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Israel Palestine Suspend Arms Sheikh Jarrah

Thank you to those who contacted me regarding the recent violence in Palestine in the wake of the unprecedented attacks by Israeli forces on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the continued forced evections of residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. I can assure you from the outset that my SNP colleagues and I share your concerns. What took place at the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli authorities is nothing short of a heart-breaking act of violence that unequivocally breaches International Law. It is utterly shameful that in the days since, despite calls from the International community for urgent de-escalation, the violence spread - with multiple Palestinian citizens, including children, being killed in airstrikes on Gaza during one of the holiest times in the Muslim calendar. While I welcome the ceasefire recently agreed, I entirely condemn the actions we have seen to this point and the SNP has made clear our views to the Foreign Secretary on this matter.

The SNP’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Alyn Smith MP, has also written to the Government expressing deep concern at the attacks on Palestinian human rights and we continue to urge the UK Government to explore what concrete measures they can take to resolve this conflict. This follows on from a series of letters myself and my SNP colleagues have signed on this very matter over recent months. Furthermore, I am steadfast in the view that the forced evictions and dispossession we have seen of residents in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem must end.

As has been noted by many constituents contacting me on this matter, the organisation Human Rights Watch (in a first of its kind assessment) have accused the Israeli state of committing crimes of apartheid, persecution, and systemic discrimination against Palestinians. The report itself lays bare the Israeli state’s grave and repeated violations of international law. In response, the SNP have supported and signed a number of Early Day Motions (disproportionately more than any other party in the UK Parliament) calling on the Government to immediately ban all UK trade with illegal Israeli settlements and take action to prevent equipment supplied by British companies from operating in them. As well as this, the SNP’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson has spoken in the House of Commons to stress the need for ‘actual action’ concerning the ongoing situation in Palestine, not just ‘warm words and sympathy’ from the UK Government.

My colleague, Gavin Newlands MP, also raised the issue of arms sales to Israel in the Commons last week, and my colleague, Chris Law MP, again raised the matter of exports and recognition of Palestine as an Independent state at an urgent question in the Commons. Despite these efforts, unfortunately, the UK Government appear content to stay the current course. The UK trade millions of pounds worth of weapons and arms with Israel every year, including drones that are used against Palestinian targets. The UK's arms export policy has demonstrated the UK's complicity in other conflicts like the War in Yemen, which the UK government has seen fit to fuel with billions of pounds of arms exports despite the overwhelming evidence of these weapons being used against civilians. Given the unacceptable civilian casualties of Israeli operations, I fully agree the UK government should suspend its arms trade with Israel. We also continue to call on the International Criminal Court to do its duty and urgently conduct a full investigation. Unfettered access must be granted to allow the ICC to carry out this investigation without hindrance and we continue to call on the Israeli Government to reconsider its position of non-cooperation with this vital impartial probe. I am also of the view that, for far too long, the response of UK Government Ministers has failed to match the severity of the situation on the ground. The continued unwillingness to impose sanctions upon Israel in the event of annexation, despite doing so when Russia annexed Crimea, has meant that this illegal occupation continues to progress with impunity. This is utterly unacceptable, and the UK Government must be held accountable for their continued inaction on this matter. The UK Government, working with the wider international community, must support an international push for Israeli-Palestinian peace that works towards an effective, lasting and mutually recognised two-state solution.

The SNP will continue to call for the UK government to recognise the State of Palestine (as the Scottish Parliament does), and we maintain that this is of fundamental importance to precipitating equitable talks to build a sustainable peace under an internationally backed two-state solution. The UK has a special responsibility for building a peaceful and sustainable resolution, given the UK's colonial legacy in the region. With recognition of its statehood, measures can be taken to lobby Israel to lift the blockade on the country and give the injection of humanitarian assistance and economic investment that it needs to thrive alongside Israel as peaceful neighbours. On that note, I can assure you that my SNP colleagues and I will continue to be at the forefront of Westminster calls for an urgent and robust response to this crisis. Again, while I welcome the recently agreed ceasefire, the violence we have seen in recent days, and the continued forced evictions of residents in Sheikh Jarrah, must not be repeated if we are to find a peaceful solution to this crisis in the long term.

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