Middle East Westminster Hall debate
A debate on Global Security in the Middle East took place in Westminster Hall yesterday. The debate followed the publication of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the issue in August last year and the Government’s response in October.
The debate focussed in particular on the situation in Israel and Palestine. Speaking in the debate Richard Burden described the current situation in Gaza and the damaging effects of the blockade. Richard highlighted that: 80 per cent of people are living below the poverty line; malnutrition is a real and present threat; fuel shortages are threatening essential services and water supply; life saving treatments are not available and there is a shortage of medicines. The economy is crippled by restrictions on movement and the closure of crossings means importing and exporting are near impossible, industries are closing and jobs are being lost. In the first week of this year there were 11 Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which killed 26 people and injured 63.
Richard strongly condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel without qualification. He said that ‘the pain that families suffer from rocket attacks is real pain, and the fear that they experience, not knowing when the next attack will come, is real fear.’
However, he made it very clear that ‘it helps nobody to say that either side somehow has a monopoly on pain, or on compassion for the other side. That gets this debate nowhere.’
Questioning the Minister for the Middle East, Richard asked:
‘Not only do the British Government and, indeed, the international community rightly condemn the rockets [fired from Gaza into Israel], but they actually impose sanctions on organisations that may be responsible for them if there is a refusal to engage. If that action is appropriate in respect of the firing of rockets against civilians in southern Israel, what is the appropriate action for a country that has been responsible for collective punishment, that has launched that amount of air strikes, and, even by the most generous interpretation, has been involved in grossly disproportionate military action against Gaza? What are we going to do, apart from expressing displeasure?’