Labour reaffirms support for Israel in Lords statement

Labour’s header in the House of Lords and LFI parliamentary supporter Baroness Smith of Basildon

At today’s statement on the situation in Israel and Gaza, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords and LFI parliamentary supporter Baroness Smith of Basildon, reaffirmed Labour’s “total condemnation of Hamas’s appalling and ongoing attacks on Israel”.

Her full comments were as follows:

“My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for repeating today’s Statement and for providing updates on the Government’s actions and the co-operation taking place, as I am aware, with other countries. I share his total condemnation of Hamas’s appalling and ongoing attacks on Israel.

When we heard the initial news just over a week ago, the accounts of unimaginable horror and suffering, and of hostages being taken, were deeply shocking. The senseless murder of men, women, children and babies is hard to comprehend. Those images of 250 young people targeted and killed while celebrating a Jewish holiday at a music festival are impossible to understand. As each day unfolds, every Member of this House will have seen film and photographs showing the suffering and horror, in a way that words can never convey.

In Israel, and now in Gaza, innocent citizens are grieving for their lost and injured loved ones; there is so much pain and suffering. It is imperative that both this House and our Parliament as a whole speak with one voice against such terror and for the dignity of all human life; and that we stand with Israel in solidarity and support of its right to defend itself, to rescue the hostages and to protect its civilians. As long as Hamas has the capability to carry out attacks on Israeli territory, there is no safety. Yet what makes this harder to bear is that that is the very reason for the existence of Israel. As the Lord Privy Seal said, it is more than a homeland; it was there to ensure that what happened in the Holocaust could never happen again. Some in your Lordships’ House will have friends and family who have moved to Israel, permanently or temporarily. For many, it provided a sense of belonging and affirmation of their Jewish identity; they wanted security and peace. Yet Hamas has no interest in peace and is not protecting Palestinians.

Let us be clear—the Lord Privy Seal emphasised this point too: Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas. So, as we support the right, and indeed the duty, of Israel to defend itself and to seek to bring the hostages home, we must also recognise that it is both Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering terribly because of Hamas’s actions. That is where the responsibility for this crisis lies squarely: with Hamas. Terrorism can never be justified; it can never be excused. Hamas is not protecting the security of the people of Gaza as it unleashes terror and then hides behind them. It should release all the hostages.

We welcome the steps taken by this Government to support Israel’s response and the additional aid funding announced today. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard—even when it’s difficult”—  and it is never more difficult than this.

We also agree with the Government that Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law. Civilians must not be targeted, and innocent lives must be protected. Humanitarian corridors are required and humanitarian access, including to food and water, electricity and medicines, is needed to save lives. There must be proper protection for those who put themselves in danger to deliver such aid and medical help. Can the Lord Privy Seal provide the most up-to-date information he has on the status of the Rafah crossing in that area?

These attacks are also having a huge impact across the UK. Many of us will have heard desperate accounts from those whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. They are worried for the lives and the future of friends and family in Israel and Palestine. The sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents, and reports of Islamophobic threats and abuse, must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. When I heard that Jewish schools were closing out of fear for the safety of pupils and that Jewish people were hiding their identity in public, I was not only shocked and angry but deeply saddened. Many Jews and Muslims have worked within the wider community to bring people together, to foster understanding and acceptance of our differences and to celebrate both shared and diverse religious views and cultures.

We must support them and share responsibility with them, because we cannot allow our community cohesion to be destroyed. Over the past week, we have seen images and heard personal, direct accounts of the absolute true horror of these attacks, and it has been deeply distressing.

Let us be clear: we condemn the terror of Hamas and reiterate that it does not represent the Palestinian people. Hamas’s brutality only escalates the problems and destroys lives, hope and the pursuit of peace. We continue to support and strive for a two-state solution: a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.

The time ahead will be so difficult and challenging. In absolute defiance of the brutality of Hamas, the UK must stand with Israel, for international law, for international co-operation and for the protection of innocent lives. We remain united in those values.”

You can read the full debate here.