East, so took it up with him on our way down to vote. Followed up with him today, and it turned out the ship had mechanical problems and had had to turn back anyway - but good on him, he'd gone away after I'd spoken to him and made sure he knew what was going on.

David M wasn't at FCO questions today, as he's on a visit to India, so Bill fielded all the questions on Gaza. And then he appeared again this evening at the launch of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, which has been several months in planning but obviously has added relevance in today's situation. Absolutely packed suite in Portcullis House, including loads of Labour MPs - at a rough guess I'd say about 50, which was pretty good going seeing as business in the Chamber finished very early today. Speakers included Jocelyn Hurndall, the mother of Tom, a peace activist who was killed by an IDF soldier; he died five years ago today, and she gave a very moving speech, linking how she felt as a mother when she heard the news of his death with the deaths of so many children in Gaza.

Gaza will obviously come up again at PMQs tomorrow - I expect Cameron to split his questions between Gaza and the economy. If he doesn't go on Gaza, there's a pretty good chance Nick Clegg will. I've got question 9 but not sure they'll get to me - lots of Labour people above me, which means the Speaker will have to select additional opposition MPs, and with Cameron (six Qs) and Clegg (2 Qs) coming in too, question 9 is actually more like question 20.

Final bit of news - it was announced at the close of business today that we're breaking with tradition and Thursday's topical debate will last the whole day instead of the usual 90 minutes - so that means about five or six hours debating Gaza, which is what MPs have been calling for. The Foreign Sec will still be away, so Bill will be holding the fort again.


Remember Remember said...

Just wondering if there is some weird political link between Ukraine impeding gas to Europe and the the Palestinian gas fields off GAZa ...

Chris Gale said...

What exactly will 4 or 5 hours (most of which will be spent bashing Israel) repeating the same mantra achieve?
Israel may not be perfect but there is a much too ready constituency on the left who dont want to see the bigger picture here.
An Iranian backed and equipped Islamic terrorist organisation (I know they don't exist according to Bristol City Council, but there we go) has been firing rockets with ever greater ranges at a democratic state.
Perhaps we could have more condemnation of the medieval Islamists of Hamas who could stop firing their rockets tomorrow and end the military action against the weapons they cynically fire from within civil populations?
But of course Hamas and Iran dont want to stop.
Nobody, least of all anyone who values life, wants to see innocent people killed but I am beginning to think that Israel needs to succeed here. Many (but not all thankfully) also forget in 1967 UN troops moved aside failing to protect Israelis (both jew and arab) from all the surrounding arab nations when they attacked and who said they wanted to see Israel pushed into the sea and all its people dead. No wonder Israel has had to only rely on itself and not on the UN or anyone else ever since - they were just hours from complete extermination!
In the long term Israel's battle will I feel be seen as our own. If the Iranians get a long term foothold in the Palestinian territories through their aiding of Hamas, then that will be a grim day for all of us.
It may not be trendy, and not in tune with the great Islamic love in on some parts of the left, but if only we saw some of the level of concern for the kids who have been going to school in Southern Israel for the past 8 years in a state of trauma because Iranian built rockets are falling on their towns.


Kerry said...

"I am beginning to think that Israel needs to succeed here".

How would you define success?

Chris Gale said...

This is a very moving film.


This young girl lives in a democratic country which has been under rocket attack for the past 8 years by Islamic terrorists armed and funded by Iran.This video was made in July last year.
Since then the rockets have increased.
A whole generation of young people in Southern Israel are growing up in trauma because of the constant attacks, never knowing when and where a rocket may fall and kill them or their friends or relatives.

I would urge people to remember this when the media and some politicians condemn Israel so readily.

Chris Gale said...

'How would you define success?'

The destruction of the miltary capacity of Hamas and end to rocket attacks against Israeli towns. No state could allow its people to endure that without taking action.
The blame lies with Hamas.

Anonymous said...

What are Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East seeking Kerry? Have they defined success?

Remember Remember said...

I think Chris Gale and his family should experience being driven out of their home at gunpoint and placed on the streets of a slum where everything necessary for their survival is controlled by the armed displacers.
He might then begin to have doubts about the eternal claims of victimhood of Israelis.

Old Holborn said...


The only reason Hamas are being flattened is because they demanded the Gaza gas fields are included in any negotiated settlement with Israel


Old Holborn said...


If you want to stop the Palestinians throwing fireworks over the fence of their prison camp, don't put them in a prison camp.

Not wanting to be ironic, but it IS rocket science.

Kerry said...

BB - what are Labour Friends of Palestine seeking? Two-state solution, and all that goes with it.

Anonymous said...

“In the long term Israel's battle will I feel be seen as our own” Chris Gale.

I agree, Chris. The rhetoric about “disproportionate” is nonsense, imo. Chamberlain was doubtless trying to be proportionate when he appeased Hitler, and if Britain and the US had carried on appeasing the Nazi bully then we would have lost the war and the Nazis would have won. The fact is that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by Islamic states where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are sold on street stalls and widely believed, and where the blood libel is regularly trotted out in popular books and TV shows.

We cannot afford to keep on appeasing the Islamist bullies in Palestine - or in Britain for that matter.

The last few weeks are generating a disturbing polarisation here. How odd to think of you Kerry, on the same side with OH and RR on this, along with the rest of the odd assortment. Makes yer think!

What is the Labour government going to do to protect people here from this upsurge of Islamist aggression (examples below) on the back of what’s going on in the Middle East?



Chris Gale said...

"Two-state solution, and all that goes with it."

Thats what Israeli people want too, Hamas and its Iranian backers, you know the Islamic terrorists who dont exist..don't, they want to wipe Israel, a democratic secular state from the face of the earth.

Chris Gale said...

Thanks Emerald.

Yes, people forget that Hamas initiated a coup to take power in Gaza, it is not some democratic outfit as some on the left amazingly seem to think. After it took power it dragged the bodies of 'collaborators' through the streets.
It (Hamas) has a violent, anti-democratic ideology and is fanatically determined to destroy Israel.
As long as Hamas remains in power, a genuine peace is impossible.

Iran is in the background on this and it is in my view going to be the no1 threat in the months and years ahead.