Will Martindale (Battersea)
Will Martindale believes the UK Government should uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel. He considers the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable.
He supports the recognition of Palestine and believes the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately. He states that the UK should stop trade with Israel's settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain. Will thinks that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations, and that the UK government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law.
Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham)
"Thank you for your email on Middle East policy. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me on this important issue.
Following the events in Gaza last summer, the House of Commons debated the principle of Palestinian statehood on 13th October 2014. I voted in support of the motion to recognise the principle of Palestinian statehood.
Labour supports two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. The events of last year underlined the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis of reoccurring violence.
While the motion did not commit Labour to an immediate recognition of Palestine, it did reaffirm our support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood.
I share your concerns about assisting Syrian refugees. I support the UK’s participation in the UN refugee programme and we called for the initial debate on helping refugees on Wednesday 29th January 2014 in Parliament.
Sadly, only 100 families have been resettled in the UK under the ‘vulnerable person relocation scheme’. On this the government must uphold its moral duty. We should open discussions with the UN’s refugee agency about how to provide greater assistance to refugees fleeing the region.
I share your concerns about human rights. Labour has a strong record on this issue, passing the Human Rights Act in 1998 and creating the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2007.
We will continue this commitment by reaffirming our membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and taking a lead role in protecting and championing human rights around the world and will continue to support groups who are working to free political prisoners, campaign against torture and promoting democracy and human rights."
Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton)
Thank you for writing to me about the important issue of Palestinian human rights. Apologies for the length of time it has taken to reply. Unlike an MP I don't have access to paid staff. I just wanted to update you with my views on Palestinian human rights which are on the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign website.
"They agree the UK Government should uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel
Labour, under Ed Miliband, has already taken brave steps to pressure the Conservatives to uphold these principles. Labour believes "sustainable security for Israel cannot be achieved simply by permanent blockade, aerial bombardment and periodic ground incursion. Instead, it requires acknowledging the legitimate claims of Palestinians to statehood, and sustained efforts to secure a viable Palestine alongside a secure Israel." Ed Miliband This is a stance I support.
They agree that the construction of Israeli settlements construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal and unjustifiable.
Ed Miliband visited Israel and Palestine and said, "The expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank is not only wrong and illegal but represents a mortal threat to the two-state solution and to a successful outcome of the peace process."
They agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine.
I agree that the Government should work towards the recognition of Palestine in a manner that benefits the situation. I am proud that the Labour Party pushed for a vote on Palestinian statehood in Parliament, leading the way for our European peers, and I am proud that the motion was supported by Ed Miliband.'
They agree that the blockade of Gaza should be lifted immediately.
'It is a counter productive policy which is a form of collective punishment. It does nothing to weaken Hamas and only causes suffering to the 1.8m people who are cut off from the world.'
They agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain.
Ed Miliband has stated "Settlement building in the occupied territories is a significant threat to a negotiated agreement." Whilst Labour party policy officially is to oppose boycotts (as an academic for example I would not want to isolate good colleagues in universities in Israel for example) there is an argument that the very idea of supporting a Palestinian state is undermined by our financial and economic support for the infastructure around illegal settlements. This is not my specialist area but I do recognise this inconsistency.
They agree that the EU Israel Association should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations.
'Why should we reward a country which routinely abuses human rights with special trade deals? '
Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law?'
Israel has been responsible for many thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon in recent years. British weapons should not be sold in such circumstances.'
I'd also point out that the previous Conservative MP refused to take part in the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hustings and unlike other hustings didn't even send a substitute.
I spoke out on the issue at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hustings on 4th February. More detail on the meeting is here. I hope this answers your questions.”
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith)
"1. I believe it is vital that the British Government recognises Palestine, so as to underline the principle of equality between Israelis and Palestinians. I believe such recognition can make an important contribution to both future negotiations and a durable two state solution.That is why I voted in favour of recognising Palestine in Parliament in October 2014, and was pleased to see this motion pass by 274 votes to 12.
Britain has recognised Israel since 1950, and it is long overdue that Palestine receives the same recognition. The recognition of Israel was not subject to negotiation, and thus neither should the recognition of Palestine be so.
Palestine has the attributes of a state; its institutions have been accepted as ready for statehood by the IMF and World Bank, and 134 United Nations Member States recently voted to recognise Palestine. It is therefore essential that we put an end to the Palestinian people being denied the fundamental freedoms and rights associated with statehood, as they have been for over half a century.
Currently, Palestine does not have an accredited Embassy in the UK, and Palestinians do not have passports recognised the world over. It is time for Parliament to end this injustice, and to make clear to the world that what is a matter of right for Israel should not be a matter of privilege for Palestine. Further to this, I believe recognising Palestine would uphold an important principle in itself, whilst also setting a precedent for other European countries to follow.
2. I believe it is vital that the blockade of Gaza is lifted as soon as possible and believe that we should stop trade with Israel's settlements on Palestinian land, whilst also banning the sale of settlement goods in Britain.
3. Despite the fact that millions of Syrians have had their homes destroyed, their community and country taken away from them, and now face scarce food supplies due to the critical pressure on countries absorbing vast numbers of displaced people, the Government have failed to uphold their moral duty to help the most vulnerable Syrian refugees by allowing them to resettle in the UK.
Millions of people have fled Syria and been displaced by the ongoing conflict. Jordan and Lebanon have taken in many of these refugees and their condition is desperate. As one aid worker noted of people stranded and displaced in one area, “they are having to manage on one 200ml bottle of water a day… eight people have died there in the last two months, and one of them was a seven-year-old child”.
Yet despite this, and despite the fact that Home Secretary Theresa May accepted in January 2014 that we should do our bit to help the most vulnerable Syrian refugees who the UNHCR consider urgently need safe haven, only 143 people have been resettled under the VPR scheme in the UK.
Relative to the horrifying nature of the conflict, the humanitarian crisis unfolding, and the daily catastrophe besetting mothers, young children and victims of torture and war rape, that is shameful. Several other European countries, who have signed up to the UNHCR scheme, have provided many more places than this to Syrian refugees; Sweden has provided 1200 places, Norway 1000, Finland 500 and Ireland 310. I do not need to emphasise how shockingly few Britain has provided in comparison.
You may therefore rest assured that I shall do all that I can to campaign for the UK to sign up to the UNHCR scheme, and to allow more Syrian refugees to settle in the UK.
4. I think human rights should be placed at the heart of British foreign policy. Our foreign policy should ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected and promoted, regardless of who they are or where they are from. Moreover, we should work with other countries to improve their human rights record and encourage all governments to respect the rights of their citizens. Human rights are an inalienable and fundamental principle of our society, which cannot be sacrificed in the name of foreign policy.
5. The Labour Party will always strive to play its part in seeking to secure peace and justice in the Middle East. A central element of this is finding a durable two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. That is why so many Labour MPs voted to recognise Palestine as an independent state in October 2014. Whilst I am aware that recognition will not deliver peace in the Middle East or end the Occupation by Israel, it is a critical step on the road towards both of these outcomes. Recognition will strengthen the position of those Palestinians pursuing a diplomatic process to statehood and will demonstrate that the UK remains truly committed to achieving a lasting and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On a wider scale, it is vital that we act with care when determining our approach to the Middle East. We must learn from both the right and wrong decisions we have made in the past, and work with our allies to secure peace in the region and to combat the new wave of extremism that has taken hold in Syria, Iraq and other countries. Moreover, we must ensure that we get humanitarian aid to those in greatest need of it, such as in Syria where millions of people have been displaced and forced to flee their homes.
There is no simple answer to securing peace in the Middle East, but it is vital that as we move forward, we step up to both the domestic and international challenge required to achieve peace in this region, by working with communities in Britain and our allies abroad."
Kate Godfrey (Stafford)
Thank you for your email regarding Israel and Palestine - an issue on which I feel very strongly.
As you may know, I have spent most of my working life in the Middle East, including a stint as a UN rapporteur. I was caught in the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in 2007, and have worked in refugee camps in the countries surrounding Palestine. After the election the only foreign travel I am planning is to visit Palestine for a week with UK charities taking part in reconstruction.
With that context explained, my answers to your questions would be as follows:
- I urge the UK Government to uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel.
- I consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable.
In achieving these principles, what are your views on the following steps that a future UK Government could take:
- Do you agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine?
- Do you agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately?
- Do you agree that we should stop trade with Israel's settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain?
- Do you agree that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations?
- Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law?
Chukka Umunna (Streatham)
“I believe strongly in the principles of equality, human rights and international law and believe that the UK government should act to support these important principles. I know that illegal Israeli settlements are just that – illegal. The expansion of illegal settlements has desperate consequences for the peace process. I have voted for the recognition of Palestine in Parliament. The blockade on Gaza should stop. No UK arms exports should be exported under existing licences whilst there remain any doubts about whether the equipment could be used for internal repression, the abuse of human rights or to provoke or prolong armed conflict.
The achievement of a long-lasting peace that recognises the material needs of Palestinians is incredibly important – for people in Palestine, for people in Israel, and for people all over the world. I know that the situation is complex, but I believe that the goal of peace is simple, still achievable, and an objective that we should do everything we can to support. In the course of the election campaign, we will be releasing our manifesto which will outline our overall foreign policy approach.”
Valerie Vaz (Walsall South)
"I share your concern at the lack of progress on the Middle East Peace Process and the issue of Palestinian human rights. The loss of life that occurred in Gaza last summer – with 2,131 people killed, the vast majority of them civilians – emphasises the need for lasting peace.
I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. Labour is clear that only a negotiated peace deal will bring the justice and security both sides deserve. That is why the international community must now take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion. We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step.
Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why, in both 2011 and in 2012 we urged the UK Government to support the Palestinian’s bid for recognition at the UN. Not as a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them. The immediate priority for the international community must be to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of Palestinians who are in desperate need and to help the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in Gaza."