A House of Commons debate on the humanitarian situation in Gaza last Wednesday led to probably the strongest condemnation of Israel that has ever been heard in Parliament – with three of the House of Commons’ most senior backbenchers leading the charge.
The debate was introduced by Sir Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP for Banbury, who recalled returning home after a visit to Gaza and telling his children that he had been to “hell” and he could not imagine a “purgatory” of such total hopelessness as Gaza.
He was backed up by Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, who accused Israelis of sitting in their cafes in Tel Aviv and not giving a damn about their fellow human beings in Gaza just half an hour away.
The international community would have to take action and it would have to be imposed on the Israelis, “otherwise hell will break loose”.
But the most telling criticism came from Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, who declared himself a strong supporter of Israel:
“By all means, if someone is attacked, they should reply strongly in military terms, but not punish a whole people and reduce them to utter poverty and destitution.
“I say this as a strong supporter of the state of Israel, but there is a real danger that more and more people in the world believe that a people who were formerly oppressed are now becoming the oppressors, and that the state of Israel is thereby losing its soul.”
Of 15 speakers the only defence of the Israeli government came from the chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, James Clappison, who blamed Hamas for the plight of the Gazans.
But Sir Tony Baldry told him there would never be an end to the tragedy of Gaza so long as he and others like him remained deaf to the clear advice of international lawyers that collective punishment of the people of Gaza is illegitimate.