MPs urged the UK government to “put a cost” on Israeli violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) during a debate on home demolitions yesterday.
The debate, which officially addressed “the effect of Israeli demolitions on Palestinian communities”, saw cross-party criticism of Israeli actions in the oPt, and demands for government action.
“Condemnation alone is not enough,” said Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who tabled the debate. “What has decades of condemning illegal settlement expansion led to? A mushrooming of settlements across the Palestinian territory and 600,000 illegal settlers.”
Kinnock urged British officials to “disincentivise the settlement enterprise and put a cost on the violation of international law”, adding: “We in this House can no longer stand by and do nothing.”
“What I really hope is that the Government will close the gap between rhetoric and reality,” Kinnock said, directing his remarks to Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt.
“We now need to turn that belief into concrete action and finally start to make progress on the desperate and challenging situation in the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank.”
The debate heard considerable concern about planned Israeli demolitions of entire Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, such as Susiya and Khan Al-Ahmar.
Labour MP Naz Shah, citing Amnesty International, stressed that the demolition of Palestinian communities constitute “a war crime”, adding: “These are children who will be displaced from their families in the middle of winter with nowhere to go. It is an illegal act.”
A small number of MPs used their interventions to defend Israel, without addressing the issue of the debate, namely the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli occupation forces.
Conservative MP Matthew Offord asked Kinnock why he had never spoken about the issue of “Turkish settlers…in north Cyprus”, prompting an intervention by the chair, MP Mark Pritchard.
Other pro-Israel advocates, such as Labour MPs Louise Ellman, Joan Ryan and Ian Austin, all raised well-worn Israeli talking points about Hamas and “incitement”, and in the case of Ryan, alleged bad faith on the part of those MPs speaking up about demolitions.
Responding on behalf of the government, Burt described Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes as “entirely unacceptable”, adding that “in all but the most exceptional cases, they are contrary to international humanitarian law”. The minister did not, however, say anything to suggest that UK government opposition would escalate beyond calling on Israel “not to go ahead with these plans”.