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15 January 2009

Barrett calls for immediate Gaza ceasefire and an end to arms sales to Israel

This debate is the tip of the iceberg, what will be discussed today will only be able to cover a small part of the disaster that is unfolding in Gaza.

I have said before that we see the tragedy unfolding in Gaza daily on our television.  This is not actually true in the UK – it is more true in other countries, for two reasons.

The first is that the BBC and many other journalists have been denied access to much of Gaza.

The second is that even when they get access what we see on our televisions is a sanitised version of the reality on the ground.

We are often completely unaware of how cleaned up for television a lot of our news is. No broadcaster is perfect and some might be biased, but we should never be left with the impression that we have seen the true reality and the horror of daily life for many, after watching our television news.

There are outlets on the internet, for instance on You Tube, Occupation101’s clip of Gaza Reality is well worth looking at, and foreign TV stations which give a clearer insight into what is unfolding.

One clip I watched had a spokesman from World Vision saying very few people have seen what is going on – why ? We need to know the truth.

Why are journalists not allowed access, if there is nothing to hide, why not show it, if Hamas are feeding us propaganda, why not expose it ?

We are given endless spokesmen from the IDF and the Israeli Govt. what we need is to see the truth for ourselves, not their version of it..

Sadly that truth will show what has been seen on television stations elsewhere in Europe. Mothers holding the dead bodies of their children, doctors calling for medicine to tread the sick and injured, ambulances unable to get to victims of bombings, burial grounds so full that there is nowhere for the dead. The squalor of the refugee camps. The scale of the devastation.

These are just some of the images described to me by my son-in law George as he watched Greek TV. In the UK we see nothing like this.

Yet what we have seen has triggered thousands to take to the streets.

Last Saturday in Edinburgh over 5,000 people marched to demand an end to the bombing of Gaza. They were not just the usual suspects. The march included people from the Jewish community, who also spoke out against what is happening. Everyone who spoke had one demand – an end to the violence – on both sides.

I say everyone who spoke, from the many speakers - there was only one party at Westminster represented by an MP, I was there and the stance of the Liberal Democrat leader was commended by others, unprompted by me - there was silence, as usual, from the Labour and the Conservative parties.

Not for the first time did they fail to speak up on the issue, or to put pressure on the US administration to change tack. As that is where the opportunity for hope lies.

When President Obama visits the UK it should be made clear that continuing with the Bush/Blair approach in the Middle East will not only fail to provide a solution, it will increase the hostility felt in the Middle East towards both countries.

In the long run this will reduce the chances of a peaceful future for Israel and the Palestinians. It will not make the world a safer place, it will radicalise more people who have sympathies with those of extreme views.

If the timing of the latest action in Gaza was to coincide with the last days of the Bush Presidency, let us all hope that the first days of the Obama Presidency start a new era of hope.

The march on Saturday reminded me of the march against the war in Iraq, when over 1 million took to the streets in the UK to say to the then PM, Tony Blair, that this would be a mistake. Nearly six years later, with the troops due to return and tens of thousands of dead civilians, including many children, I believe that many who supported that war at the time and now justify it on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was removed from power, conveniently forget that this government offered him the option of staying in power if only he would give up his Weapons of Mass Destruction. The rest is history. Some would like to rewrite history.

On Saturday I spoke to two young school pupils from my constituency, Claire Smith and Nicola Craig who wanted to show that they cared about what was happening in Gaza. No doubt their Modern Studies at school will be able to give them the history of that troubled region and the Middle East. They will discover that it has a complicated history and I will not go into that today as there is no time.

I would however mention that while many are described as terrorists and others as democratic states, with the assumption that democratic states should behave in a civilised way – unlike the terrorists.

What we have seen is terrorist organisation committed to wiping out a democratic state, with the words but without the ability or military power to do so and democratic state that has bombed civilians in a way that would be more readily associated with the action of a terrorist organisation.

Politically inspired violence has gone on for a long time. Israel celebrates its Freedom fighters who bombed the King David Hotel killing 91 people including 28 Britons over 60 years ago. Israel's celebrates of its "freedom fighters" when it continues to pound Palestinian "terrorists". It is worth noting that when Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, is wheeled out to justify Israel’s actions that her father, Eitan, was Irgun's (the organisation responsible for the bombing) chief operations officer.

When I was in London on 7th July 2005 during the terrorist attack that killed 52 and injured over 700, we were all shocked and wanted to find out who was responsible. Some of the bombers came from Leeds, yet not for one minute would anyone consider bombing that city and the civilian population, on the grounds that some terrorists were there. Clearly this would not only be mad, illegal, cruel and would not advance the likelihood of stopping future terrorist act. It would have done the opposite.

That is why I believe that Israel’s action in Gaza and the West Bank does nothing to ensure the future security of Israel in fact it does the opposite.

I believe the only hope for the future is a two state solution within secure boundaries.

As long as settlements are built on the West Bank, walls and razor wire fences are constructed, endless checkpoints frustrate every move of people and goods throughout the West Bank so that the economy cannot develop, and the water supply of so many is restricted no state will ever develop. The two state solution is no longer an option as long as one state is subdivided in this way.

What is our contribution – we continue to export arms into the region.



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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.