Occupation Map

Occupation Map

Friday 17 November 2023

Tulip Siddiq writes to constituents at length in response to requests to support an immediate ceasefire

 Firstly, I want to assure you that I of course want to see a ceasefire in the Middle East as soon as possible, and I think anyone looking at the devastating scenes in Gaza we have seen over the last few weeks would feel this way. This is such an important topic, so I hope you will bear with me while I take the time to explain my thinking on both the issue and the vote on the amendment which you wrote to me about.

I did not come into politics to stand by as death, destruction and suffering on the scale we are seeing in Palestine takes place, and I have thought long and hard about what I can do to give the best chance of bringing to an end the horrifying and unacceptable killing of innocent people that we have seen over the last few weeks, including so many children in Gaza. As I made clear to the Government this week in an intervention in Parliament which you can watch here, the conditions across Gaza including in hospitals are inhumane and indefensible. An end to the fighting must be our top priority and a meaningful, lasting ceasefire which leads to a negotiated political settlement and a two-state solution with a viable state of Palestine is the only way that we are going to get there.

I understand the frustration and anger of those who asked me to back the Scottish National Party’s amendment to the King’s Speech this week. I take my responsibility as your local MP very seriously, and I can assure you that my priority in all of this is to do whatever I think is most likely to prevent further bloodshed and achieve a genuine, lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. I took the decision to support Labour’s amendment to the King’s Speech as I truly believed that it provided a more realistic chance of bringing the violence to an end and achieving a ceasefire that holds, and I will explain why.

The Labour amendment I voted for condemned the fact that there have been far too many deaths of innocent civilians and children in Gaza and set out the need for “an enduring cessation of fighting as soon as possible and a credible, diplomatic and political process to deliver the lasting peace of a two-state solution”, as well calling for an immediate end to the siege conditions in Gaza, for essentials like water, food, fuel, electricity and medicine to get to the Palestinians, and for the fighting to stop to allow the free flow of desperately and urgently needed humanitarian aid. The amendment I voted for also called for international law to be followed by and enforced on all parties, a guarantee that fleeing Gazans can return to their homes, and an end to the expansion of illegal settlements and settler violence in the West Bank.

The UN definition of a ceasefire is “a suspension of fighting agreed upon by the parties to a conflict” which is “intended to be long-term” and usually aims “to allow parties to engage in dialogue, including the possibility of reaching a permanent political settlement”. While I can assure you that this outcome is absolutely what I want to see as soon as possible, at the moment the two parties which would need to agree upon the suspension of fighting – Israel and Hamas – will not accept it. Hamas has said that they will continue to attack civilians in the manner they did on 7th October “again and again” and continues to hold innocent hostages and fire rockets at civilian areas, and Israel won’t accept a ceasefire as long as this is the case. There is tragically no prospect for an immediate ceasefire of the kind the Scottish National Party’s amendment called for, as has been acknowledged by the UN’s humanitarian coordinator who has said that right now humanitarian pauses are “the only viable option” to get the necessary relief into Gaza and alleviate suffering.

Though I want to see a ceasefire as soon as possible, I do not believe it is in the interest of the suffering Palestinian people for me to vote for something that we know cannot happen right now, when I could be voting for solutions that actually have a chance of being accepted and alleviating the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Securing a full, immediate humanitarian pause is the only substantial, practical step that the parties in this conflict might accept at this stage, and therefore putting pressure on them to do this is, in my view, the best way I can try to help the Palestinians. It is also, in my opinion, the only viable way that we can start to create the necessary pre-conditions for a genuine, lasting ceasefire and a two-state solution, which I believe is the only route to a Palestinian state and the peace that you and I want to see.

There is more agreement on this issue than much of the framing of it suggests as I know from my discussions in recent weeks that my Labour colleagues and I all want to see an end to the fighting and death of civilians in Gaza as soon as possible, even if we may disagree on exactly what role the UK Government and Parliament can play in getting there. The Scottish National Party’s amendment was very similar to Labour’s, including in demanding that Hamas release hostages and Israel end the siege of Gaza. However, their amendment did not mention the role of the International Criminal Court in holding parties to account for war crimes, nor did it specifically call on Israel to protect hospitals, both of which are essential steps to safeguard civilian life and infrastructure in Gaza. The amendment also did not directly address the awful settler violence we have seen in the West Bank, nor did it call for a guarantee that people in Gaza who have been forced to flee during this conflict are allowed to return to their homes, which is essential.

An amendment that calls for an immediate ceasefire has to confront the tragic reality that, at this moment in time, neither party to the conflict will accept it. My overwhelming wish is to see the bloodshed stop as soon as possible, and I truly believe that the Labour amendment was the most constructive one in support of that principle and a realistic roadmap to peace. While I considered it very carefully, I decided not to vote for an amendment that I felt was an empty gesture towards an unrealistic outcome and lacked the necessary substance and practical steps to help those Palestinians suffering so horrendously as quickly as possible. I can assure you that I have raised my concerns about the appalling situation in Gaza and breaches of international law directly with Ministers including in Parliament and in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, and I have taken every opportunity to raise the views of my constituents including on a ceasefire with my colleagues who lead on foreign affairs in Parliament including the Shadow Foreign Secretary and Labour Leader.

As a mother of two, I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child or raise a child in the dire conditions we can see in Gaza, and heartbreakingly we know that this is the unimaginable situation for so many Palestinian families. All human life is equal, and I can assure you that I will always do what I believe has the best chance of preventing bloodshed and is in the best interests of people facing this appalling suffering, wherever they are. My Labour colleagues and I will continue to do everything we can to push for an end to the fighting, the punishment of war crimes in this conflict, and peace in the region that is based on the creation of a state of Palestine – something I have called for my entire life and argued for in Parliament ever since I was elected as your MP.

I have received thousands of emails on this topic in recent days and weeks, and I am doing my best to reply to each one as quickly and personally as I can. However, if there are any points from your email that you feel I have not addressed in my response or further questions you would like to ask or concerns you would like to raise about this, please write to me again and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you once again for writing to me about this important and harrowing issue, and for taking the time to read my lengthy response. If there is ever anything I can help with or write to you about as a constituent, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me again.

Best wishes,

Tulip Siddiq MP

Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn
Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury (City Minister)

Friday 3 November 2023

Barry Gardiner on the potential benefits of a ceasefire in Gaza



 From Sky News

Interesting to compare the above with Gareth Thomas's letter below.


Gareth Thomas's latest response to Harrow West constituents on Ceasefire

Thank you for contacting me about the current crisis in Gaza.
I have watched, like you, with growing horror at the humanitarian emergency unfolding in Gaza. We must move towards a cessation of fighting as quickly as possible. Like so many people in Harrow, who care deeply about this issue, I agree that neither the long-term security of Israel nor long-term justice for Palestine and the Palestinian people can be delivered by bombs and bullets.
I strongly support the urgent calls for humanitarian pauses in fighting and the lifting of siege conditions immediately to alleviate suffering in Gaza.
We cannot and will not close our eyes to Palestinian suffering. Indeed, anyone who has followed this crisis closely will have seen horrific images of babies, children, parents and grandparents brutally killed or shattered by grief.
As the UN has underlined, the number of people being killed so far is staggering; schools, and hospitals destroyed and people sheltering in UN facilities no safer than anywhere else. Thousands are displaced or desperate for safety. Food and clean water are running out and hospitals are going without medicine and electricity.
Many years ago, under the previous Labour UK Government, I visited Gaza. At that time, despite considerable barriers to peace, there was hope of a negotiated peaceful future and serious attempts to find a way forward.
As a Minister in the Department for International Development, I worked closely with UN organisations, including UNWRA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency, an organisation I have long supported, vital to achieving a peaceful settlement for Palestinians. Under the Labour Government, funding was significantly increased to UNWRA, this has been progressively reversed, sadly, under the current government.
In the face of the current horrendous situation, in my view, there are two immediate tragedies the international community must respond to: 7 October, the biggest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust, and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza on a previously unimaginable scale.
I utterly condemn Hamas’ appalling and ongoing attacks on Israel. Israel must be able to keep its people safe and bring hostages - who are still being held captive - home. We must also uphold the basic human rights of innocent Palestinians caught, once again, in the crossfire.
I am appalled by the civilian deaths at the Jabalia camp this week, it is morally wrong to bomb refugee camps and innocent civilians do not deserve collective punishment. I and my Labour colleagues called on and continue to call on Israel to explain its actions. It is at moments like this when the boundaries and standards we have agreed – international humanitarian law - become most important.
The death of every civilian, Palestinian or Israeli, is an equal tragedy that pushes back the cause of peace.
I have continued to take a close interest in the region, I have condemned and continue to condemn the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the demolition of homes and the eviction of Palestinians. For several years, I also have called on the UK Government to accept the need to recognise Palestine as a state, as nearly 140 other countries around the world have done. In the House of Commons, during the first parliamentary vote to recognise a Palestinian state, I was proud to vote in favour of recognition.
I have also consistently called for an end to the blockade of Gaza, which, even prior to recent tragic events, has led to an acute humanitarian crisis. I recognise that the aid allowed through the Rafah crossing, although welcome, is completely insufficient. The supply of basic utilities like water, medicines, electricity and fuel to citizens in Gaza cannot be blocked. It is vital that Israel turns back on the supplies it controls.
I therefore also support my colleague, Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow International Development Minister’s call for the UK Government to increase its funding to Gaza and appoint a UK special coordinator for international aid to Gaza. I wrote to the Foreign Office last month to ask what more the UK can do to urgently scale up the amount of aid so desperately needed in Gaza
You can view the Minister’s response here and here. Frankly, this response is not good enough and I will continue to press for more concrete action.
We must not let Hamas’s brutality be a catalyst for a wider regional conflict and the Government should be stepping up efforts to achieve international co-operation and a political roadmap to peace.
My Labour colleagues have met with Foreign Ministers in Jordan, Qatar and Egypt; the Israeli ambassador; the UK Government; the United Nations and non-governmental organisations; to discuss how to protect and help civilians. They have reiterated that this long-standing conflict can only be resolved by dialogue and discussion.
In my view, we must rebuild and renew the ambition for serious talks for a political agreement, a two-state solution, no matter how unlikely it seems today, as the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all. I want to see an Israel where every citizen enjoys the security they need and a viable Palestinian state where the Palestinian people and their children enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we all take for granted.
Thank you once again for contacting me. I will continue to follow developments on these incredibly important matters extremely closely.
Yours sincerely,
Gareth Thomas MP (Harrow West)
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA’


Monday 30 October 2023

Jeremy Corbyn: CEASEFIRE NOW! Public Meeting Harrow October 31st


Brent, London and the Anti-Apartheid struggle - Tuesday October 31st Noon at Willesden Green Library


The statement from 35 Brent Labour councillors yesterday calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East, mentioned Brent conferring the Freedom of the Borough, on Nelson Mandela, as evidence of the borough's tradition of standing on the 'right side of history'.

This talk at Willesden Green Library tomorrow, Tuesday 31st October noon-1pm, goes into the history of the Anti-Apartheid movement and Brent's part in the struggle for justice in South Africa:

In this talk discover how London was a hub for the international opposition to apartheid South Africa. As well as providing a home for many exiled opponents of the racist regime including Oliver Tambo, President of the African National Congress, London was the HQ of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, which played a leading role in the international campaign to end apartheid. Brent in the 1980s and 1990s had an active local Anti-Apartheid Group and Wembley Stadium hosted the two international Nelson Mandela Concerts in 1988 and 1990.


Mugs first produced by the Brent Anti-Apartheid group, telling the story of a Black South African worker sentenced to 18 months in custody for writing ‘Release Nelson Mandela’ on his tea mug.

Courtesy Anti-Apartheid Legacy & Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives

Long time Brent resident Suresh Kamath was Vice-Chair of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and chaired the organising committee of the two Mandela concerts. He is currently a Trustee of Action for Southern Africa and the Liliesleaf Trust UK.