Keir Starmer’s statement to the Commons on Israel & Gaza
I would like to thank the Prime Minister for advance copy of his statement. And for the updates the government has provided to the Labour front bench over the past few days.
Mr Speaker last Saturday, Israel was the victim of terrorism on an unimaginable scale. The senseless murder of men, women, children and even babies. The horrors of hostage taking. Music festivals turned to killing fields. Innocent Jews slaughtered within their own Kibbutz. An attack with no cause other than bloodshed.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure that over the last few days every Member of this House has seen images from this crisis that will never be unseen. Tiny bodies, wrapped in bundles. In Israel and now in Gaza. Mothers and fathers grieving. Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jew. The innocent – dead.
As in any time of grave crisis, it is crucial that this House speaks with one voice. In condemnation of terror. In support for Israel in its time of agony and for the dignity of all human life. Because Mr. Speaker, Hamas do not wish to see peace in the Middle East, they just want to see Israel wiped off the map.
But Hamas are not the Palestinian people. And the Palestinian people are not Hamas. So Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel. The attack is ongoing, terrorists are at large hostages are still being held – some of them British citizens. Israel has the right to bring her people home. To defend herself, to keep its people safe. And while Hamas has the capability to carry out attacks on Israeli territory, there can be no safety.
As Secretary of State Blinken said last week:
“We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard even when it is difficult”.
He is right, and as the Prime Minister has said, “there is an acute humanitarian crisis unfolding.”
Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law. Civilians must not be targeted. Innocent lives must be protected. There must be humanitarian corridors. There must be humanitarian access, including food, water, electricity and medicines. So that hospitals can keep people alive and so that innocent people do not needlessly die and there must be proper protection for all those who work selflessly so aid can be delivered to victims.
Mr Speaker, there can be no doubt, the responsibility for this crisis lies with Hamas. They have no interest in Palestinian rights. No interest in the security of the people of Gaza. They unleash terror, then hide amongst them. Women and children – used as human shields, hostages held who should be released. They are destroyers – of lives, of hope, of peace. And we cannot give them what they want. We must keep striving for a two-state solution. A Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. We cannot give up on that hope. Cannot let Hamas brutality be a catalyst for conflict in the wider region. Engagement between Israel and Arab nations must be strengthened, not abandoned.
International co-operation, the rule of law, a political road to peace. Hamas want us to abandon all three. And in defiance, we must be resolute on all of them.
And Mr Speaker, these attacks are having a huge impact on communities across the UK. Many in this House will have heard devastating stories from people who have lost friends and family. People deeply worried about the future of those they know in Israel or Palestine. Including the First Minister of Scotland, who I spoke to at the weekend. We stand with all of them. Stand against the worrying rise in Islamophobia. Stand against the antisemitic abuse, threats, and assaults we have seen on British streets, because Mr. Speaker, we must never underestimate the burden of history the Jewish people carry with them.
I do not want Britain to be a place where Jewish schools are closed, Jewish children stay at home out of fear and Jewish families feel compelled to hide their identity. And I do not want Britain to be a place where British Muslims feel they have to apologise for the actions of people who do not act in their name.
We cannot allow community cohesion in our country to be destroyed. We all bear a responsibility to do all we can to stamp out hate. And we fully support Police action to provide extra assistance for our communities.
Mr Speaker, the events of the past week have seen horrors beyond our imagination. So let’s send a strong message. Westminster is united, Britain is united, with Israel, against terror, for international law and the protection of innocent lives
There are difficult days ahead. But our values cannot be compromised.
Terror cannot win.