Any viable peace deal for Israel and Palestine needs to be based on respect for international law and human rights. Today’s decision by the UK Government to vote against all but one resolution on Israel-Palestine at the UN Human Rights Council is an unwelcome step away from that rights-focused peace.
In one day, the Government has reversed years of policy on the self-determination and human rights of the Palestinian people, on the illegality of settlements on occupied land and on the importance of accountability for violations of international law. In doing so, they have undermined not only multilateral institutions like the UN but their own commitments to human rights in the Middle East and across the world. If the UK truly believes in those principles and universal rights and responsibilities, it cannot pick and choose where they are applied, nor can they be undermined for the sake of grievances with UN structures.
The time has come for the UK to stop posturing and issuing hollow statements in response to Israel’s violations of international law. There must be consequences for what the UN HRC has itself described as potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza. If Israel is given licence to breach international law with impunity then what hope is there of discouraging countries from doing so in future?
In Birmingham Northfield
New Engineering Centre at Bournville College
I was privileged to recently open the new Engineering Centre at Bournville College. With state of the art equipment to teach the practical, hands-on skills that employers are always looking for, the centre will initially offer students the opportunity to acquire qualifications from Level 1 to level 3 with potential for university-partnered courses up to level 5 being available – probably as early as next year.
Engineering is in the DNA of Longbridge. Its name has been synonymous with motor manufacturing for over one hundred years. The new centre at Bournville College both celebrates that heritage and demonstrates how world-class engineering can be as much a part of the area’s future as its past. The UK urgently needs more engineers at all levels. They are more important than ever to find solutions to the huge technical challenges that the future holds – in automotive and in the entire spectrum of industries and sectors that drive a modern economy.
Developed in its new role as part of South and City College, Bournville’s Engineering Centre at Longbridge provides the opportunity for local young people to be at the heart of this innovation, opening up opportunities to embark on great careers in modern engineering and manufacturing. It is also great to see the emphasis that the College is putting on demonstrating that those opportunities are every bit relevant to young women as they are to young men. You can see more from Bournville College’s short video of the launch here.
Congratulations to everyone who has made the opening of the Centre a reality and best of luck to all the students who will be starting in September. You can find out more about the range of courses that are on offer here.
Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, has responded to the decision of the US administration to to end funding to UNWRA.
Mr Burden said today:
“The action taken by the US administration to end funding to UNRWA is appalling and threatens the security of millions of Palestinian refugees. Many of the refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are dependent on UNRWA assistance to access primary health care, education and relief services. Due to President Trump’s reckless decision, this vital humanitarian work is now in jeopardy. The UK has a responsibility not to look the other way. It is imperative that the UK Government not only condemns this action, but also works with international partners to fill the funding gap left by the US administration to ensure that vital front-line services are not adversely impacted by this withdrawal of support.
This is the latest in a string in of provocative actions by President Trump which take us further away from peace and undermines the ability of the US to credibly broker talks between Israel and Palestine. A just solution for Palestinian refugees based on human rights and international law will be essential to achieving the durable peace in the Middle East which can provide a secure future that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve. I intend to table an Early Day Motion on the US Administration’s announcement when Parliament returns from the summer recess tomorrow.”
The action taken yesterday by the Israeli Knesset is discriminatory and formally creates a two-tier system of rights within Israel. It formalises as second-class citizens any non-Jewish community, particularly the 20% of the population who are Palestinian Arabs. The new law also allows for the creation of communities based on religion, something that raises worrying parallels with apartheid.
Jerusalem is a city of unique significance to the three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In referring to the city exclusively as the capital and home of one of those religions, the new law jeopardises inter-faith understanding. It also recklessly prejudices the prospects for peace in the Middle East by undermining the long-established international agreement that the future status of Jerusalem can only be decided through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
This is the latest in a string of laws passed by the Knesset designed to strip Palestinians of their rights bit by bit. It also goes hand-in-hand with the Israeli Government’s destruction of the prospects for a viable Palestinian state through the demolition of Palestinian homes and the ongoing construction of illegal settlements.
Yachad, who work in the British Jewish community for a secure and peaceful future for Israel are right to describe this law as “counter to Israel’s Declaration of Independence” and a law which “turns minorities in Israel into second class citizens”.