[Ann Winterton in the Chair] — Palestinian Territories (Economic Aid)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:59 am on 27th January 2009.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee 9:59 am, 27th January 2009

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Martin Linton on securing the debate. It is important that we consider the serious humanitarian consequences of Israel defending its citizens against the rockets of a terrorist organisation that has a charter proclaiming jihad, and that plants its weapons in civilian areas using civilians as human shields. Regardless of the origins of the situation, it certainly is true that there is a great deal of human suffering, and it must be addressed.

I shall concentrate my few points on what ought to be done, but, before doing so, I wish to raise one point about the partiality—or otherwise—of those giving some of the information about the scale of the disaster. We have heard a great deal of testimony from a number of Norwegian doctors, and particularly from Dr. Mads Gilbert. It is important to register that Dr. Gilbert is a well known activist on Palestinian issues and, much more than that, some years ago gave to his local Norwegian newspaper an interview in which he praised the 9/11 bombers. I state those facts just to put a question mark against whether Dr. Gilbert and others of his ilk are as impartial as the media believe them to be. Nevertheless, there is a major humanitarian crisis, and we need to concentrate on what needs to be done.

It is important that the ceasefire, which, even this morning, seems very fragile, holds. That means an end to arms smuggling and to the negative influence of Iran and Syria and that Egypt and other international observers must play a fuller part in border monitoring. It is important that the crossings be reopened fully, and I am pleased that the crossings at Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz and Erez have been opened. The Karni crossing has been closed since Hamas attacked Palestinian Authority monitors there, but I hope that the situation can be rectified. It is important that the 2005 European Union agreement on monitoring the crossings and on movement and access is revived, but that means Hamas co-operation and an end to Hamas attacks on Palestinian Authority members.

I fully agree with the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who said that we need a stable political structure as a background against which individual agreements can be made and held to. That means a unified Palestinian approach, which, the Secretary-General suggested, should be under President Abbas. That is important, but I recognise that it may be difficult, given that, before and during the crisis, Hamas attacked and murdered several PA personnel. That has left a great deal of bitterness, but I hope that it is possible to form a unified Palestinian order to try to deal with the problems.

Aid should go to Gaza, and it is vital that it goes to where it is needed, but that means that Hamas should stop hijacking aid for use on its black market. For example, around 20 January, a Jordanian trucking company suspended its operations after its truck was stolen at gunpoint, and, on 5 January, Hamas opened fire on a convoy of aid trucks, seizing food and medical supplies. It is believed to have been done so that Hamas could either keep them for its own use, or exercise its own black market. That is not the way to bring humanitarian help effectively to the Palestinian people, and such activities should stop. It is also important that Hamas does not abuse humanitarian efforts. Cement and metal are needed for reconstruction, but, in the past, Hamas has built rockets from pipes imported to rebuild Gaza infrastructure.

These are serious points that must be made if we are genuinely to address ourselves to how we can help the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza. The need is great and reconstruction is required, but that means that there must be peace, reconciliation and an end to Hamas aggression.

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David Forster
Posted on 29 Jan 2009 3:37 pm (Report this annotation)

If Luise Ellman thinks it is only fanatical pro-Palestinians who report on the horrors of Gaza, she should read this account by a French Parliamentarian who has been there since the bombing. She will realise that just and humane people are appalled and disgusted by what Israel has done there.

http://palestine-diplo.blogspot.com/2009/01/president-franci...

Get real Louise!