Statement on the killing of protesters in Gaza


55 people killed by live fire in one day and over 2,770 wounded. It was the deadliest single day in Gaza since Israel’s attack in 2014. Hospitals in Gaza, already at breaking point from shortages of essential medical supplies report more abdominal, chest and head wounds than from shootings of demonstrators buy the Israeli military in previous weeks.

The respected Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, had it right when they said yesterday that the use of live fire ammunition against Gaza demonstrator’s evidences “Appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials.” If human rights defenders in Israel can see this, why can’t the US Administration? The response of the White House in absolving Israel of all responsibility for yesterday’s deaths is as reprehensible as it is short sighted.

Of course Hamas will seek to exploit events on the border with Israel, but thousands of people do not put themselves in harm’s way because of manipulation by Hamas or anyone else. They do so because they have been dispossessed for 70 years, under occupation for 50 years and under a blockade that has turned Gaza into a gigantic prison camp for eleven years. Like many other MPs, I am disappointed that UK ministers have been so reluctant to speak as clearly as B’Tselem about what is happening in Gaza.

It is imperative that the UK government supports the call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and EU Representative Federica Mogerini for an independent and impartial Inquiry into events on the Israel and Gaza border. Anybody found to be in breach of International law – whoever they are – must be held accountable.

We also need answers about UK arms exports to Israel. Last year, the UK issued licences for the export of sniper rifles and other weapons to Israel. When I asked UK ministers to investigate the uses to which those arms are being put, however, the reply I received inexplicably said that the UK “do not collect data on the use of equipment after sale”. If true, this means that UK ministers don’t have the first idea whether UK weapons are being used to shoot demonstrators in Gaza. What will it take for the UK to enforce its own rules on the export of weapons to places where they could be used for internal repression or serious violations of international humanitarian law?  In the light of what is going on in Gaza, the UK should suspend arms exports to Israel.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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