Thirsting for Justice- John’s Speech

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): I congratulate my colleague and friend Claudia Beamish on securing the debate and on the content of her speech, which was much appreciated. Many people will be astonished that, in the 21st century, we are having this debate. Claudia Beamish has covered much of what took place during our visit. I found the visit humbling.

What the Israeli defence people call operation pillar of defence, the Palestinians call the eight-day war, which was a war that took a significant toll. Language is terribly important, and the Israeli defence people use words such as precision. Just a short while ago, I rechecked online and found that the website proudly shows the precision attack on a military leader, as they call him, in a street. Most certainly, something struck a vehicle and it exploded but, of course, the website does not share the fact that one of the victims was a nine-year-old child.

One of the first places that Claudia Beamish and I visited was the Al Dula family house, which had also been the target of a precision air strike. That precision strike had killed a large family, including women and children, who were gathering for wedding celebrations. Precision is important, and the Israeli authorities know precisely what they are doing. That is not just my view; it is the view of others.

I commend to members the Friends of the Earth report “Environmental Nakba: Environmental injustice and violations of the Israeli occupation of Palestine”, which talks, first of all, about the world’s apparent indifference to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly those in Gaza. It goes on to say:

“Even more ignored has been the wholesale grabbing of fertile land and water resources and the environmental pollution and destruction due to industrial and nuclear waste dumping.”

Friends of the Earth talk about how

“environmental justice is intrinsically linked to social justice”—

we would all agree with that—

“human dignity, respect for human rights and the self-determination of peoples.”

Those are all clearly absent in that population. It is a population of 1.5 million in one of the most densely populated places on earth, and 1.1 million of them are refugees.

During the assault, the Israeli defence force attacked a police station that was beside one of the food distribution points. It is a damning indictment on the world that 80 per cent of the population relies on aid.

In its report, Friends of the Earth goes on to talk about “Land grabs and water apartheid”:

“Land can be arbitrarily designated as required for security purposes or as closed military areas”.

It also mentions:

“The expansion of areas that are off limits to Palestinians”.

That was sadly apparent on Friday or Saturday, when a mentally ill woman who had wandered into such an area was shot repeatedly.

We are talking about basic things. What is more important than food, shelter and water? The water resources are being exploited, and they are extremely limited. In the short time that I have, I certainly cannot go into the detail that I would like to.

The blockade on Gaza is having a terrible toll. The Egyptian situation has not helped because of the closure of the tunnels. The sewage, which is dumped raw into the Mediterranean Sea, takes a toll more widely: the sea surrounds not only Gaza or Israel; many countries are affected by that pollution.

I would like the rule of law and basic humanity to be recognised. Climate change will affect us all, and the demands on water around the globe will be an issue, not least for countries that are upstream of other countries. Israel is in a position to do something. Claudia Beamish talked about deliberate and systematic destruction—that was referred to in one of the official reports—but I would call it mindless and brutal vandalism.

I am grateful to the Minister for External Affairs and International Development for his support and interest in the matter and for the all-party support that exists. I commend Claudia Beamish again for her work on it, and I look forward to hearing the other speeches.