Firstly, I wanted to express my sincerest sympathy with your friend who has witnessed some truly horrific events in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The friendship and support you have in no doubt shown is invaluable and commendable.
Tom’s young life and tragic death are immortalised in the book written by his mother Jocelyn, Hurndall. This moving book is a rallying call to social justice advocates across the planet who will never forget Tom’s beautiful life and life choices.
Tom was only 22 years old when he travelled to the Occupied Gaza Strip to document the realities of Israel’s brutal occupation and the resilience of the Palestinian people, whose struggle inspired him and drove his unique committed.
In the House of Commons, SNP MPs will not stop will not stop raising the concerns we have with the Israeli Government’s actions with the UK Government. Until the situation on the ground changes dramatically, it will remain a top foreign policy priority for us.
Recent weeks have seen a significant increase in human rights violations, with Palestinian perpetrators targeting Israeli civilians, but particularly with systematic violence by the Israeli authorities directed at Palestinian civilians.
The year 2022 was one of the deadliest for Palestinians in recent history, according to the UN. This pattern is seemingly spreading into 2023 as well – for the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis on the ground, the international community must take concrete steps to condemn such egregious human rights violations and ensure an atmosphere for sustainable peace to build.
The SNP condemn extremist ideology, rhetoric, and violence carried out by any party to the conflict - Palestinian or Israeli. These are never acceptable and must never be ignored or swept under the carpet.
In Gaza, the security and humanitarian situation remains even more precarious. 15th June 2023 will mark the 16th year of Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has effectively turned it into the world’s largest open-air prison — with Palestinians living there facing a permanent humanitarian crisis. The Gaza Strip is home to around 2 million people (70% of whom are refugees). The siege is a form of illegal collective punishment Israel imposes on Palestinians, and an attempt to fragment the Palestinian people by isolating the Gaza Strip from the rest of Palestine.
Despite all these egregious (and continuing) instances of human rights abuses, the UK Government refuses to take concrete action, stead it pursues a policy of issuing formulaic condemnations whenever something happens. The Foreign Office still refuses to support the International Criminal Court investigation into suspected war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories [see Boris Johnson’s intervention], and it has not modified its diplomatic approach with Israeli counterparts in any way.
The UK government has recently announced that it is conducting negotiations to secure a free trade deal with Israel. We remain concerned these proceedings are preventing honest and frank discussions about the behaviour of the current Israeli Government from being aired.
On 24 March 2023, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories published a report detailing extensive discrimination Palestinians experience in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, stating that the “differences in living conditions and citizenship rights and benefits are stark, deeply discriminatory and maintained through systematic and institutionalized oppression.” and concluding that “With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world”.
The horrific killings you refer to in your email are proof of their findings, if any more proof was necessary, and are proof that matters are not improving on the ground.
2023 must be a turning point in this conflict and from what we can see, the UK Government in Westminster is a hindrance to progress.
These asks (and more) were eloquently put to the UK Government on Thursday 20th April, when my SNP colleague Chris Law MP secured a Backbench Business Debate titled 'Human Rights Protections for Palestinians.' During the proceedings (which you can watch in full here), Mr Law told the House of Commons:
"While the shocking images of violence between Israelis and Palestinians that we see in newspapers, on television and online often prompt statements of condemnation and renewed calls for peace, these are not isolated incidents that we can simply push aside with sympathetic platitudes and move on from. In order to achieve a sustainable peace, we cannot ignore the fact that systematic discrimination and human rights abuses are the daily reality for all Palestinians living under occupation, 365 days of the year, and the UK Government have a significant role to play in ensuring that this is brought to an end... Silence is complicity. By doing nothing, we are complicit in not allowing judgment to be taken on these serious crimes."
The SNP have a long and proud history of standing for Palestinian human rights in the Houses of Parliament, and we will not stop doing so.
I would also like to direct you to read a speech that my SNP colleague Anum Qaisar MP made in the House of Commons this year setting out the SNP’s position on this matter in the clearest possible terms. I would also point out the muted contributions of the Labour Party on this matter, and the, not unexpected, but still outright problematic responses of those members of the Conservative Party who contributed.
The SNP will continue to push the UK Government to hold Israel to account for its actions and to change its foreign policy accordingly.