On the Ground in Palestine: Baroness Warsi, Baroness Morris & Gavin Shuker MP briefing on their visits to Palestine

On Wednesday 4 March, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Trish Morris and Gavin Shuker MP discussed the challenges facing Palestine in a briefing in Parliament chaired by Andy Love MP following recent delegations to Palestine with Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians. The meeting also raised the issue of Parliamentary access to Gaza.

Gavin Shuker started by saying that the UK Parliament vote on the recognition of Palestine was a major development and that it had already had an impact on the region.

He stated that there was no substitute to going to Palestine, and seeing it first hand. “I saw settlers’ activity” he recalled. He emphasised that the conflict is fundamentally a political issue and “it is a conflict that needs to be resolved”.

Gavin commented that “DIFD has spent huge amounts on the Palestinian territories in order to keep a two-state solution alive” and highlighted that “the Labour party believes that recognising Palestine would be very helpful”.

Gavin also added: “We need to do more. The decisions that we make here have an impact”.

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Baroness Morris emphasised the importance of going to the region, especially for people that have a public platform.

She went to Gaza in December 2014, having been denied entry in April of the same year. (The last time she had been to Gaza had been in 2011). She was shocked to see that “only 5% of the aid has got through”. She also quoted the estimate given by Oxfam that at the current rate it will take “100 years to rebuild Gaza”.

She mentioned that some schools in Gaza are running 3 shifts, and 400,000 children need psychosocial support. This led her to affirm that more people “need to get into Gaza. People in Gaza are cut off from the world”.

Baroness Morris warned that it is the “daily grind of occupation” which doesn’t reach the headlines that worries her most.

She paid tribute to some Israeli NGOs who are doing fantastic work on the ground such as: Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICHAD), and also encouraged people to support Caabu and MAP.

Andy Love MP asked the audience to get their MPs to sign an important Early Day Motion (EDM) that has been put down in Parliament on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It calls for UK politicians to be granted access into Gaza. He is the main sponsor of the motion.

Baroness Warsi began saying that there was a sincere held view among politicians regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: “to keep both partners on board”.

She moved on to speak about the definition of “friend”. For her a “friend” was the strongest advocate and the strongest critic. She added that in the case of Israel, Britain does strongly advocate for Israel but seems unwilling to be critical.

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Baroness Warsi pointed out that neither Palestinians nor Israelis have one single faith. Therefore, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should not be treated as a religious dispute. She also backed the need to recognise Palestine saying “now is time to recognise the Palestinian state”.

Baroness Warsi also spoke about the difficult choice she had to make when in government saying she had to choose between “loyalty to the government and loyalty to my principles.” By resigning she chose to be on “the right side of history.”

Baroness Warsi finished by reaffirming the words of Caabu patron Sir Alan Duncan MP saying: “Those who deny the state of Israel are extremists. The reverse also works. People who deny the state of Palestine are extremists too and we wouldn’t like to see them as part of democratic governments, of this country or anywhere else in the world”.

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