Your Member of Parliament for Harrow East

Andrew Percy MP

Speech on the Middle East

Many congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your elevation to your current position, some 30 years after we first met in a Committee Room elsewhere in this noble House.


The first, fundamental duty of any Government is to safeguard their citizens and borders, and to look after their people at home and abroad. As we come up to the 70th anniversary of the battle of Britain, we may ask, who would have denied our nation the right and duty to safeguard ourselves against the Nazis? Who would condemn Britain's historical roles, both in the Middle East and blockading the African coast to enforce the abolition of slavery back in the 19th century?


Many of our noted justifications for invading sovereign countries have been based on safeguarding our safety and security. Our reason for invading Iraq was that weapons of mass destruction could be implemented on our sovereign soil within 45 minutes. We are still searching for those weapons of mass destruction, but that was the reason that we were given. Our justification for occupying Afghanistan is, of course, to prevent al-Qaeda and other forces from setting up camps, planting bombs and damaging British sovereign territory. We must say to the Government of the day that as we win that fight, we must ensure that al-Qaeda and other such dark forces do not set themselves up in other countries, such as Yemen. We must remember that that is a big danger that we face.


Israel has fought a number of wars over the years since it was set up in 1948. Its recent experience of rockets and bombings, including suicide bombings, has been traumatic for all residents. The people of Israel have witnessed frequent suicide bombings, and suffered as a result of them. When the Israeli Government set up the wall, the incidence of suicide bombings dramatically reduced. If one were an Israeli citizen, one would say that the Israeli Government had done a wondrous thing. However, if one were a Palestinian, one would say, "You have done terrible things to us."

Equally, what is Israel's justification of the blockade? It is quite clear that since the blockade was implemented, the incidence of bombings and rockets coming into Israel has reduced, although such incidents have not ceased. The reality is that given the state of war between Israel and Hamas, Israel has the absolute right to enforce the position that rockets, bombs, missiles and ammunition must not enter Palestine or any area that can then attack the state of Israel.


We are challenged on the position of humanitarian aid, yet the state of Israel allows some 15,000 tonnes per week of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. However, there is the role of Hamas: it holds up the aid. It uses it as an incentive to control the people of Palestine, and as a means of repression. Until it ceases its repression, the people of Palestine will not see the benefit of having a properly, democratically elected Government who truly represent them.


As has been said in many speeches today, Hamas says in its founding statement that it wants to destroy the state of Israel and wipe it off the face of the planet. It is very difficult to negotiate with people whose fundamental aim is to destroy one's Government and one's very being.


We must challenge the position taken on the flotilla and ask what its purpose was. Was it to deliver humanitarian aid? Absolutely; most of the people on those ships wanted to make sure that the citizens of Palestine and Gaza received humanitarian aid. However, behind it was IHH, an organisation with fundamental links to Hamas and al-Qaeda.


The reality is that it sponsors terrorism, and it wanted to breach the blockade so that subsequently, once the blockade was removed, guns, rockets and other ammunition could be brought in, so that bombs could rain once again on Israel. It is understandable that the Israeli defence forces sought to prevent that from happening. On five of the six ships, they did so in a perfectly reasonable way, and people went about their business properly.


Let us look at what happened on 31st May, particularly on the Mavi Marmara. Many of the individuals concerned appeared to wish to be martyrs to the great cause. They attacked Israeli soldiers-remember, Israeli soldiers were injured during the boarding, and the reality is that they were attacked with weapons. There are two sides to the issue. Is it any surprise that Israel is concerned about inquiries? The Goldstone inquiry was almost certainly perceived in Israel as being biased against that state. When the inquiry came before the United Nations, the Labour Government's representative refused even to vote on the issue.


The state of Israel rejected the inquiry as being biased and unfair. The reality is that theBritish Government refused even to vote on the issue; they did not vote for or against it. They did not even abstain. They just refused to vote. It is perceived as being not a fair and reasonable inquiry. On that basis, the state of Israel will most certainly say, "If we are to have another such inquiry, that can hardly be perceived to be fair or reasonable." That is one reason why there is a difficulty with the whole approach.


There is, of course, a way forward on the situation. First, Hamas and Hezbollah must renounce violence, stop bombing Israel and recognise Israel's right to exist. Israel must then lift the blockade, allow humanitarian aid in and ensure that a two-state solution can prosper and grow in an atmosphere of negotiation, peace and tranquillity. That will be hard on both sides, but that is what is required in the region to ensure that we move forward to two independent states able to exist side by side. Until all the nations that surround the state of Israel can accept Israel's right to exist, and Iran retreats from its stated position of trying to destroy the state of Israel, potentially with nuclear weapons, the situation in the Middle East will remain fragile.


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