“We do nothing to deter Israel from expanding settlements, forced evictions and home demolitions. This is ethnic cleansing and is denying the reality of the state of Palestine to exist.“
In a speech in the House of Lords on Wednesday 19th May 2021, co-Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, and Conservative Peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi condemned the UK Government’s failure to uphold it’s own policy on Palestine.
Baroness Warsi, best known for being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet, resigned from government in August 2014 citing the government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.
In her speech this week, she said: “In the most gracious speech, Her Majesty said ‘My Government will uphold human rights and democracy across the world’.
I will address that in the context of Israel and Palestine – an issue upon which I resigned from Cabinet nearly seven years ago.
I saw then at the heart of government what we see now – our government simply failing to implement its own stated policy.
We have a policy of a two-state solution – but we do not recognise Palestine as a state, ministers refuse to even use its name.
We have a policy of a peace process but have no appetite to initiate, or prioritise one.
We have a policy that settlement building is illegal and contrary to International law – yet there is no consequence when every year more and more settlers, supported by the Israeli government and diaspora groups, occupy more land in Palestine.
We do nothing to deter Israel from expanding settlements, forced evictions and home demolitions. This is ethnic cleansing and is denying the reality of the state of Palestine to exist.
Our policy is that East Jerusalem is an integral part of a future Palestinian state and we do nothing as extremist barge into homes terrorising Palestinian families who have lived their for generations.
Our policy is to defend human rights but no action follows as hundreds of Palestinian children every year are arrested, mistreated and incarcerated.
Our policy is supporting international accountability and funding the ICC but, ‘We oppose the ICC’s investigation into war crimes in Palestine’.
Each time we fail to implement our policy, we send out the message to an ever extremist right-wing Israeli government – that there will be no cost or consequences for its treatment of the Palestinians.
This total impunity is feeding Israel’s prolific rise in far right extremism leaving a society fighting for its very soul.
Often when we look at periods in history that were so overwhelmingly unjust, so clearly unfair, and where in retrospect we see appalling human rights abuses and cruelty the way we rationalise the lack of action at the time is by saying we would have done more if only we knew then what we know now.
So I want to put on record what we know now, so there can be no doubt in future generations that we knew.
We know about the dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah, about the chants of death to Arabs in Jerusalem, about the attacks on worshippers in Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, and the attacks outside the church of the holy sepulchre.
We know in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israeli settlers live side by side, the former legally but under military law without the most basic of utilities, the latter 630,000 strong, illegally present yet governed by civilian law and living in relative luxury.
Two peoples in the same land but with differing legal systems, and even separate roads to the same place.
So we know as documented by Human Rights Watch that the threshold has passed for the international war crime of apartheid and persecution.
We know generations have existed under a blockade – never left Gaza an area the size of the Isle of Wight, and drink water that the WHO says is not even fit for animals.
We know that mid-pandemic, Gaza’s only coronavirus testing lab was damaged because of Israeli army bombing.
We know of the deliberate targeting of journalists including the bombing of the Associated Press building, where as US Secretary of state Blinken said there was no evidence of Hamas operations.
We know that a female journalist who has worked for Channel 4 was attacked and had her hijab ripped off her by Israeli soldiers.
We know as reported by Mark Stone at Sky News – of entirely unnecessary, provocative behaviour by Israeli police/military at Damascus Gate – with stun grenades thrown at a peaceful group of Palestinians, and Bethlehem – where volleys of tear gas were used.
We know from Amnesty International of the rising death toll in Gaza – entire families wiped out in attacks that should be tried as war crimes.
We know from the UN the mounting destruction by Israeli strikes on homes, hospitals, libraries and charities.
We know about the Incitement of hatred on official Israeli government platforms – only this week on Twitter posting verses from the Quran over a photo of bombs dropping on Gaza – in a gratuitously offensive attempt to argue that Palestinian destruction was ordained in Islam
We know -over the past week, Israeli soldiers have shot dead three Palestinian children – in unarmed protests in the West Bank.
We know Palestinians in Haifa have been demanding international protection from racist attacks, including by Jewish settlers bussed in from the West Bank.
And we know My Lords that there will zero accountability for this appalling violence.
My Lords our silence in the face of this makes our position as I said when I resigned in 2014 – morally indefensible.
So, I ask the government to acknowledge that you know… we all know.
In conclusion, I urge the government to stop responding to narrow political interests and
listen to the Israelis and Palestinians who stand together to call for an end to occupation.
To Israeli Jewish Human Rights organisations such as B’tselem, and to the ex-Israeli soldiers of breaking the silence, who in the face of horrendous abuse continue to speak the truth and point out how there is no military solution.
I urge Noble Lords to Watch The -BAFTA winning film The Present by Farah Nablusi which in 20-minutes of heartbreaking story telling lays bare the daily aggression of occupation and checkpoints.
And I ask my noble friends what they can say today from that dispatch box to Palestinians who want occupation to end.
How to ensure the two state solution is not a simple fig leaf policy to hide inaction but a reality for the people of Israel and Palestine?”