Archive | August, 2014

Serious in front of flag

Toby’s statement on the appalling situation in Gaza

Toby Perkins has been contacted by many local in people in Chesterfield who have asked him to set out his views on the appalling conflict in Gaza.  A summary of his thoughts is given below:

I believe that Baroness Warsi’s recent principled stand on this issue is to be commended and hope it will lead to some serious re-thinking in Downing Street.  I think this resignation shows how even people within his own Party are anxious about the way the Prime Minister has refused to address the severely disproportionate nature of Israel’s assault.  I think this was summed up well by my own Party Leader, Ed Miliband, in two tweets he recently posted:

Gaza tweets

 

 

 

As a member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, I have been pleased that our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, has been unequivocal in calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza.  He has recently said:

“The urgent priority is an immediate ceasefire, but more now needs to be done also to allow immediate access for basic medical and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.  The logic of terror and deterrence defy each other, so the bloodshed must stop, the blockade must be lifted and the occupation must end.

“European leaders cannot be passive in the face of this suffering. It is now urgent that Europe’s voice is heard, and that it works together with the United States and the United Nations to resolve this crisis.”

Whilst I entirely recognise Israel’s right to peaceful existence has been threatened by Hamas’ approach, the response of the Israeli government has been disproportionate and led to such revulsion across the globe.

It also has to be seen in the context of the Israeli government’s oppressive attitude to Palestinians over many years and in recent years particularly.

In the context of this particular conflict the grisly statistics themselves confirm the horrors we see on our Television screens. As I write roughly 1,200 Palestinians and 55 Israelis have been killed.  Every death is a tragedy, and an immediate ceasefire on both sides is the only way to prevent further bloodshed, but such an unbalanced ratio hardly points to a proportionate conflict.

Secondly, the technological might available to both sides is also completely unbalanced.  The rockets fired by Hamas are often cheap and improvised devices without the destructive power of a modern army’s weapon systems.  Further, the multi-billion dollar Iron Dome system deployed by the Israeli military uses radar-guided missiles to intercept incoming rockets and has had nearly 90 per cent success rate on the interceptions.

Serious in front of flagGaza has no such defences leaving its civilian population defenceless from the far more damaging Israeli weapon systems.  And whilst the aims of Hamas are deplorable, Gaza is not Hamas, and the ordinary civilians of this place should not be collectively punished for Hamas’ wrongdoing.

The picture of a wealthy nation waging war on one of the most densely populated and poorest places in the world has lost Israel much international support.  Again, as Douglas Alexander has said: “For Israel, a democratic state with vastly superior technological and military capabilities, comes particular responsibilities.

Thirdly, tactics are an area of heavy concern.  The Israeli Defence Force’s mission statement reads: “The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.”  However, the proof is in the pudding, and recent events have led many to question whether these values are lived up to, not least the fifty or so Israeli reservists who refused to be mobilised citing regret over their part in a military they said plays a central role in oppressing Palestinians.

For example, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) told Israel 17 times that the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp was housing refugees, but on 30 July Israel destroyed it anyway, killing 15 civilians.  It is true that Hamas fires rockets in the vicinity of civilian buildings, but simply launching an attack and blaming Hamas afterwards walks into the trap the terrorists set.  It also diminishes Israel’s security and standing in the world.

The urgent priority is an immediate ceasefire, and then for Israel to realise that its tactics are ultimately counter-productive.

The killing of Palestinian civilians on a daily basis will result not only in more grief and more funerals, but in time, risks greater international isolation for Israel and more recruitment by terrorist organisations like Hamas.

I believe parliament should be recalled to allow us to debate the appalling situations in both Gaza and Iraq, that David Cameron should have used Britain’s influence both publically and privately to urge a less damaging cause of action for Israel to pursue, and that following a lasting ceasefire, talks to deliver the long awaited two state solution with true independence for Palestine should be pursued with considerable urgency.

Toby Perkins – Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield

 

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Poppies

Toby’s thoughts on the centenary of the outbreak of war

On Monday 4th August people across Chesterfield and the whole country turned out lights in their homes in an hour of reflection for those who died in the First World War.

This tribute – quiet, personal, dignified – was the perfect way to honour the million British and Empire soldiers who gave their lives in the conflict.  It was inspired by Sir Edward Grey’s famous and prophetic comment on the outbreak of the conflict; “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

It also demonstrates the great respect and honour that our armed services now have in our national life.  Many Great War veterans returned to a land which they often felt did not appreciate and value their sacrifice.  They were told not to speak about their experiences.

PoppiesThis is something the generations who followed sought to put right and in my lifetime, Remembrance Sunday has grown from a quiet moment of reflection to a truly significant event encompassing the whole nation in a similar vein to the “Lights Out” campaign.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that the country was not so prepared to deal with the consequences of the War back in 1918.  No one had ever seen anything like it before.

The sheer scale of the slaughter was previously unimaginable.  Far more British servicemen died in the First World War than any war before or since.  On the first day of The Battle of the Somme alone, Britain lost 20,000 men, still the worst day in the history of our army.

The battle lines redrew the map of the world.  In 1914 Europe was a continent of vast empires ruled by hereditary kings. By 1918 new republics and democracies arose from the rubble and countries we would recognise today like Finland, Ireland and Romania were born.  People celebrating victory or independence in 1918 could scarcely imagine that 21 years later they would be plunged into another war.

The conflict shook up society.  At the front line, classes mixed together for the first time, contributing to the beginning of the end of the era of deference.  The role of female workers on the home front was also recognised with the right to vote for women over 30 in 1918.

The scale of the war means that the family of almost everyone reading this piece will have been touched by the conflict.  For me, it was my great grandfather A. P. Herbert who saw action at Gallipoli.  After being wounded and returning home he wrote the novel “The Secret Battle” based on his experiences.

This book made a huge impression on me as a young man.  It demonstrated just how horrific the sacrifices the soldiers were asked to make were.  It instilled in me the belief that the war should be commemorated but not celebrated.  It taught me never, ever to forget.

By Toby Perkins MP, Labour MP for Chesterfield

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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