At a hastily arranged meeting at Banbury Town Hall on Thursday (24 July 2014) called by women from Banbury’s Muslim community, Banbury’s MP Sir Tony Baldry refused to unequivocally condemn Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which has caused the deaths of over 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians. 35 Israeli soldiers have been killed.
About 180 people attended, mostly Muslims, with many locked outside, demanding action from the government to call for a halt in the Israeli bombardment and for Tony Baldry to communicate their views to government.
Tony Baldry made reference to his past comments in the House of Commons going back to 2010 demonstrating sympathy for the Palestinians and the need for a two-state solution. But at this meeting he failed to convince the audience that he would faithfully represent their views back to government; that Israel should be condemned for their attacks on Gaza and that sanctions should be applied. The fact that he repeatedly criticised Hamas rocket fire into Israel but not once did he condemn the Israeli bombardment frustrated and angered the audience.
Tony Baldry said, “I have taken a delegation to Gaza, and I want to see Gaza opened up and settlements withdrawn. As for calling for boycotts I don’t believe that’s helpful.”
In response to a demand for a halt to UK military exports to Israel, Tony Baldry said he was unaware of any but would consult the House of Commons Library and report back.
The fact is that Britain is currently selling almost £8billion worth of military hardware to Israel. http://tinyurl.com/mn8z9vr
Tony Baldry was also questioned about what he knew of G4S’s involvement in the conflict, because he opened G4S’s new facility in Banbury last year. He said he was unaware of any involvement by G4S and asked to be sent details.
Fact: G4S is a British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the dividing wall and the Israeli police. http://www.palestinecampaign.org/campaign/g4s/
Following the meeting Tony Baldry wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for the Foreign Office Phillip Hammond MP (http://www.tonybaldry.co.uk/) and said, “I do understand and support the concerns of those who consider that the humanitarian blockade of Gaza has gone on for far too long and it is simply wrong and counter-productive to keep the people in Gaza in what is effectively an “open prison”.
But again in this letter, whilst condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, he made no such comment on Israel’s bombardment. This in the context of the United Nations saying (Friday 25 July) that Israeli’s actions in Palestine could constitute war crimes, and Bank Ki-Moon, UN secretary general, demanding the killing to stop now.
Banbury resident Umar Nawab, gave this assessment of the meeting:
“I think the general consensus is that Tony Baldry has not listened to our concerns. He emphasises the need for Hamas to stop the rockets when everyone knows this current crisis is a symptom of the long-term problem, including a siege imposed in 2006. Palestinians are subjected to inhumane conditions of abject poverty, restriction of movement and arbitrary detention – violations of their human rights… we are all fully aware that it is Israel who is continually violating international law. Mr Baldry wants to see a two-state solution but he acknowledges that this is increasingly unlikely with less land available due to expanding Israeli illegal settlements. We want our MP, Tony Baldry, to condemn Israel’s actions and to support our call for boycott and sanctions, it is long overdue.”
Another resident, Haleema Suleman said, “This is not a war … the Palestinians are victims who are constantly struggling and resisting in order to exist – having no food, water and electricity. The numerous deaths of mothers and children is not a war – it is right against might. This is not a religious cause but a humanitarian cause. Together we will stop the war crimes by Israel and get freedom and justice for Palestinians from the apartheid state.”
A number of Banbury Labour Party members were present in an individual capacity in support of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and at a General Meeting held on Thursday 24th July, a unanimous resolution was passed which stated, “This Constituency Labour Party is appalled by the severity of the onslaught by Israel against the people of Gaza.”
Call for boycott of Israeli goods continues
Banbury’s Muslim community and other residents continue their demands for a boycott of Israeli goods and again took centre stage in a demonstration outside Banbury Town Hall on Thursday 24th.
STOP PRESS! Labour Leader Ed Milliband opposes Israeli actions
Meanwhile, Ed Milliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show on 27 July, “We oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza.”
Watch Channel 4’s Jon Snow’s plea for the children of Gaza