Today’s Star columnist: Paul Blomfield MP

Paul Blomfield MP
Paul Blomfield MP
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My mailbox has been deluged in recent weeks by constituents expressing their anger and frustration over the situation in Gaza. Some have written on behalf of friends and neighbours trapped there.

Like them, I’ve been appalled by the onslaught against the Palestinian population and pressed their concerns directly in a letter to the Foreign Secretary. You can read it on my website, where I’ll publish the response when I receive it.

Of course Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas attacks, but the indiscriminate military action against innocent civilians goes well beyond self-defence. At the time of writing, there is a fragile ceasefire, but more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed, including over 300 children, with thousands more injured.

Not only is this a humanitarian disaster, but it has heightened anger against Israel.

Imagine if, faced with IRA outrages in the 70s and 80s, the UK Government had launched air strikes against the Catholic area of West Belfast, killing almost 2,000 people and driving a quarter of the population from their homes.

Would that have improved the peace process, or would it have hardened attitudes and increased the violence? If Israel cannot see the effect of its actions, the world must act.

Faced by Putin’s actions in Ukraine, the UK is calling for sanctions against Russia. A first response to the Gaza tragedy would be for the Government to end all arms sales to Israel, but we could do more.

Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, for example, is a major barrier to peace talks. Is it time to start considering targeted measures to press for an end to that policy?

The immediate priority is a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, but long-term peace requires a political settlement based on the so-called ‘two state solution’ - of internationally recognised independent states of Israel and Palestine.

Our Government should press for renewed international efforts to secure that aim. We must make it clear that there will be consequences for all who place barriers in the way of a peace process. We cannot stand by any longer.