John’s Speech on Gaza

Yesterday (28/10/2015) John spoke in the Member’s Debate on Gaza, you can read a copy of John’s speech below.


John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):

I congratulate Sandra White on the motion. Here we are again discussing Gaza, but not in the positive terms that we would like.

We welcome the UN report—the UN is an authoritative world body, as Sandra White said—but the content will surprise no one. The discussion should be about people and the effect on them of the eight years of blockade, three wars in six years and the “accelerated de-development”—a strange phrase—in the Gaza strip. There are clearly human consequences to that. The blockade is often talked about in abstract terms, but it is real. There are 1.8 million Palestinians, and that number is expected to grow to 2.1 million by 2020.

The motion talks about justice, which is what I will focus on. I will talk briefly about the divestment programme but, first, I will talk about the arms trade.

The arms trade the world over has a pernicious effect on humanity. It is not an issue for others; it is an issue for Scotland and an issue for now. Sandra White asked what more we can do. We can commend the Scottish Government for the support that it has shown to Gaza but we can also legitimately criticise it because, last month, it gave £2.5 million to a military corporation that made $3.614 billion of profit. That corporation is Lockheed Martin. I looked at its website today. It says:

“Lockheed Martin is proud of the significant role it has fulfilled in the security of the State of Israel. The company is proud of the C-130 and F-16 aircraft that are faithfully serving the Israel Air Force since the 1970s and 1980s.”

Presiding Officer, £2.5 million could have done a lot of good in Gaza. One of the many aid organisations that provides assistance there says:

“Many families in Gaza are literally on the breadline unable to cover the basic cost of living. Our family sponsorship project will help 120 displaced families with rent, food and medical expenses.”

The organisation encourages us to sponsor a family for a £200 a month. The sum of £2.5 million would be nine years’ support for those families.

Lockheed Martin is not alone. We have Raytheon in Glenrothes, which is also involved in Gaza. Some of us will be uncomfortable with talk of the arms trade and the fact that the white paper on independence mentioned the growth of the arms trade in Scotland, but we must link our fine words about peaceful resolution and humanity with our deeds.

I encourage people to support Gaza effectively through boycotts, divestments and sanctions. That movement started in 2005. It was inspired by South Africa—an example in which we can see positive development. Israel’s regime is one of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. It is attacking the basics of living.

Actions speak louder than words, so let us speak by our actions. It is shameful that, in the past two years, our parliamentary pension scheme has increased its investment in arms companies by 35 per cent, to more than £500,000. We must address that.

We must continue to condemn the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. I am on the side of proper housing, proper healthcare—including mental health care—a proper water supply and a positive future for everyone. That has nothing to do with race, religion or geography. I am happy to condemn violence. Discussion, words and debates such as this will move things

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the findings of the UN report that suggest that the Gaza strip could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to what it terms de-development, the process whereby development is not only hindered but reversed, stating that “Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza, rendering their economic wellbeing worse than the level of two decades previous”; can understand the feelings of many that the Israeli Government’s action and inaction with regards to Gaza are deliberate and leading to the genocide of those living there; supports those Israelis, Palestinians, Jews and non-Jews alike from Glasgow, Scotland and around the world who believe in mutual respect and understanding as cornerstones to a just solution in Palestine and Israel while condemning violence and extremism in any form; further believes that this groundswell of support for justice will only grow should the current situation not change, and hopes that, mindful of such, wise counsel will prevail.