Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Member of Parliament for Streatham (and parts of Balham, Clapham Common, Tulse Hill and Brixton Hill)
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Clapham & Brixton Hill

Constituency Newsletter – 23rd February 2024

Feb 23, 2024 | News

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I have received thousands of emails from constituents since October 7th regarding the horrific scenes in Israel and Gaza. Indeed, no single topic has been the subject of more correspondence since I was first elected in 2019. It is important that so many of you have felt compelled to contact me about this situation and I wanted to respond to you as soon as possible. Due to the range of emails I have received, I have tried to address the varying issues raised on this page. I also apologise if you have already contacted me regarding this issue and are receiving similar responses. I believe consistency on this matter is important. 

I have been outraged by our government’s longstanding refusal to push for a meaningful ceasefire and have consistently joined protesters to call for one. I also signed and voted for a King’s Speech amendment which called for an immediate ceasefire. Unfortunately, this was voted down. I reiterated these calls in Parliament and will continue to advocate for an end to the killing. 

Britain’s history in the region, and the role it has played in creating this cycle of killing and bloodshed in the Middle East sets it in a unique position to push for peace in the region, and our government should be making every effort to call for this, not to fan the flames of war. Our immediate priorities must be establishing an immediate ceasefire, allowing humanitarian access to food, water, energy and medicines for Gaza, and securing the safe return of all hostages. Our long-term priorities must be peace, ensuring the fundamental rights of all Palestinians and Israelis are upheld. A just and lasting peace can only be achieved through the equal application of international law. 

Calling for an immediate end to the fighting

I echo the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, and for unrestricted access of humanitarian aid to Gaza. The scale of civilian casualties, including children, is truly horrifying and points to the urgent need for international cooperation to secure peace in the region. 

Whilst there is a growing global consensus on the need to end the slaughter, the UK has consistently blocked this from happening on a diplomatic and practical level. The UK government representative on the UN Security Council repeatedly abstained on motions calling for a ceasefire and increased aid to Gaza. UK representatives at the General Assembly voted against motions for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. 

I have joined nearly 100 MPs from eight political parties in signing EDM #1 calling for the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to help secure the immediate and unconditional return of Israeli hostages and release of Palestinian administrative detainees. They should urgently press all parties to agree to immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities. 

Condemning violence against innocent civilians on October 7th 2023 and Israel’s response

I am appalled by the killings witnessed in Israel, Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I utterly condemn Hamas’ kidnap and murder of innocent Israeli civilians. I was alarmed to hear reports of the use of sexual violence in these attacks. We must do everything to secure the safe return of these hostages and bring those accountable to justice. I am very alarmed by the reports of war crimes since the 7th October and support calls for these to be investigated. 

All nations have the right to respond to acts of terror. All nations also have a duty to prevent the commission of war crimes in so doing. I must condemn the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza and the scale of the offensive actions which has resulted in an alarming number of civilian deaths. It is estimated that since the 7th October 2023, more than 13,800 children have been killed or lost under rubble and presumed dead.  

The Israeli Government’s decision to cut off energy, water and food to the entire civilian population, the order for millions of people to leave their homes, and the bombing of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, represent collective punishment which is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. 

Condemning the deliberate targeting of healthcare professionals, journalists and aid workers

Amid the appalling civilian casualty count, it is incredibly distressing to see the high numbers of aid workers, health providers, and journalists who have lost their lives since October. In what has been the deadliest war for aid workers in the history of the UN, at least 224 aid workers have lost their lives. Gaza’s Ministry of Health has recorded the deaths of 484 health workers and its Media Office has stated that 140 journalists and media workers have been killed. 

When three UK aid workers from World Kitchen Central were killed in cold blood on the 1st April 2024, our political leaders refused to even call for a proper independent investigation into their deaths, never mind suspend arms sales to the forces that killed them. It is disgraceful that the government is putting Israel’s war above the lives of British citizens. There should be a full independent investigation into their deaths. 

I have signed EDM 284 which calls for the protection of journalists reporting on the events in Gaza, EDM 254 which calls for the creation of a short-term medical evacuation for children in Gaza, and EDM 327 which recognises the work of healthcare professionals in Gaza and supports calls for them to receive the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Getting aid into Gaza

Gaza is on the brink of a major famine and already faces the most severe food crisis in the world. Children in Gaza have died from malnutrition and dehydration. Israeli officials have publicly expressed their aim to deprive civilians in Gaza of food, water, and fuel. IDF operations in Gaza have blocked the delivery of water, food, and fuel, wilfully impeding humanitarian assistance and apparently razing agricultural areas. This starvation is not an act of God but a deliberate policy, supported by all those who have failed to call for a ceasefire or call out war crimes. 

A major limiting factor for aid delivery is the high tonnage of bombs being dropped on the area. However, there is seemingly no end to the mental gymnastics that western political leaders will engage in to avoid calling for the immediate and permanent ceasefire needed to prevent more mass civilian casualties and allow food trucks backed up outside Gaza to enter.  

Just days after the highest court in the world ordered Israel to ensure the unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, our government actually pulled funding from the UNRWA, which is the area’s primary humanitarian agency. This was on the basis of allegations which remain unevidenced to this day. Withdrawing vital aid from an entire population facing starvation because of the supposed actions of a few individuals is the very definition of collective punishment. I condemned this decision at the time and will continue to advocate for the restoration of UNRWA funding to support a besieged and starving civilian population. 

On the ICJ ruling

On the 29th December 2023, South Africa made a submission to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) to declare Israel in breach of its obligations to the 1948 Genocide Convention, alleging that “acts and omissions by Israel” in Gaza “are genocidal in character” and have been committed with “the requisite specific intent” to “destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and [ethnic] group”. South Africa asked the ICJ to issue Provisional Measures and order Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza”. 

On the 26th January 2024, the ICJ ruled in favour of South Africa’s case against Israel and ordered to take steps to prevent genocide in Gaza, to prevent and punish any incitement of genocide in Gaza and to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel was also obligated to report back to the court in one month on the actions it was taking to this effect. I am pleased the ICJ made this ruling but, like others, I am dismayed that the judgement fell short of calling for a ceasefire. In my view, the only way to prevent genocide in the region is for an immediate ceasefire to take place. As a state party to this convention, the UK should be working to bring an end to the war on Gaza, not supplying arms and diplomatic cover for it. 

Ending arms sales to Israel

I have long raised concerns about the UK government’s role in supplying military hardware to Israel, which may have been used against civilians in Gaza and potentially even against British citizens. I have signed EDM #177, calling on the Government to halt arms sales to Israel and I also echoed these calls during a Westminster Hall debate on the 12th December 2023. 

In February, I joined more than 200 elected representatives to call for an immediate embargo on arms sales to Israel. The ICJ ruling means this is now not just a moral necessity now but a legal one. I was also a signatory on Zarah Sultana’s letter urging the government to suspend arms sales in March. 

It seems increasingly clear that exporting military hardware made in Britain to be used in the mass slaughter of Palestinians and civilians from elsewhere is not just immoral but clearly illegal. It puts us on the wrong side of international law. If the government continues arming Israel now, they should be prepared to explain this in the Hague. 

Supporting Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK

I am concerned to hear reports of rising levels of Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the UK, and around the world. No one deserves to face hate or prejudice because of their religious beliefs and minority groups should not be targeted because of international conflict. Anyone who has suffered or witnessed Antisemitism is encouraged to contact the Community Security Trust. Anyone who has suffered or witnessed Islamophobia is encouraged to contact Tell Mama UK. These two organisations are involved in mapping hate crimes. 

Supporting UK Citizens Trapped in Gaza

As well as failing to push for a ceasefire, the government has not done enough to help people leave the warzone. During the first few weeks of the conflict, I was contacted by constituents trapped in the occupied West Bank and unable to leave. I have also been contacted by at least one constituent whose relatives were unable to flee Gaza because there is nowhere for them to submit the biometric data our government requires of them. I’ve been glad to see families challenging this decision in the courts and winning. 

If you are a constituent and require assistance with leaving the territory or family reunion, please reach out to my office at bell.ribeiroaddy.mp@parliament.uk 

Opposing the Anti-Boycott Bill

As the bombs rain down on Gaza, our government not only refuses to call for a meaningful ceasefire, it is actively seeking to close down routes for peaceful, democratic resistance. Its Anti-Boycott Bill would prevent public bodies taking a stand against companies that profit from war crime and human rights abuses, including in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

Boycott tactics have been used throughout history to challenge abusive, discriminatory and illegal practices: from the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade to the fall of South Africa’s apartheid regime, and bus boycotts challenging segregation and racism in Jim Crow states of the Southern USA. 

The Bill restricts the decisions of public bodies and pension holders to spend, invest, and trade ethically in line with international law and human rights, including divestment from companies implicated in the repression of Uyghur Muslims, Palestinians, Yemenis and others. Not content with preventing public bodies from engaging in boycotts, the Anti-Boycotts Bill also contains a gagging clause that would ban them from even stating their wish to. 

This Bill stipulates that procurement or investment decisions from public bodies (like local councils and schools) must not be influenced by “political or moral disapproval of foreign state conduct”. It threatens them with compliance notices and fines for failure to comply with this. 

This legislation would protect countries and companies involved in fossil fuels, the arms trade, and human rights abuses from facing democratic pressure for their actions. 

Palestinian state recognition

UK recognition for a Palestinian state shouldn’t be treated as a prize at the end of peace negotiations. Treating Palestine and Israel as equal partners is a prerequisite for any just and lasting settlement. The UK government won’t be part of the solution until it recognises this. The Foreign Secretary recently suggested that this was under consideration. The government needs to follow through on this without further delay. 

On the situation in the Occupied West Bank

Whilst the war on Gaza rages on, we are also witnessing a worrying escalation of settler violence and further deterioration of human rights in the Occupied West Bank. Hundreds of Palestinians living here have been forced from their homes, thousands rounded up and arrested, and 370 killed in the West Bank, including 84 children. As the Occupier, Israel has a duty to prevent violence against civilians yet government policy seems to be actively supporting it, with right-wing National Security Minister Itimar Ben-Gvir purchasing thousands of weapons for settlers in the aftermath of the 7th October.

Years of occupation have left Palestinian health services severely underdeveloped and unable to adequately provide emergency healthcare, worsening the impact of increased violence in the region. Our government has now publicly urged Israel to start tackling record settler violence in the West Bank. With Israel continuing to arm and support settlers in this illegally occupied territory, we need to see concrete actions as well as tough talk.  

At the very least, the UK Government could fulfil its obligation to international law and ban trade with illegal settlements in the West Bank.