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We are Westminster MPs of Palestinian and Israeli descent – this is our call for peace

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Fri 27 Oct 2023 10.00 BST

We are deeply concerned by the lack of nuance in this debate. Both Israelis and Palestinians have been failed.

Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs and international development.

Alex Sobel is the Labour MP for Leeds North West

Much has been said in the past three weeks about the tragedy of Israelis and Palestinians, not least in the Houses of Parliament. For us, it is deeply personal. We are the only two British MPs with parents who grew up in Israel and Palestine. Though we represent different political parties, this is not the first time we’ve worked together on this conflict. However, we feel this is the most urgent, and most important, intervention we have had to make. Israelis and Palestinians need support from their friends abroad, and our own communities here in the UK that are affected by the conflict need reassurance as the Middle East conflict spreads to the streets of the UK.

We are concerned by how little space there is for nuance in parliament and in wider society on this issue. We feel compelled to lead by example, and to build consensus around clear calls to action in the short term, as well as longer-term plans – which we think can be supported across the spectrum. We know, from images and personal accounts, the horrors that Israelis and Palestinians have faced this month. Israelis are traumatised from the unimaginable crimes that Hamas terrorists committed when they entered Israeli towns, torturing and massacring men, women and children, murdering more than 1,400 people, and taking more than 220 people hostage. Israel’s military response has resulted in the displacement of more than a million Palestinians from northern Gaza and the death of more than 6,000 people in aerial bombardments. The situation on the ground is dire, and adequate aid isn’t being allowed into Gaza.

We put these narratives side by side not to compare, or excuse, but so people understand the raw pain that both Israelis and Palestinians are experiencing, rather than choosing one side and ignoring the other. One dead child killed in war is one too many. Showing sympathy for what Israelis have experienced does not equal supporting Israel’s government, and standing in solidarity with Palestinians does not signal support of Hamas. It must be possible to show empathy with both peoples, so that we can find a way through this darkness.

Right now, we must work to minimise further civilian casualties – the numbers of which are already too high. International pressure is needed to ensure that other regional actors are not drawn into the war. Calls for a humanitarian pause in fighting must be enacted – on both sides – to allow proper aid into Gaza to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding, as well as facilitate the release of the hostages. While eyes are all turned to Gaza, we cannot ignore the West Bank where settler violence, demolitions and evictions, which were already at an all-time high, now risk spiralling out of control. It is both the responsibility of Israel and the international community to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Palestinians in Gaza – more than half of whom are children – must have access to clean water, fuel, medical supplies, electricity and food. It is not reasonable or moral to prevent children from accessing basic survival needs. All Israeli hostages in Gaza must be released immediately, unharmed. We have been touched by the pleas of families we have met, who are living a nightmare as they beg for their loved ones to be returned home. This is an urgent priority.

Doctors in Gaza use phone torches as hospitals run out of fuel for generators – video report In order to maintain the international community’s commitment to a future Palestinian state, there must be a cast-iron guarantee from the Israeli government that Palestinians who were forced to evacuate northern Gaza will be allowed to return when the war is over. Permanent displacement isn’t an option. Furthermore, the international community will need to work, yet again, to reconstruct Gaza, much of which has been turned to dust.

Israel has the right to defend its citizens from the very real threat of Hamas. We are not naive to the challenges of fighting a terror organisation embedded in a densely populated civilian area that pays no regard to the rules of war. However, international law has to guide us and ensure restraint so that damage to infrastructure in Gaza is minimised to prevent further loss of life. The calls we make aren’t “choosing a side”. Israelis and Palestinians have been failed by the international community. How many rounds of violence must they live through? How many times has the human rights community and peace camp warned us things will get worse? How many condemnations and statements have been issued by governments worldwide?

This has been a terrible lesson – but it must be a lesson. When this war is over, and casualties are counted, the only choice for the international community is to not only call for, but urgently work for a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The terrible status quo that has left millions of Palestinians stateless, living without their basic rights under Israeli occupation, and Israel without secure borders, must end. That will require us to harness the energies of the US, the EU, UK and the Arab world. We cannot raise our hands in despair and give up when things get hard. We have to put every ounce of energy into making it happen.

We must promise that, out of this nightmare, we will build a future for Israelis and Palestinians so everyone can live in peace, dignity and security. There must be two states for two peoples. It may look impossible right now, but there is no other choice.

  • Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs and international development.

  • Alex Sobel is the Labour MP for Leeds North West


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