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Backbench Business — Palestine and Israel

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 6:43 pm on 13th October 2014.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton 6:43 pm, 13th October 2014

There are 6 million Israeli Jews. There are 1,600,000 Palestinians in Israel, 2,700,000 on the west bank and 1,800,000 in Gaza. The Palestinians now outnumber the Israeli Jews, and that is without taking into account the 5 million Palestinians in refugee camps and in the diaspora. The big difference, of course, is that the Israelis have a secure state and the Palestinians live under oppression day after day.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind wove a fantasy that the Jews were reunited when the state of Israel was created and that the Palestinians were split, and we have just heard again about the wickedness of Hamas—I do not condone what Hamas does, and I realise that it is a useful tool for those who wish to portray the Palestinians as divided and unreliable. His fantasy was that all was harmonious when Israel was created, but the Israelis were divided into three warring factions at that time: the Haganah, representing the official Jewish agency; the terrorist organisation Irgun Zvai Leumi; and the terrorist Stern gang. Israel nearly broke out into civil war immediately after it was founded because Irgun insisted on having its own army in an independent state. So the idea that Israel was somehow born in a moment of paradise and that all that surrounds the Palestinians is stress and damage is a fantasy.

Where are we now? The situation was not ideal for Israel then, and it is not ideal for the Palestinians now, but divided Israel survived and survives even though it is still divided. Look at the amazing divisions in the Israeli Government, with the extraordinary extremism of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which makes the UK Independence party look like cosy internationalists, yet it is part of the Government.

The Israelis are harming the Palestinians day after day. Last week the US State Department denounced a settlement expansion of 2,600 that the Israelis are planning. Last week the new president of the New Israel Fund, Talia Sasson—Jewish and pro-Israel—denounced the expansion of settlements again in the west bank. The Israelis, with the checkpoints, the illegal wall and the settlements, are making a coherent Palestinian state impossible.

That is why it is essential to pass this motion, because it would be a game changer. The recognition of Palestine by the British House of Commons would affect the international situation. This House can create an historic new situation. I call on right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House to give the Palestinians their rights and show the Israelis that they cannot suppress another people all the time. It is not Jewish for the Israelis to do that. They are harming the image of Judaism, and terrible outbreaks of anti-Semitism are taking place. I want to see an end to anti-Semitism, and I want to see a Palestinian state.