"Violence never results in peace and the first step to a two-state solution in Israel and Gaza is to end it"
My father served in the Israeli Defence Forces then joined a group that defended Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories
Many of us joined the Labour Party as we have a deep sense that justice needs to be served, whether to us or our neighbours, but also to those many miles away.
Since coming to Parliament I have championed the human rights and the right to self-determination of many of those around the world.
Whether in Kosovo, where Labour played a huge role in stopping the genocide of Kosovan Muslims; in West Papua, where no reporting is allowed and there are thousands of displaced peoples in the worst conditions; the Kurdish people, Western Sahara, Nagorno-Karabakh, the burgeoning resistance to the Iranian regime, and for me, over the past 18 months, the Ukrainian people who our whole country has given so much support to.
However, I was brought up learning about my own family’s history, displaced after the Holocaust and the worst excesses of Communist Antisemitism to Israel.
Both my parents served as conscripts in the Israeli Defence Forces and my father served in the 1967 War.
After the war he went to Tel Aviv University and was a member of Siah, an Israeli group that not only recognised the right to self-determination of Palestinians, but took action to defend Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories.
At the same time I was made very aware of the status of Israel as a place where our family and others could go and reside if antisemitism arose.
To many people these may seem contradictory, but for those who were born into or grew up in the Jewish left and peace movement, these are our lived reality.
These seeming contradictions are repeated in many places in the world, and when we achieve peace like we did in Northern Ireland, they are accommodated – but always through dialogue and politics and never through war or security solutions.
The horrific murder of so many in Southern Israel of all ages and nationalities on 7 October by the homicidal killers of Hamas and other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, and the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza by military action and disease as well as the less reported scaling up of land theft by settlers in the West Bank, makes the deeply held convictions of those of us in the peace camp harder than ever to achieve.
Since 7 October, 858 Palestinians have been subject to forcible transfer from their homes in the West Bank and Israeli security forces and settlers have killed 118 Palestinians in the West Bank.
This is a direct result of settler violence that has been allowed to not only go unchecked, but also given the green light by the Israeli government. It has reached such a height that Jake Sullivan, United States National Security Adviser, said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu must “rein in” these Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
The immediate task must be to secure the release of those held in the labyrinth of tunnels constructed to unleash the unbridled barbarism of Hamas’s terrorism and to ensure access to food, water, medicines, electricity and fuel and ensure civilians houses and refugee camps will not be targeted.
There must be areas where civilians are safe in Gaza and more land must not be stolen from Palestinians in the West Bank.
We know that behind the scenes, negotiations between the parties involved in the conflict are taking place in private with a focus on these issues. Even David Barnea, the director of Mossad, has been to Qatar to reportedly negotiate for the release of hostages according to the Wall Street Journal.
The movement of aid and release of hostages both require a cessation of hostilities. Pedro Sanchez, who as well as being Spanish Prime Minister is President of Socialist International, put forward a motion to the Council of the European Union to hold a peace conference in about six months on the conflict between Israel and Hamas. We need to add our voice to these calls.
The UN General Assembly voted on a resolution calling for an “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” and “immediate, full, sustained, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency”.
This was supported by countries including France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand, which is a position we should all be working to achieve.
Sadly, there was a failed Canadian amendment to this resolution, which called for “unequivocally rejecting and condemning the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023 and condemning the taking of hostages demanding the safety, well-being and humane treatment of those hostages in compliance with international law and their immediate and unconditional release”.
The private and public discussions are ongoing but for those in Gaza – whether in the tunnels or the refugee camps – time is frighteningly short to save their lives.
We could see outbreaks of disease like Cholera and Dysentry as well as more deaths from military action. These will affect everyone in Gaza, be they civilians, humanitarian aid workers, or those held hostage in terrorist tunnels.
Aid cannot be delivered under fire and Hospitals cannot operate when they have imminent risk of missile strike. The longer and worse it becomes for both Gazan civilians and the hostages, the more we risk a spread of the conflict. We have already seen attacks on US bases in Iraq and missiles head to Israel from Iranian backed Houthi Groups in Yemen.
All of this underlines that there is no security approach in the world that delivers long term peace. The experiences of both UK and Spain show this; we have seen an end to terrorist attacks by those pursuing self-determination in both countries after they decided to pursue the path of politics and negotiation.
The international community played a huge role and we must once more in Israel and Palestine if we are to achieve a lasting solution of two states for two peoples.
Alex Sobel is the Labour MP for Leeds North West.