Ahead of an SNP motion being put to MPs in parliament today calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine war, Green Party councillors in Exeter have written to Ben Bradshaw urging him to back a ceasefire.
15th November 2023
Dear Mr Bradshaw,
URGENT: Palestine and Israel conflict - amendments to the King’s speech
We write in advance of two amendments to the King’s speech being put before MPs today on Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza: one from your own Party criticising how Israel has conducted its military campaign; the other from the SNP calling for a ceasefire.
Reportedly, Keir Starmer is threatening to sack any Labour frontbencher who rebels by voting for the SNP ceasefire amendment. However, given you are no longer on the Labour front bench; your strong track record of advocating for Palestinian rights both in and outside Parliament and having served as Middle East Minister in the last Labour Government we call on you to do the right thing and demonstrate your commitment to a ceasefire by backing the SNP amendment today in parliament.
The Green Party unreservedly condemns the horrendous Hamas attacks of 7 October and the taking of hostages and we call for those hostages to be released unconditionally. However, these criminal acts by Hamas cannot justify the disproportionate military actions by the Israel Defence Forces which breach the laws of war. It is estimated that over 700 civilians are being killed every day; one child every ten minutes (according to Save The Children). There is mass civilian suffering and humanitarian aid is not able to get through. This is unacceptable and must end.
The only way to protect civilians is for the fighting to stop. We urge you to join the growing international chorus for a ceasefire. Criticising how Israel has conducted its military campaign does not go far enough. The denial of food, fuel and water to the civilian population clearly amounts to collective punishment. The removal of around one million people from northern Gaza is forcible displacement. Labour should call out these actions as clear breaches of international humanitarian law, and support bringing these breaches to an end by backing a ceasefire.
Once a ceasefire is called, we can move towards an internationally arbitrated once-and-for-all settlement that fully ends the occupation of Palestinian territories (including East Jerusalem), in accordance with the requirements of international law, in particular UN resolutions 242 and 338. This used to be the position of the Labour Party; we hope you can reassure us that it still is.
It is time for Labour to do the right thing, for the sake of the innocent men, women and children of Gaza, who are being killed in their thousands. Please show your support for these innocent victims by backing a ceasefire today.
Exeter City Green Party councillors
Response from Ben Bradshaw MP received 16.11.23
Dear Diana, Catherine, Tess and Carol,
Thank you for your email regarding last night’s votes in Parliament and the terrible situation in Israel and Palestine.
I did not vote for the SNP’s motion calling for a full ceasefire now, not because Labour MPs were whipped that way (I have defied the whip on a number of occasions, including on the Middle East), but because I believe Labour’s position is currently the right one and so I voted for Labour’s amendment, the text of which I have copied below.
There is not the slightest chance of a ceasefire happening at the moment, as long as Hamas are still holding Israeli and international hostages from the October 7th attacks and Hamas and Hezbollah are firing missiles into Israel.
The best hope is for longer and more frequent pauses in the military action to ease the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and a third party brokered agreement to secure the release of hostages.
I am a long-time supporter of Labour Friends of Palestine and as Minister for the Middle East was reportedly moved out of the Foreign Office because of my strong pro-Palestinian views. I also covered the last peace process in the 1990s for the BBC.
Britain’s influence on this issue is limited and less now we have left the European Union. Our best chance of having some is by working with our allies, particularly the Biden administration, in exerting pressure on Israel to abide by international law, improve the humanitarian situation and on both sides to move back into a peace process leading to a two state solution when this immediate crisis is over.
US Secretary Blinken has called publicly on Israel to do more to protect civilians and improve the humanitarian situation. He will have been more forthright in private.
He has also made clear to the Netanyahu Government that there must be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza and no reduction in Gaza’s territory.
When this immediate crisis has eased, the efforts of all in the international community must be to get a peace process back on track. This will not be easy or solved by slogans. It is likely to require months and years of hard confidence-building and painstaking diplomacy, especially from the United States.
Any British politician who aspires to play a positive role in a future Middle East peace process in Government cannot afford to be seen as overly partisan now. Their words and actions will be weighed in the region for even-handedness and balance.
I am also extremely concerned that the conflict in Gaza has led to even more violence against Palestinians by illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank. This was the subject of my latest intervention in the Commons on this crisis this week.
I also hope that out of this trauma comes a change in failed Israeli Government policy, which for too long has been an obstacle to peace, to one that recognises there can be no long-term peace and security for Israel without a just settlement with the Palestinians that delivers a viable state.
It is also important that communities here in the UK feel safe and do not suffer from intimidation or harassment. I am very concerned about the shocking rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia over recent weeks and the Government must do all it can to protect and reassure British Jews and British Muslims and all communities here that they are safe and protected. I believe that temperate language and even-handedness is required of political leaders and the public, especially at times like this.
With very best wishes,