Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group, has today written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson concerning US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A cross-party group of 90 Parliamentarians have added their names to the letter to express their collective concern regarding President’s Trump decision and to ask the Foreign Secretary to ensure UK leadership in the pursuit and facilitation of a just and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
Mr Burden said today:
“As a cross-party group of MPs and Peers we have written to the Foreign Secretary to express our collective concern at President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and there has long been consensus amongst the international community that the city’s status can only be settled fairly through negotiations.
President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem is provocative, it undermines the ability of the US to credibly broker talks between Israel and Palestine and it will only fan the flames of conflict at a time when international efforts should be focussed on reducing tension, upholding the rule of law and promoting peace.
We are calling for the UK to show leadership in the pursuit and facilitation of a just and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine with Jerusalem as a shared capital of both states. The UK must demonstrate in deeds as well as words that respect for international law and a commitment to equal rights for both Palestinians and Israelis must be cornerstones of a new UK proactivity and leadership to achieve peace. We believe it is in the best interests of pursuing peace, for the UK to now recognise the State of Palestine, in line with the decision of the House of Commons as expressed on 13th October 2014.”
Human Rights Day is celebrated annually to honour the adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to remind us of the importance and value of the inalienable rights that we are all entitled to as human beings. Human Rights Day is an opportunity for us to remember those from all over the world who continue to fight for rights that we sometimes take for granted.
As Chair of the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group, I follow closely the human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This includes human rights defenders peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – rights that are enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Two such people are Issa Amro and Farid al-Atrash. Issa and Farid are two Palestinians who campaign against the construction of illegal settlements by Israel in the occupied West Bank. Farid is a lawyer and Issa is coordinator of the Youth Against Settlements group. Both are firm believers in non-violent protest. Amnesty International have described how during one such peaceful demonstration on 26 February 2016 in the Palestinian city of Hebron, Israeli forces threw sound bombs and fired tear gas at protestors.
Farid was arrested at the demonstration and Issa was arrested the day after. They now face trial in a military court on charges including participating in an illegal demonstration and attacking soldiers. They both deny the charges. In fact, video footage shows Farid holding a poster in front of an Israeli soldier before being pushed and violently arrested. Issa, meanwhile, has spoken of being beaten by Israeli police while in custody.
On Wednesday I attended Amnesty International’s annual Human Rights Day Reception, which took place in Parliament. The cases highlighted at the reception showed the wide range of people who are human rights defenders across the globe. They can be community leaders, journalists, teachers, farmers, poets, lawyers, students, politicians, health professionals or they may come from any other walk of life. Yet Amnesty International have documented an increase in attacks against human rights defenders globally. Sometimes this can take the form of harassment. Sometimes they are jailed. In some places they face torture and even death for upholding rights we take for granted here in the UK. Their courage is inspirational.
Yesterday’s Human Rights Day reception was an opportunity for me not only to voice my support for Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash but also to pay tribute to the vital work Amnesty International does more generally to shine a spotlight on the persecution of human rights defenders wherever they are, in documenting what is happening to them and in letting them know they are not alone.
You can take action too by sending a message of hope to Issa and Farid at https://www.amnesty.org.uk/write-for-rights/action/issa-amro-and-farid-al-atrash
North Worcestershire Golf Course
Residents living close to North Worcestershire Golf Course will know that at the end of February, Bloor Homes withdrew their planning application to build on the golf course. However they have now said they will be submitting new proposals shortly. In their latest notice they have said their new proposals are aiming “to address the concerns raised during the determination period. The amount of housing has been reduced and additional public space is now proposed.”
Locally, there has long been widespread opposition to building on the Golf Course and this has been reflected in cross party opposition amongst elected representatives of the area too. The City Council’s current Planning framework also opposes redevelopment and, had Bloor proceeded with their recent application, Planning officers were recommending refusal by the Council’s Planning Committee. Last year, the Government’s Planning Inspector also reviewed the overall Plan or Birmingham and also said he was not persuaded of the case to overrule the City Council’s policy in opposition to building on the site.
Bloor Homes are hosting a public consultation event next week. I would encourage local residents to go along and let Bloor know your views. Details here: Thursday 16th March, 1pm-7:30pm, Hollymoor Community Centre, 8 Manor Park Grove, B31 5ER.
The news that we feared from the Government has been confirmed, Birmingham schools are set to lose a staggering £20m Read more
Read and watch my question to the Prime Minister on the long-awaited publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war:
“May I also ask the House to pause for a minute to remember Robin Cook, who had the courage to speak up against the orthodoxy of the day, and the courage to speak out as a voice of sanity in 2003?
The sequence of events that led to the UK’s participation in the invasion of Iraq shows that where the unshakeability of a political leader’s self-belief so traps him or her in its own logic that he or she cannot see beyond it, the consequences can be catastrophic.
As someone who voted against the war in 2003, I know that the Iraq war did not create from scratch the multiple problems that we see today in the middle east, but it has made them so much more intractable.
Does the Prime Minister agree that at root what the peoples of the middle east want is not so different from what people over here want? They want security, they want respect, and they want to know that they are not treated with double standards by the international community.”
Click here to read my thoughts which I posted on the eve of Chilcot. My post includes onward links to my speeches at the time as well as a copy of my letter Tony Blair expressing my concerns on the issue.
Tomorrow, the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war will finally be published.
Ahead of publication, my thoughts have gone back to how it felt in the House of Commons – and outside – at the time. Sometimes it is easy to get hindsight mixed up with what we knew at the time, as we approached a conflict that was going to have such a profound effect on the Middle East and beyond. It was a conflict which also was to have a big impact on way politics and politicians are viewed today.
So I have revisited some of what I was saying and writing at the time. Here is a letter I wrote to Tony Blair some seven months before the invasion started, setting out some of my concerns about the course he was on. Below are also links to a couple of speeches I made to Parliament – one also in September 2002 and one in March 2003 just a week before the invasion.
I was one of the 139 Labour MPs who opposed the war and voted against the government in the House of Commons on 18th March 2003. Another was the late Robin Cook. British politics is the poorer without him. And we – his friends in the Labour family – particularly miss him at this time of new political turmoil.
* Letter to Tony Blair: 12 September 2002
* Speech in the House of Commons: 24 September 2002.
* Speech in the House of Commons: 11 March 2003.