Friday, 10 February 2017

Israel Settlements - My speech for this weeks debate

This week I was unable to get into the Israeli Settlements debate but here was my speech for interest. Posted because I receive quite a bit of interest on it.

If you have comments to me personally, please email


In the final weeks of the previous American administration – John Kerry made a remarkably bold speech.
It was a speech from a statesman at the end of an illustrious career – impassioned, informed and, above all, honest.

He condemned the Israeli Government for undermining any hope of a two-state solution.

He reiterated his support for the UN’s recent resolution which criticized the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

And he argued that the country’s occupation represented an intractable obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Yet – as Mr Kerry himself was at pains to stress – he made this speech not to rebuke Israel.

Rather – he made it as a last-ditched attempt – on the part of the Obama Administration – to save Israel from perpetual international isolation, insecurity and intolerance.

Mr Speaker, I believe that John Kerry’s speech on the occupation of Palestine will be seen, in years to come, as a line in the sand.

And a line which countries – including the UK – will have to choose whether to cross.

One side involves the deterioating of Palestinian-Israeli relations, the escalation of violence, and the exacerbation of political insecurity in the Middle East.

It is the side which the new American President seems to have chosen with his outrage that the former Secretary of State Kerry had shown such “disdain and disrespect” towards Israel.

And it is the side that values a state’s ‘strength’ – again I quote the new President – above the importance of international peace.

The other side involves an effort to build bridges between Palestine and Israel, to avoid violence at all.

It is the side which the British Government seemed to embrace when it backed UN Security Council resolution 2234 in December which I welcomed.

And it is the side which other countries who also supported Kerry’s speech – from Germany to Canada, from Jordan to Egypt – decided to support too.

Mr Speaker, I am concerned that our own Prime Minister (Theresa May) – and her bumbling Foreign Secretary (Boris Johnson) – has been more persuaded by the first side. The new US President (Donald Trump).

Just days after the UK backed the UN’s resolution 2334, she took the unprecedented step of condemning the former Secretary of State’s (John Kerry) speech as inappropriate.

Having seen first-hand the effects of the occupation on Israelis and Palestinians, I would urge her to resist sacrificing a rational foreign policy in order to acquire an elusive UK trade deal with the USA.

When I visited Jerusalem in 2011, it soon became clear that innocent Palestinian and importantly Israeli citizens had suffered for too long under the militarism of the Israeli state.

The Israeli Government is not the Israeli people or Israeli’s in Israel who oppose the actions of their own government.

Palestinians have been subject to unbearable oppression.

I witnessed first-hand how Palestinian children were prosecuted in Israeli military courts in the West Bank and jailed for months on end because they had thrown stones.

Palestinian infrastructure is bombed – while their people are oppressed – in what is the pursuit of collective punishment.

Hospitals are inaccessible; food is out of reach; and schools are remote by the barrier and the wall.

Palestinians are humiliated on a daily basis at checkpoints, queues and barrier crossings.

And their houses are being removed at an alarming and increasing rate to make way for half a million Israelis living in settlements – both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

My two recollections of the barrier are the old man who refused to move from his farm. So they built a settlement around him enclosed in by a 30 foot fence letting the settlers abuse him and his family. His exit out was a tunnel with an automated gate operated by the IDF many miles away. Sometimes he would press the buzzer and wait hours for the door to open.

I went to a village. Surrounding it on the peaks of the hills were huge well built holiday home settlements. Fortified their protection was enhanced by a barrier where the majority of the land was on the settler’s side. The old Palestinian farming village was surrounded by the barrier. Much of the historic farming land was now fenced off not far form the village. Only accessible by a gate opened if lucky by for two 15minute slots at 6.30am and 6.30pm. The next village once five minutes away now a 90-minute circuitous journey, the direct roads now cut off.

But Israelis are also victims of this state of affairs.

They live within a militarist system which is infused with theocratic tendencies.

Secularism and pluralism are subordinated to orthodox Judaism and statism.

Tolerance and respect are too often neglected in favour of ultra-nationalism and segregation.

The are the victims of Hamas rocket attacks.

The result is a state in which some secular-minded citizens are no freer than in other theocracies – indeed, those theocracies which the West and Israel so frequently criticise.

Many Israeli citizens live between the fears of right-wing orthodoxy of successive Israeli governments on the one hand – and the fear of terrorism and insecurity on the other.

Palestinians are suffering from the continued occupation of the West Bank and the mutual hostility that it brings.

Neither side gains. There are only losers.

So, Mr Speaker, I conclude with one point.

It is in the interests of Israelis, as much as Palestinians, to accept UN resolution 2234 and to reduce the expansion into the West Bank and East of the Separation Barrier.

The Prime Minister can attempt to woo the American President all she likes.

But sooner or later – she is going to have to recognise that the status quo is not static. It is occupation and oppression by stealth.