Jewish Refugees from the Middle East and North Africa

Part of Modern Slavery Act: Independent Review – in Westminster Hall at 5:20 pm on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Independent, Bury South 5:20 pm, 19th June 2019

It is always a pleasure to participate in debates under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Theresa Villiers on securing this important debate.

As the right hon. Lady has made clear, it is important to acknowledge the historical facts relating to Jews forced to flee their homes in the middle east and north Africa. Too often, the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dominated by a narrative that demonises Israel and delegitimises the rights of Jews to self-determination in their own state.

In the aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel, as the right hon. Lady said, a minimum of 850,000 Jews were forced from their homes. From Iraq to Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen, state-sanctioned pogroms descended on Jewish neighbourhoods, killing innocents and destroying ancient synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. New draconian laws prevented Jews from public worship, forced them to carry Jewish identity cards, and seized billions of dollars of their property and assets. Any future peace plan must tackle that issue. It should be part of any full and final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Naturally, there must also be justice for Palestinian refugees, based on credible proposals. As Palestinian leaders have privately accepted for decades, it is not feasible to demand both a Palestinian state and the right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees. Other solutions have to be found, which are just and recognise the losses that refugees have suffered.

It is also time to question the need for Palestinians to live in United Nations-run refugee camps. Surely, they should be encouraged and supported to live in better conditions in Arab countries in the region. That need not in any way compromise or prejudice their rights in any future peace agreement. Refugees, especially children, should not be used as political pawns in the frontline of a public relations campaign.

Regarding these issues, in the past I have accused the Leader of the Opposition of supporting a one-state solution. Today, I reiterate that charge. It is the logical conclusion of the positions he has adopted for decades and his support for the view that the creation of the state of Israel was a catastrophe. His personal attempt to persuade the Labour national executive committee to amend the definition of antisemitism, to allow people to say that the creation and existence of Israel is a racist endeavour, tells us all we need to know about his view of Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

The Leader of the Opposition and many of his supporters support the campaigns of every minority around the world who demand the right to self-determination. Why are Jews the only exception? It is to be hoped that the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry will shine a light on the Leader of the Opposition’s and his inner circle’s failure to act against their allies who are found to promote antisemitic rhetoric and imagery.

In conclusion, it is a source of regret that there is no meaningful political dialogue taking place at the present time between Israelis and Palestinians. Let us hope that this changes, in the interests of peace and stability for both peoples.