In a debate in Parliament on 23rd February on the recognition of the State of Palestine, Kim Leadbeater MP said: “This is a timely debate.
“While our attention is – quite rightly – focused on events in Ukraine, an immediate crisis in one part of the world should not prevent us from addressing a long-running injustice elsewhere.
“As we wrestle with what we can do to defend the people of Ukraine, it would be a dereliction of duty to consign the people of Palestine to the ‘too difficult’ pile.
“And as we speak of the need to uphold international law, respect legally-recognised frontiers and protect territorial integrity, we should remember that these principles are universal. We cannot pick and choose where to apply them.
“So while we demand that our adversaries adhere to these principles, we should also be ready to remind our friends that they should do so too. And I speak as someone who sees no contradiction in being a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine. To do so is to be a friend of humanity and a friend of peace.
“The treatment of the Palestinians is a stain on the conscience of the world. They have every right to conclude that for decades they have been subjected to a relentless campaign of oppression, subjugation of their basic human rights and the illegal occupation of their lands. The consequences of this history of injustice are felt day in day out as the people of Palestine go about their lives.
“To take just one example – and there are many more – how can it be right that in such a small geographic area a woman giving birth in the Occupied Territories is nine times more likely to die than a woman in Israel?
“For me, the suffering of human beings – families, young children, the old and the sick – should always be at the forefront of our minds. For many of those people, abstract principles like sovereignty and self-determination probably don’t mean very much. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
“Do I believe the recognition of the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel would end their suffering overnight? No, of course not. But is it an essential and overdue step on the road to a peaceful settlement that would start to put these historic injustices right? Yes it is.
“By recognising the State of Palestine we would be offering its people the hope of a better future, one in which they are entitled to the same rights and respect as their neighbours. It may be a symbolic act but, as Professor Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House says, “the power of symbolism cannot and should not be underestimated…there is overwhelming evidence that international recognition of Palestine would serve the causes of peace, justice and international law.”
“If we believe, as we do, that there must be a negotiated, diplomatic settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which ensures a safe and secure Israel, alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, then we should take whatever steps we can to advance that process. Recognition of the State of Palestine would be a powerful demonstration of the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to enjoy security, dignity and human rights.
“If we truly believe in the universal principles of justice and self-determination under international law it is a step we should take without delay.”