Baroness Warsi resigned from the Cabinet in 2014 over the government’s failure to stand by its policy on Palestine. This week she spoke in the House of Lords about the promise in the Queen ‘s Speech that the Government “will uphold human rights and democracy across the world.”
“I will address that in the context of Israel and Palestine, on which issue I resigned from the Cabinet nearly seven years ago. I saw then, at the heart of government, what we see no—: our Government failing to implement their own stated policy.
We have a policy. We have a policy of a two-state solution, but we do not recognise Palestine as a state. Ministers refuse even to use its name.
“We have a policy of a peace process, but no appetite to initiate or prioritise one.
“We have a policy that settlement-building is illegal and contrary to international law, yet there is no consequence when, every year, more and more settlers supported by the Israeli Government and diaspora groups occupy more land in Palestine. We do nothing to deter Israel from expanding settlements, forced evictions and home demolitions. This is ethnic cleansing and it is denying the reality that the state of Palestine even exists.
“Our policy is that East Jerusalem is an integral part of a future Palestinian state, yet we do nothing as extremists barge into homes, terrorising Palestinian families who have lived there for generations.
“Our policy is to defend human rights, but no action follows as hundreds of Palestinian children every year are arrested, mistreated and incarcerated.
“Our policy is to support international accountability and fund the International Criminal Court, but we oppose the ICC’s investigations into war crimes in Palestine.
“Each time that we fail to implement our own policy, we send out the message to an ever-extremist right-wing Israeli Government that there will be no cost of consequences for their treatment of the Palestinians. This total impunity is feeding Israel’s prolific rise in far-right extremism, leaving a society fighting for its soul.
“Often, when we look at periods in history that were overwhelmingly unjust and clearly unfair and, in retrospect, see appalling human rights abuses and cruelty, we rationalise a lack of action at the time by saying that we would have done more, if only we knew then what we know now. I want to put on record what we know now, so that, in future generations, there will be no doubt that we knew.
“We know about the dispossessions in Sheikh Jarrah, the chants of “Death to Arabs” in Jerusalem, the attacks on worshippers in Al-Aqsa and the attacks outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
“We know that, in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israeli settlers live side by side, the former legally, but under military law, without the most basic of utilities, the latter, 630,000 strong and growing, illegally present yet governed by civilian law and living in relative luxury. These two peoples are in the same land, but with differing legal systems and even separate roads to the same place, so we know, as it is documented by Human Rights Watch, that the threshold for the international war crime of apartheid and persecution has been passed.
“We know that generations have existed under a blockade, have never left Gaza—an area the size of the Isle of Wight—and drink water that the World Health Organization says is not even fit for animals.
“We know that mid-pandemic, Gaza’s only coronavirus testing lab was damaged by Israeli army bombing.
“We know of the deliberate targeting of journalists, including the bombing of the AP building, where, as US Secretary of State Blinken said, there was no evidence of Hamas operations.
“We know that a female journalist who has worked for Channel 4 was attacked and had her hijab ripped off by Israeli soldiers.
“We know, as it was reported by Mark Stone of Sky News, of entirely unnecessary, provocative behaviour by Israeli police and military yesterday at Damascus Gate, with stun grenades thrown at peaceful groups of Palestinians, and at Bethlehem, where volleys of tear gas were used.
“We know from Amnesty International of the rising death toll in Gaza, with entire families wiped out in attacks that will be tried as war crimes.
“We know from the UN of the mounting destruction by Israeli strikes of homes, hospitals, libraries and charities, and we know about the incitement of hatred on official Israeli government platforms, only this week posting on Twitter verses from the Koran over a photo of bombs dropping on Gaza in an offensive attempt to argue that Palestinian destruction was ordained in Islam.
“We know that over the past week Israeli soldiers have shot dead three more Palestinian children in the West Bank. We know that there will be zero accountability for this appalling violence.
“Our silence in the face of this makes our position, as I said when I resigned in 2014, morally indefensible. I ask the Government to acknowledge that they know. We all know.
“I urge the Government to stop responding to narrow political interests and to listen to the Israelis and Palestinians who stand together to call for an end to occupation, to Israeli Jewish human rights organisations, such as B’Tselem, and to the Israeli ex-soldiers who are breaking their silence and in the face of horrendous abuse continue to speak the truth and to point out how there is no military solution.
“I urge noble Lords across the House to watch the Bafta-winning film “The Present” by Farah Nablusi, which in 20 minutes of heart-breaking storytelling lays bare the daily aggression of occupation and checkpoints.
“Will my noble friend say what the Government can say from that Dispatch Box to Palestinians who want occupation to end? How do we ensure that our policy of the two-state solution is not a simple fig-leaf policy to hide inaction but a reality for the people of Israel and Palestine?”
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