Last night I was please to be able to speak in a brief debate about Gaza. You can watch the debate and my speech at the bottom of this page, but here’s what I said.
Greens across Europe and the world continue to call for a sustained and secure ceasefire in Gaza, for negotiations between Israel and Hamas and for a renewed commitment to on-going peace.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s support for an arms embargo and the stronger line of support for the Palestinian people that has been taken by Scottish ministers. I ask that the Minister for External Affairs continues to strive to ensure that the UK is fully aware of the urgent need for such an embargo, and that it is fully aware of a newspaper article over the weekend that reported the Israeli use of Scots-made laser guidance systems in the conflict.
We can put pressure on the Israeli state through a targeted boycott and disinvestment campaign. We can join the efforts of the international community to pursue a lasting peace. Along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African activist who fought to end apartheid, we can join a worldwide campaign calling on corporations that are profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories to pull out their funding. By putting economic pressure on the Israeli Government, Scotland and the UK could play a part in the international effort to control the situation.
When I spoke at Saturday’s rally in Edinburgh, it was clear that the strength of feeling among the general public and communities across Scotland on the issue is growing. That is not surprising. In Palestine, 1.8 million people live in an area of 140 square miles. It is one of the most densely populated parts of the globe. The humanitarian crisis is deepening, with 200,000 people displaced and 65,000 homes destroyed. Where will those people return to? The average Palestinian is only 17 years old, so it is no surprise that UNICEF has reported that 400,000 children need immediate psychological help to overcome the trauma that they have experienced during the Israeli onslaught.
Pernille Ironside, the head of UNICEF’s Gaza office, also warned that children are at risk of contracting communicable diseases because of the lack of power and sanitation in the blockaded Palestinian territory. Gazans have been left without clean water for weeks.
The Church of Scotland world mission council’s report, “Invest in Peace” says:
“As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.” Despite that, it continues. We must ensure that international laws, including humanitarian laws, are applied.
The blockade and entirely disproportionate military bombardment have led to the destruction that we see, but can hardly contemplate. We have seen the destruction of industry, fishing rights are massively restricted, farming is dangerous and challenging, and schools and hospitals—places that should be sanctuaries—have been hit. I, too, support calls for action on procurement: companies should not benefit, through public contracts, from the Israeli blockade.
Concerns have been expressed by my constituents on the delays in evacuating patients. I would be grateful if the Minister could advise what action is being taken to establish a recognised transfer and treatment protocol, in order to save as many lives as possible.
However distant the prospect of achieving peace and justice might be, we must continue to work to achieve that goal, because a just peace in Israel and Palestine could be the catalyst for achieving wider peace in the region and across the world.