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Latest news | Statement on Israel and Palestine

Latest news

Statement on Israel and Palestine

First released, 10th October 2023

Latest update, 5th April 2024

I wanted to provide an update on what work is being undertaken in parliament as the situation in Gaza gets worse by the day.

I have been horrified by the loss of life and the actions of the Israeli Defence Force who have, time and again, shown a blatant and systemic disregard for the laws of war, leading to the indiscriminate killing of civilians in their tens of thousands. This is something that has been brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court, who are currently assessing whether or not these actions meet the legal threshold for the definition of a breach of the genocide convention.

I am sure that, like me, you will be horrified by the recent news that aid workers have been killed in what I can only conclude to have been a deliberate targeting – a clear breach of the laws governing armed conflict. Aid workers at World Central Kitchen are the latest victim to this indiscriminate approach of the IDF that Palestinians have become so gravely familiar with.

World Central Kitchen is an incredible organisation that I have got to know through the excellent work they have done in Ukraine since the 2022 invasion by Russia. It is vital that their efforts are supported, and that they feel safe and able to carry out the work of feeding those most in need in Gaza, especially as the food and aid situation gets worse.

As well as continuing to call for an immediate ceasefire, and urging the government to change its position on a ceasefire, there are a few other developments I wanted to update you on.

I have continued to call for an arms embargo between the UK and Israel. This is a point I believe we reached long ago, but I have continued to press the matter with the government in writing and in person. I am pleased to see that Lord Rickets, a former national security adviser and career diplomat, has also gone on record in calling for the very same. Lord Rickets is a serious figure in the UK’s foreign policy establishment and his intervention in this regard is significant. I intend to press on this matter further.

As you may also be aware, we believe that the UK Government has now received legal advice stating that Israel is in breach of international humanitarian law. If this is confirmed then it will be a significant moment for the UK’s approach and, I would expect, necessitate a change in the current form of unconditional support for Israel.

Although it is not normal for government to publish legal advice - and there are very good reasons for such a convention - it isn’t a binding rule, and any government of the day can decide to publish in exceptional circumstance, as has happened before. As such, I have co-signed a letter – authored by my SNP parliamentary colleague, Chris Law MP – calling for the government to publish the legal advice at the earliest opportunity. This would be a vital step in providing some transparency to UK policymaking.

Lastly, as you may be aware, parliament is currently in Easter recess for just over another week. Today the SNP leader at Westminster, Stephen Flynn MP, has called for parliament to be recalled and for our recess to come to an end. The purpose of this would be to allow for parliament to have a meaningful vote on ending UK arms sales to Israel and also for the government to publish its legal advice -  at which point parliament can decide to debate the content of that advice and have any vote MPs deem necessary on the back of its publication.

It is regrettable that the government – with the support of the Labour opposition – intend to continue arms sales, and have intimated that they will not be publishing the legal advice on whether or not Israel has breached international humanitarian law.

As your MP, I assure you that I will continue to press on these matters, along with the need for an immediate ceasefire, until the government and Labour opposition hopefully see sense.

It is also my hope that a more long-term diplomatic solution can be pursued. A lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is further away than at any point in my lifetime, and the reality is that there are few partners for peace to be found. That being said, a lasting peace must be pursued. The international community must try to broker a cessation of violence now, and help deliver a sustainable peace format that is fit for the long-term security, dignity and prosperity of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

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