John’s Speech on Gaza

I, too, thank Drew Smith for securing the debate and for the well-crafted motion to which other members have referred. I should declare that I am a member of the cross-party group on Palestine and of Amnesty and Oxfam, for whom—as others have done—I thank for their briefings. What the whole affair has cried out for is honest brokers, and such organisations have performed that role.

A number of terms have been repeated throughout the debate, one of which is “disproportionate”. I certainly view the actions of the Israeli Defence Force as disproportionate, but I am concerned that that might suggest that, if there had been less bombing and less abuse hurled at the Gazan population, that would have been acceptable. As other members have done, I am happy to say unreservedly that violence from whatever quarter is unacceptable.

The term “indiscriminate” has been used, too, but I am not sure that Israeli soldiers writing in children’s school books in schools that they have destroyed and writing the names of their regiments on classroom walls are anything other than calculated acts. I worry that that is part of a wider contempt for the mere existence of the Gazan community.

The arms industry is pernicious worldwide, and it has been heavily involved in the conflict. The Israeli Government has a wonderful test centre of Gazan guinea pigs or sitting ducks right on its doorstep. It is my view that there are sick minds at play. We do not need new weapons; as my colleague Claudia Beamish said, we do not need so-called smart weapons. We saw at first hand one of the consequences of those so-called smart weapons—the deaths of 11 members of one family in a very confined area. Therefore, I am proud that the Scottish Government has called for an arms embargo. Like my colleague Cara Hilton, I contrast that with the virtual silence from elsewhere.

I commend my colleague Jean Urquhart’s motion, to which Alison Johnstone alluded, which referred to a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. I think that that is the route that we need to take. Other members have talked about the role of the UN. I welcome the description of events by the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as “intolerable” and “unacceptable”.

We have heard about the challenges of delivering aid, which are compounded by the dearth of infrastructure that exists in Gaza.

I want to say something in relation to Drew Smith’s comments about the Scottish community and what we heard from Mr Macintosh. In my view, a victim is a victim. I do not need to know whether they profess to have a faith or have no faith—I think that a victim is a victim, full stop. I abhor Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and I commend the work of Jewish communities such as those in Cleveland and Boston in the US, which have been very active, as well as the organisation Codepink.

The motion talks about living in peace with dignity and security. I commend to people who have not already seen it the YouTube clip of Rafeef Ziadah—I hope that I have pronounced her name right—reading her wonderful poem, “We teach life, sir”. There is a line in it that goes, “Every day we wake up and we teach life.”

Life will be intolerable for the citizens of Gaza if the blockade is maintained. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN have said that it is illegal. We must end that blockade now, and we must renew our efforts to ensure that there is a lasting peace and a two-state solution.

You can watch John’s speech here: <ahref=”″>”;

The motion debated was as below.

S4M-10675 Gaza

That the Parliament regrets and unreservedly repudiates the ongoing violence and loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, which, according to journalists running risks to their own safety to report from the area, stood, as at 28 July 2014, at more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths and 45 Israelis; considers that the continuation of violence will further escalate the already severe and enduring humanitarian catastrophe in the densely populated Gaza Strip; believes that the number of Palestinian civilian fatalities, including many women and children, indicates a disproportionate action by the Israeli military; condemns both indiscriminate rocket attacks and military bombardment of civilians and believes that hospitals and schools, in particular, should be places of safety and therefore also condemns attacks on them or their use to store or fire weapons; confirms its view that the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in the continued failure to achieve a political solution to a problem that cannot be solved by violence; supports the comments made by the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on 24 July, who has described the situation as an “intolerable, unacceptable crisis” and agrees with him that it is imperative for the killing to stop; notes calls for the international community to fully use its influence to break the cycle of failed talks, continuing occupation and outbreaks of violence that threaten the prospect of a two-state solution by renewed and robust efforts to broker peace and justice in the region with the objectives, amongst others, of an immediate interim ceasefire, a long-term plan to prevent further violence, efforts to aid the necessary rebuilding of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, including the importation of vital humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and crucially a process that can finally lead to the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel in accordance with previous UN resolutions, and notes calls for the UK Government to support these objectives and to prohibit the supply of equipment or parts of equipment that are likely to be used against civilians and for the Scottish Government to do all that it can in support of the same and to foster and maintain good community relations between all religious and ethnic groups who have their home in Glasgow and across Scotland and who, in common with people around the world, wish to see a settlement that respects the right of all human beings, irrespective of religion or race, to live in peace with both dignity and security.