Letter to constituents on the Israel-Hamas war

I take this issue very seriously as, like you, I want to see an end to the violence and ultimately a lasting peaceful resolution. As I have mentioned previously, these are very grave and complex events with the facts on the ground changing by the minute. I am distraught by the devastation occurring in Gaza and I vehemently assert that Israel, notwithstanding its right to defend itself against attack after the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, must act in line with international law. The situation on the ground can only be described as a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. There must be a pause in fighting to provide aid to those desperately in need. Like the First Minister I hope that this could be a step which would enable the conditions for a more stable ceasefire to come about.

The current aid being provided through the Rafah Crossing is simply insufficient; we must see more humanitarian aid provided to Gaza. Israel must not block any attempt to provide aid, nor must it blockade fuel, food, and water from entering the region for humanitarian reasons. I welcome all efforts made to increase aid entering the region and this can only be achieved in full with a pause in hostilities on both sides.

Even with a pause in fighting the ugly truth is that Hamas will be planning to strike once again. Hamas’ ideology is to destroy Israel and they are against a two-state solution with peace and secure borders for both Palestinians and Israelis. Neither is it realistic to expect Israel to abandon its hostages who were taken amid atrocity. A situation which emboldens Hamas and leaves it with the power to carry out additional attacks will ultimately only prolong the suffering of the Palestinian people. Peace can never be obtained as long as Hamas is there threatening to destroy that peace. The Palestinian people should not needlessly suffer any more than they already have.

I am appalled by the news of human suffering coming from Gaza. In particular it is devastating to receive the reports of children and families killed in their homes and elsewhere. Enduring the fear that Gazan families are currently facing is almost unimaginable. We must do all that we can to preserve innocent lives including denuding that humanitarian pause. The Labour position is to implore Israel and Hamas to pause their fighting so that aid can be delivered to those who need it most and innocent civilians are protected. We also call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas.  I call on Israel to take every step in its fight with Hamas to minimise civilian casualties and suffering, because collective punishment is a war crime that cannot be justified under any circumstance.

The release of hostages and the fight with Hamas must be carried out with an absolute focus to protect and preserve the lives of civilians inevitably be caught up in the crossfire. I understand that this is easier said than done, but it is simply the minimum requirement for a State unlike a terrorist organisation acting with no regard for international law. Labour is working with international partners to support every effort to make this possible. I want to assure you that I have communicated all my constituents’ concerns about the conflict in meetings to the party leadership.

Not enough diplomatic attention has been paid to the Israel-Palestine conflict for far too long. In recent years there has been a trend to look away from all the suffering that has occurred in this region because of the difficulty of finding a peaceful outcome. It is a problem that I believe will never be resolved through military means, strident slogans, or indifference.  Recent events have confirmed that it is time to make a renewed effort to change this. I unequivocally back all efforts towards finding a way to peace in the region free from occupation and terrorism.

Despite the despairing rhetoric of extremists, a two-state solution is still firmly the way to achieve a lasting peace in the region. Benjamin Netanyahu’s undermining of any two-state solution, planting illegal settlements as facts on the ground, has not brought security. To ensure a future where Israel is secure from terrorism and Palestine is a sovereign state without settlements and occupation, it is vital to engage in constructive dialogue. This dialogue must underscore the worldwide recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and equality, unaffected by the threats of unlawful settlements. There is no more looking away.  But Hamas must be stopped, and Israel must get back its hostages. Gazans must be given guarantees that they can return to their homes safely and they are provided with humanitarian aid that they so desperately need.

My heart goes out to all those deeply impacted in the region but also those living in fear in our own country. With Jewish schools closing and hijabis abused on public transport, the rise of Antisemitism and Islamophobia is heart-breaking.  I never thought that Jewish people in Cardiff would be telling me about their fear revealing their religion in public – including children in our schools - because of the abuse and threats they receive.  I never thought that my Muslim constituents would report abuse they have received simply for expressing their religious beliefs and culture. I know very well from experience the danger that heightened tensions pose to safety on our own streets, and it is a priority for me to encourage and reinforce the excellent interfaith relations that we have traditionally benefitted from in our city, and which can help to reduce tensions and the threat of violence.

All our citizens and residents have the right to peaceful protests and the right to protection from hate speech. I applaud all efforts by multiple groups to stamp out the vile racism, xenophobia, and hatred resulting from inflamed tensions. We cannot let hatred divide our country and our people. We should continue to stand up against all forms of hatred and bigotry.

Thank you for raising your concerns with me once again. I take all that you say very seriously and use it to help shape my dialogue with colleagues in the Labour Party. Like you, I want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible. Now is the time to renew our efforts to achieve a permanent end to the fighting, and not just a delay. Only through this approach can we ultimately hope to achieve the liberation of Palestine and the security of Israel.