Thank you to the hundreds of constituents who have contacted me regarding the horrific situation in Israel and Gaza.
I recognise the very strongly-held views which people hold on this issue and the grief expressed by communities in Lewisham East, in the United Kingdom, and across the world. Since events began to unfold, I have received correspondence on a wide range of topics related to Israel and Gaza. I have therefore tried to respond to as many of these as possible below.
The situation in Israel and Gaza will continue to evolve. I will therefore seek to update my response below as the situation develops and when I receive large numbers of correspondence from constituents.
On 7 October 2023, Israel was the victim of terrorism on an unimaginable scale by Hamas. Men, women, children and babies were murdered and over 200 hostages were taken. This includes British citizens.
I condemn this terror and stand in support of Israel in its time of agony. In my view, Israel has the right to defend itself and to keep its people safe just like any other country.
This must, however, be done in accordance with international law. This means that civilians must not be targeted and the innocent lives of children, men and women must be protected. Food, fuel, electricity and medicines must also be accessible to Palestinians.
In Israel and Gaza, there are now families grieving: Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. It is heart-breaking to see such suffering and it is vital that the international community now steps up and plays its part to ensure that the brutality we have witnessed does not become a catalyst for escalation in the wider region.
It is also vital that the international community takes steps to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. We cannot and must not close our eyes to Palestinian suffering.
In Gaza, humanitarian access is of the upmost urgency. There is not enough food, clean water is running out, and hospitals are going without medicine and electricity. As a result, babies are lying in incubators which are having to be switched off.
The recent agreement to allow the flow of humanitarian aid through the Rafah crossing from Egypt is an important and welcome step. However, the trucks that have been allowed through are nowhere near enough to meet the humanitarian need facing Gaza.
Gaza urgently needs safe, unhindered, and regular deliveries of humanitarian aid. The efforts of the international community should be focused on brokering humanitarian pauses to guarantee this as well as establishing clear humanitarian corridors for those escaping violence and ensuring proper protection for workers delivering aid to victims.
I welcome the British Government’s increased funding for humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, the Government must now stand ready to ensure aid reaches the right places and to deploy British medical support teams. It must also work with international partners so that UN agencies have the long-term resources they need.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary is right to call for the Government to appoint a UK Special Coordinator for International Aid to Gaza and to match the EU’s pledge to triple humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
Closer to home, I am deeply concerned about the consequences for communities in the UK. I condemn the rise of antisemitic abuse and of Islamophobia, and support police action and extra assistance to ensure our communities are a safe place for Jews and Muslims.
Lewisham has a proud history of developing community cohesion and interfaith working, of celebrating faith, and of standing against hate. It is crucial that these values endure, and I will always work alongside groups across Lewisham East to ensure this.
Responsibility for this current situation sits firmly with Hamas, a heinous organisation which is still holding more than 200 people hostage. While the recent release of a small number of hostages is an important step, Hamas must release all hostages without delay and ensure that they are given access to urgent medical support.
Although current events make it hard to envision, I do not want to lose sight of my hope for a peaceful future where Israeli citizens can live free from the fear of terrorist attacks and where Palestinian people can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities which we too often take for granted.
That enduring hope must be at the heart of aspirations for a two-state solution established through a political road to peace. That is why adherence to international law is essential and why the UK must play its part in ensuring that adherence.
I once again thank constituents who have contacted me to share their views and express their outrage and sorrow at the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza. I share many of those feelings and will keep constituents’ views in mind as the situation develops. Additionally, if any constituent has relatives in Gaza who may require my assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me on Janet.Daby.MP@parliament.uk.