I was in #Gaza at start of peace process in 1991, but have seen #Palestinian hope for #peace and security turn to dust over 30 years with no progress.
Illogical for U.K. Gov to claim to support #TwoStateSolution without recognising BOTH states!
I want to start by declaring an interest in that I was a volunteer with Medical Aid for Palestinians in Gaza in 1991 and 1992.
And after visiting in 2016, helped them set up a breast cancer project between Scottish specialists and the local teams in Gaza and the West Bank.
And I want to thank all the clinicians who take part in that on a regular basis.
In addition to almost 55 years of occupation, the people of Gaza have suffered from 15 years of intense blockade and repeated military attacks every few years, which has degraded their civil infrastructure.
The tap water, unlike in my time is now undrinkable; raw sewage pollutes, coastal fishing waters, and due to the destruction of the power plant in 2014, there’s only intermittent electricity, including to hospitals.
This undermines the public health of Palestinians, but also the provision of health care; with the destruction of clinics and hospitals through military attacks and demolitions and difficulty in obtaining medical supplies with approximately a third of vital drugs running constantly close to zero stock. Many modern therapies are simply not available in Gaza.
Yes, it’s very difficult for patients to get permission, to travel to East Jerusalem, to access treatment. Gaza has no radiotherapy provision, which is important for preserving the breast in breast cancer patients. When I visited in 2016, all the women I met had undergone radical mastectomy because they couldn’t access the treatment. But it’s even more vital in other cancers, such as lung cancer, where it’s the main treatment.
And overall the World Health Organization report that 35 to 40% of patients who apply for permission to travel to Jerusalem are refused, delayed, or get no response. And all of this contributes to the poor survival of Palestinian cancer patients. On annual training visits prior to the pandemic, I’ve also seen the impact of the occupation and fragmentation and in the West Bank,
with communities separated from each other, their farmland, and particularly their water sources. Palestinians face constant harassment and obstruction. Their homes are demolished while settlements are relentlessly expanded in what is defacto annexation and conquest by concrete.
The UK has a particular responsibility as the 1917 Balfour declaration promised a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, but that nothing shall be done, which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.
For over 70 years, the UK has recognized the State of Israel and honour that promise to the Jewish people, but broken it to the Palestinians.
So after 55 years of occupation, 15 years of Gaza blockade and the ongoing annexation of the west bank, the two-state solution is simply becoming unviable, unless there is a reversal of current Israeli policy.
And there is no chance of that without external pressure.
Government ministers repeatedly stand in this chamber and claim the UK supports a two state solution, but this is hollow if there isn’t recognition of both of those states.
And that is a minimum, it must be combined with real action, to ensure no UK banks or companies profit from occupation or illegal settlements. I was working in Gaza at the start of the Madrid peace process. And by late afternoon saw young Palestinian men giving olive branches to Palestinian soldiers. That image of hope has crumbled to dust 30 years on. Immediate recognition is the minimum and is vital.