Many constituents have written to me about the situation in Israel and Gaza following the devastating terrorist attack by Hamas on communities in southern Israel last weekend. I was appalled by the barbaric Hamas action, deliberately and systematically killing men, women, children and babies in their homes and at a music festival – as well as taking hostages who they have threatened to execute.
On Wednesday I joined other local Labour MPs and civic leaders for a service at the Kingfield Synagogue in Nether Edge, in which we remembered the victims as the rabbi led prayers for all those affected and for peace in the region.
I’m now deeply worried about the escalating conflict and its impact on Palestinian and Israeli civilians. We must do all we can to avoid the loss of innocent lives. Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy has made it clear that, in exercising its right to defend itself and to rescue hostages, Israel’s response must be in line with international law.
David’s comments, which I completely endorse, echo the call of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that “democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard even when it is difficult … that’s why it is so important to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians and that’s why we mourn the loss of every innocent life, civilians of every faith, every nationality”.
It’s also important that we distinguish between Hamas terrorists and the Palestinian people, so there must be humanitarian access to Gaza for food, water, medicines and electricity as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged, saying that “Crucial life-saving supplies – including fuel, food and water – must be allowed into Gaza. We need rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access now”.
So today I have written to the Foreign Secretary urging him to work with others in the international community to secure the release of hostages, the opening of an humanitarian corridor, and the de-escalation of the conflict to minimise the loss of life and suffering for all in the region.
We must of course go further and renew efforts for a lasting peace based on secure and sovereign states of Israel and Palestine, however remote that seems right now. We must also ensure that the appalling events in the region do not undermine community cohesion in our country, with no tolerance of antisemitic or antimuslim hatred.