WATCH: Supporting International Law in Occupied Palestine.

Full transcript:

It is timely that we gather today to discuss this issue, yesterday having been UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It is important we recognise the sumud — the steadfastness — of the Palestinian people in the face of ongoing, grinding occupation. In our debate on the cross-party motion on de facto annexation earlier in the year, we spoke with a clear voice about the breaches of international law perpetrated by the Government of Israel. We also spoke about the settlement building, the land it takes and the de facto annexation it represents. Settlement building does not happen in a vacuum. It is closely linked to land confiscations, housing demolition, checkpoints, permits, the infringement of freedom of movement, the impact on children’s access to education, and harassment and violence by the military and police. These are the daily experiences of the Palestinian people living under occupation.

If we examine the treatment of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem in particular, we see more than de facto annexation alone. In the words of our motion, we agreed that “Israel has altered and purports to alter the character and status of Jerusalem”. What we are seeing is the Israeli Government deliberately inflicting on the Palestinian people policies and conditions of life calculated to destroy their presence in their community in East Jerusalem. This is also happening across the West Bank. We note land confiscations, the declaration of military zones, and house demolition, all amounting to a forced population transfer. Calling this behaviour out and naming it for what it is is an essential task for all of us in this House. We need to do more than that, however. We need to respond to this behaviour.

Given that yesterday was the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I want to use the little bit of time I have remaining to talk about some of the international actions we should be taking. The Minister has spoken about our unique opportunity at the UN Security Council. We should be using that as much as we can. Within the EU, we saw Belgium take strong action in recent days on differentiation and the labelling of settlement goods. We could consider this in our country. We have worked on it before but we could ask whether we are doing enough. Equally, we could be supporting other member states that share our thinking on the conflict to do more.

We agreed on a motion on annexation in the House. It would be great if we could encourage other member states to do the same and, as the programme for Government states, consider an appropriate response to annexation at both national and international levels. Ultimately, however, the rule of international law means nothing without meaningful enforcement. We must ensure we protect and support the work of the International Criminal Court. It has begun its own investigations into war crimes in the region and must be allowed to continue to do this work fairly, impartially and without any single state or group of states seeking to interfere with it or undermine it. If we want to establish international law that is meaningful, it is essential this happens.