When parliament returns from recess on October 13th, you are faced with a vote of conscience: symbolic recognition of the statehood of Palestine. I ask that for this vote, you ignore vested interest and vote based upon reason, compassion and a sense of historic responsibility. As a backbench debate, this is a free vote and therefore how you vote will be taken account of as you seek re-election.
I am not going to condescend you. I assume you know of the inept administration of Palestine when it was mandated to Britain following the fall of the Ottomans. The mandate was hamstrung by the Balfour declaration; a promise to make Palestine a Jewish homeland that was made before WWI was even won. The long and short of Britain’s role in the historic land of Palestine is that it made incommensurable promises and in so doing stoked tensions that burn at this very moment. As Ernest Bevin acknowledged, the mandate of Palestine was the worst error of British de-colonisation as he foresaw the apartheid state-system that now determines the lives of Palestinians, whom Britain had a sacred vow to better under the mandate.
Over the summer, we witnessed the devastating human consequences: over 2,100 Palestinians killed, even Israeli data acknowledges the vast amount of those were civilians. Out of the 72 people killed on the Israeli side, 66 were soldiers – meaning 91 percent of Israeli fatalities came in the battlefield. The disparity of this conflict is stark. The Palestinian people must have a voice on the international stage and the occupation of their lands must come to an end. A huge step towards this is recognition of Palestinian statehood. Given Britain’s role in the conflict, the symbolic importance of recognition cannot be overstated.
The basis for statehood is no longer the partition agreement of 1947, but the pre-1967 borders. This represents a huge concession to the state of Israel that speaks volumes of the Palestinian will for peace. Israel refuse to return to their borders under international law and continue to seize further land, with 988 acres of land taken to global disapproval in August.
Britain is a minority within the global community in not recognising Palestine, with 134 out of 193 UN member states already conferring recognition. Britain have many times affirmed the inalienable right of Palestinians to self-determination, the time to back our words with deeds is now.
Recognition is the first step to ending the cycle of violence and the first rung of the ladder to end the occupation, militarisation and oppression of Palestine by Israeli forces. A failure to use your free vote towards peace will be interpreted as a violent act. The sun has now set on the British Empire, but the blood has yet to dry. I trust that you will take the necessary action to redress the grave historical wrongs of the past.