Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Tahir Ali), on bringing forward the debate. For almost 30 years, we have been discussing, and there has been international consensus on, the prospect of a two-state solution. Most people in this Parliament, and most nations across the world, would endorse that approach. It is the approach that my party fully supports. However, we recognise that we have to consider that policy objective against the reality of what is happening on the ground. We cannot turn our eyes away and pretend that one of those states has not been engaged, ever since the Oslo accords, in systematically destroying the building blocks on which the other state will emerge and develop.
First, and most obviously, the Israeli state is occupying the lands designated to become the Palestinian state. Not only is it militarily occupying them, but it has no policy objective to ever end that occupation. Secondly, as has been referred to, the programme of settler colonisation has seen more than 600,000 people move into the militarily occupied areas, which has led to the displacement of the Palestinian populations that were there. The infrastructure that comes with that results in the de facto annexation of the territory, even if it is not legally claimed. Thirdly, there is the question of Jerusalem, as has been indicated. There is what can only be called the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities to remove them from the east of In East Jerusalem. That has been given a veneer of legitimacy and respectability by Israel’s law, although that law would not pass any international test of fairness.
Finally, the Israeli Government are, as a matter of policy, systematically trying to reduce and deny the capacity of Palestinian society to represent itself politically. That is why the recent criminalisation of six non-violent civil organisations is of so much concern. The extension of that criminalisation, by military law, to the occupied territories may well result in arrests and offices closing. All of that denies Palestinian people the ability to organise and be represented. I say to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), that all of that creates conditions in which young Palestinians have so much despair and so little hope that they are attracted to the ideas put forward by Hamas and others.
We need to try to do something about this. I expect that the Minister will say that the Government also believe in the two-state solution. If somebody says that they believe in a two-state solution in the middle east, and yet they do nothing—make no comment, take no action—about the things that are happening to actively undermine that objective, they are being insincere and not serious.
Our Government have to be seen to be taking action to make sure that the conditions are brought about in which a two-state solution could become a reality once again. First, they need to fully implement UN resolution 2334, and make a distinction between Israel proper and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, given the settlement economy that is going on there. The Government should take serious economic action to end economic trade with settlements in the occupied areas that sustain the occupation.
Secondly, as has been said, we should recognise the state of Palestine. Why not? If we believe that it should exist, we should recognise it, and try to help it and develop it, so that it becomes a proper state. Our not doing that puts the Palestinians always at a disadvantage.
Finally, it is time to understand that Israel, as a matter of Government policy, has been conducting its activities with impunity for many years in breach of international law. Its military action is in breach of the Geneva convention, and it has been undertaken with no sanction and no impediment. That must stop. We might wish to be good friends with the state of Israel, but we need to say to its Government, “You cannot continue with these policies. If you do, there will be consequences. This country will not stand by and idly watch this happen.”