Like many people in Bristol, I have been horrified by the violence and the loss of thousands of innocent lives in Israel and Palestine over recent weeks.
It is hard to believe that almost a month has passed since we woke in horror to news of the attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel on 7th October. There is no justification for these acts of terror. I do not believe that Hamas represents the Palestinian people or their interests. Their indiscriminate attacks set back the cause of peace, and both Israelis and Palestinians are paying a terrible price.
International law is clear. Hamas must release the hundreds of people it still holds as hostages in Gaza. Israel has the right to recover these hostages and protect itself from further attack. As they do so, Israel’s leaders must target Hamas, not the Palestinian people. Civilians must be protected.
Gaza is now facing a humanitarian emergency on an unimaginable scale. Thousands of innocent Palestinian people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes. People in Gaza are terrified for their lives as the conflict rages, with water and basic supplies running out and hospitals barely functioning. The support currently reaching Gaza is completely insufficient. Delivery of food, fuel, water, electricity, and medical supplies must be ramped up – both through the Rafah crossing, and through Israel turning back on the supplies it controls.
I strongly support calls for pauses in hostilities to get humanitarian support safely to the people who need it. I know many people are calling for an immediate ceasefire. I absolutely share this desire for peace, which cannot come a moment too soon. I agree with Keir Starmer that our priority should be to push hard for what can be achieved to alleviate suffering in Gaza now. A ceasefire would require a formal agreement between parties to the conflict and this is not yet on the table. I believe a humanitarian pause is a viable and valuable first step on the long path to peace.
I believe the most concrete way the UK can support the people of Gaza today is with humanitarian aid. This week, our Shadow Foreign Secretary and International Development Secretary David Lammy and Lisa Nandy are in Cairo in Egypt to meet political leaders and aid agencies to see what more can be done to get aid across the Rafah crossing. We are calling for a coordinated Disasters Emergency Committee fund appeal, with matched government funding, to provide essential humanitarian emergency aid as well as a long-term fund for reconstruction of Gaza post-conflict.
I have a long-held respect and support for Palestinian rights and am aware of the many ways these have been under attack over decades. We must seize this moment to renew our push towards a long-term solution, with a prosperous and sovereign Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel.
I worry deeply about the divisions this crisis is causing in our own communities. I am proud of the inter-faith and inter-community dialogue that we work hard at in Bristol. As I meet with affected communities, I will do what I can to contribute, and to listen with compassion as we all reel from these awful events.