Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Parliamentary debate on Gaza

I don't know much about Labour MP Gerald Kaufman but I was very struck with his comments on Gaza when I heard his question to the foreign secretary in the House of Commons on Monday. It went like this;

"In congratulating my right hon. Friend on steering resolution 1860 through the United Nations Security Council, may I ask him what the international reaction would be if Hamas had slaughtered nearly 900 Israelis and subjected nearly 1.5 million Israelis to degradation and deprivation? Is it not an incontrovertible fact that Olmert, Livni and Barak are mass-murderers and war criminals— [ Interruption. ] Yes. And they bring shame on the Jewish people whose star of David they use as a flag in Gaza, but whose ethos and morals go completely against what this Israeli Government are doing."
Which seems like extremely strong language for someone who I'd always taken to be a reasonably placid Labour MP. Clearly I'd misjudged him.

The fuller debate is worth reading, as much for what is not said as for what is. Other items of note for me would be the Lib Dem MP Edward Davey's call for an arms embargo against Israel, backed up by Labour's Peter Kilfoyle who notes with distaste the "cosy consensus" between Labour and Tory front benches.

I'll also quote George Galloway's contribution;
The Foreign Secretary is not in favour of the isolation of Israel but he was in favour of the isolation of the Government elected in Palestine, in the only free parliamentary election ever held in any Arab country, because the people voted the wrong way. He joined the siege of the Hamas Government and helped create the desperation that led to the barrage of rockets—largely ineffectual, as he has conceded. Action speaks louder than words. The resolution he boasts of drafting is an ineffectual section 6—
The speaker of the House then interrupted him and told him to ask a question rather than make a speech.
I will, Mr. Speaker. Why will the Government not recall our ambassador from Tel Aviv, ask the Israeli ambassador to leave, and, above all, stop selling British weapons to the mass-murderers who are taking so many lives and limbs in Palestine today?
Miliband didn't really say why he wouldn't, but he did say that wasn't going to happen. You can watch the entire thing from BBC Parliament here;

One other note, from the European Parliament this time. The BBC are wandering about seeing what MEPs do at the moment. One small part of their report (again from Monday) runs like this;
Victory for the Greens!

Group leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit has just succeeded in getting a resolution on Gaza. After a fiery speech from the floor of the chamber (never thought I'd be writing that), MEPs voted by 105 to 86 for a resolution to be passed on the situation there. The Parliament is due to debate the issue on Wednesday but there were no plans for a resolution to be issued.

The Greens want the resolution to condemn Israel and call for an immediate ceasefire on both sides, although that may be watered down by the time an agreement has been reached with the other groups - that's how it works out here.

The Socialist group wants to model any resolution on the UN's recent statement, but the Greens want to go much further, including possible trade sanctions and a halt to plans to officially upgrade the EU's relations with Israel.

Should be interesting to see who wins.
Indeed it will. I don't monitor the goings on in the European Parliament very much (I'm sure you all do and are putting me to shame) so it's good that whenever I do hear something it's always in the context of the Greens having done something I thoroughly approve of.

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