A woman holds a Union flag umbrella in front of the Big Ben clock tower (R) and the Houses of Parliament in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Pro-Israel MPs showed that Parliament is not dominated by the Jewish state’s critics, during a debate in the House of Commons’ second chamber, Westminster Hall, initiated by Labor Friends of Israel.
The LFI vice chairman, Scottish MP Michael McCann, launched a strong attack last week on Hamas and its role destabilizing Gaza in a 90-minute debate that, for once, had more pro-Israel MPs contributing than usual.
He said that, all too often when violence breaks out in Gaza, there is a rush by MPs to condemn Israel matched by a “pedestrian-paced admonishment of the Hamas violence that has started that same trouble.”
McCann laid responsibility for the last three Gaza wars and the problems since last summer squarely with Hamas and he urged that it is important to break the cycle of Hamas not supporting the people of Gaza and continuing its war against Israel.
“I will put on the record that Hamas is preparing for further attacks on Israel as this debate takes place,” he said before calling on the international community to put an end to the threats posed by Hamas and other groups by “halting rearmament and urgently pursuing disarmament in the Gaza Strip.”
He accused Hamas of telling a lie when they claim they are concerned about the welfare of the people in Gaza. Instead of rebuilding homes, it had replenished its supplies of rockets and mortars, as well as recruiting a new, so-called popular, army of men aged 15 to 21.
The MP also highlighted Hamas’s “tax and spend” policy using funds to help pay for new tunnels. “The reality of Hamas is clear: It does not care at all for the people of Gaza,” he said. “It seeks to wage another bloody war against the people of Israel.”
He concluded by asking the government to initiate a UN resolution to impose sanctions on countries caught trying to supply weapons to Hamas and similar groups. In a message to those MPs intervening attempting to criticize Israel he said, “if people believe that what Hamas is doing can be justified, please will they have the honesty to stand up and say so in their contributions.”
Several pro-Palestinian MPs participated but inevitably none accepted his challenge, instead they criticized Israel, absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility for the plight of Gazans.
But with both LFI and the Conservative Friends of Israel ensuring a good turnout of their supporters to make speeches, the debate – for once – was clearly balanced in Israel’s favor.
Replying, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood gave the standard government line on its efforts including financing to reconstruct Gaza, before stating that Israel had to lift its restrictions as they were damaging the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
Besides calling for a reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which he suggested would end Hamas rocket fire into Israel, his only other comment about Hamas ignored all the valid points and questions asked by pro-Israel MPs about its role.
His only slight concession was when recalling that last summer Israelis had lived in fear of indiscriminate rocket strikes and terrorist attacks, which he admitted was clearly not acceptable and he “deplored the terrorist tactics of Hamas.”
As for future policy, all he could say was, “We are deeply concerned by reports that militant groups within Gaza are re-arming and re-digging tunnels,” which he added, “will not deliver peace to the people of Gaza, only a durable cease-fire can offer that” before concluding that the UK would do all it could to support efforts toward that goal.