Occupied Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:03 pm on 29th April 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee 4:03 pm, 29th April 2004

One did not need to hear the disclaimer at the beginning of the speech by Mr. Davies that he was not a party to the report and was not a member of the Select Committee when it compiled its report, because his stupefying ignorance of the situation, as emerged from his speech, demonstrates that entirely. His response to the intervention by Tony Baldry about the relationship with the IRA bombing campaign in this country showed that he did not even understand that. Perhaps his leader was right to remove him as Northern Ireland spokesman.

My city, Manchester, had the whole of its centre destroyed by an IRA bomb. What did we do? We held an Irish festival. We hold an Irish festival every year. It is about reconciliation, not revenge or vindictiveness. The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford says that the Israeli Government have the right or the duty to defend the lives of their citizens. If that is their right or duty, they are singularly, indeed spectacularly, unsuccessful, because more Israeli civilians have been murdered by terrorists in the period in which Ariel Sharon has been Prime Minister of the state of Israel than in any other period during the 56 years of the existence of that state.

Last year, an article by Avraham Burg, who, until last year, was the Speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, was published in the Israeli press. Last month, that article was republished in The Sunday Telegraph. What did he say?

"Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated. We could kill 1,000 ringleaders a day"— that is a reference to targeted assassinations—

"and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come from below—from the wells of hatred and anger, from the 'infrastructures' of injustice and moral corruption."

The phrase "moral corruption" is as accurate a way of describing the Israeli Government as it is possible to find. Ehud Barak, a very fine man, whom I met when I was in Israel not long ago, made an offer. I agree that it was an error by the Palestinians to reject that offer in the way they did. However, Ariel Sharon's whole life has been based on killing people, first as a soldier and then as somebody who connived in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila and who was condemned by the Israeli Kahane commission for his role in that.

Ariel Sharon is the person who, when I was in Israel, went on to the Temple Mount when opposition leader as an act of deliberate provocation. It is perfectly true that the Camp David negotiations and the Taba negotiations did not end in agreement. However, it is an interesting fact that, in the period between Camp David and Taba, efforts at negotiations were continuing and that, up to the moment when Sharon went to the Temple Mount, the situation was relatively peaceful.

At the weekend on which Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount, I was visiting friends in northern Israel. We had a meal at an Arab restaurant just outside Haifa. We were received with cordiality and that wonderful welcome that Arabs offer their guests. That was on the Friday evening. By the end of the weekend, there were riots at that restaurant. Those riots were provoked by Ariel Sharon.

If there is one individual in the entire world who can be regarded as primarily responsible for the deaths of more than 600 Israelis at the hands of vicious, foul terrorists, it is Ariel Sharon. Every Israeli who dies may primarily be murdered by Palestinian terrorists, but they are victims of Ariel Sharon and his policies as well. It is as well that that should be placed on the record.