Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gummer: If I may, I shall continue, as I have but a short time.

If Israel is to be treated and defended as a state, as most if not all of us in the House wish her to be, the converse must also be true: in circumstances such as these, she must also take the responsibilities of a state.

Michael Fabricant: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gummer: I shall not do so, as there is only a short time available.

Michael Fabricant: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you clarify—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: To save time—I know precisely what the hon. Gentleman is going to say—let me explain that extra time is allowed for interventions, but not for responses to them, so it is entirely a matter for the hon. Member who has the Floor to decide how much time he loses.

Mr. Gummer: It is therefore important to recognise that it is not in any way to criticise the Israeli state for its hugely understandable reaction to the awfulness of the suicide bombers to say that the result of that reaction is unacceptable. The reason why one has to make that remark as a friend of Israel is that that reaction makes it incredibly difficult to see how one should move forward. A different reaction of the sort that might have been made by some of the great Israeli leaders of the past might have given a glimpse or glimmer of hope. That is why one speaks in sadness.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) spoke about the need for maturity, which leads me to the second issue that I want to raise. There is a huge need for maturity in these discussions, not only in terms of the Israeli Government, who are under such huge provocation, but in Washington and the United States. I cannot believe that it is helpful in the current circumstances for the voices of intolerance to be raised to the degree that they have been not only in the speeches of Mr. Netanyahu, but in the American Government's approach to the problems of Iraq. I yield to no one in my hatred of the Iraqi regime and my non-acceptance of its refusal to allow the visits of United Nations observers or weapons investigations that any sensible and proper state should allow. Neither do I yield to anyone in my belief that Saddam Hussein would be very much better off the scene. However, we have to deal with the world in which we live and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I cannot believe in building an approach that says that we

16 Apr 2002 : Column 490

judge what is in our self-interest and self-defence and can thereby do anything we like, irrespective of the international law of the United Nations or the evidence that is before us.

I am still banned from having my questions on the bombing of the Sudanese aspirin factory answered in the House because the Prime Minister tells me that it is a matter of national security. Nevertheless, I remind hon. Members that that was done because of the CIA's absolute certainty that the factory was producing biological or other weapons. It was wrong. It had not shown the degree of accuracy in foretelling the future that we might have expected of it, especially in the light of 11 September. I must say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and to the Foreign Secretary that if the Prime Minister and President Bush should wish to take action, I shall need much more than their assurances that they have the evidence but cannot share it with me.

This is an issue not for those who have historically been members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but for those of us who have given the strongest and toughest support to cruise missiles and so on. We must have the evidence, because it is too dangerous to use this, the cockpit of the world, as a means of carrying out internal political agendas and gaining votes for internal political purposes.

We have to talk so seriously about these matters because it is hard to find the truth. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes says, the truth is not all on one side. If it is unequal today, it may be different tomorrow. That is part of the awfulness of the whole issue. The word of which we must remind ourselves is maturity. If we are to be mature, we must call on the Israelis to shoulder the burdens of being a state and on the United States to shoulder the burdens of being so powerful that it has to get it right.

5.43 pm

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): I became a friend of Israel when I was eight days old, and I have the scar to prove it.

The confrontation between Ariel Sharon's Government and the Palestinian terrorists has become an international crisis, which, unless handled decisively, could create a dangerous wider conflict and disrupt the economies of the developed world. The suicide bombings organised by Palestinian terrorist groups are atrocities with which no civilised community can cope. Earlier this month, an Israeli friend visited me here and told me that his trip was an escape from hell. He went back to hell. Last week, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the bus stop outside his kibbutz, where I have stayed many times, killing eight innocent people.

The deaths of hundreds of innocent Israelis are horrifying and have created an unsustainable atmosphere in Israel. The suicide bombers are mass murderers whose aim is to kill the maximum number of victims. Yet we need to ask ourselves why young Palestinians, men and women with their lives before them, decide to turn themselves into human bombs. We need to ask how we would feel if we had been occupied for 35 years by a foreign power that denied us the most elementary human rights and decent living conditions. We need to ask what the Jews did in comparable circumstances. In 1946, the

16 Apr 2002 : Column 491

Irgun, controlled by Menachem Begin, who later became Israeli Prime Minister, blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem, slaughtering 91 innocent people, 17 of them fellow Jews.

Ariel Sharon responds to the suicide bombers by using the full force of the Israeli army. He is having absolutely no effect in ending the terrorist acts. The suicide bombings and the slaughter of Jewish innocents continue and, as Colin Powell said while in Israel, will go on—not only regardless of what Ariel Sharon's army does, but impelled by what it does. We have now witnessed—my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) described her experiences—the full impact of the Israeli assault on the Palestinians. We have seen what happened in Jenin.

In 1948, the Palestinians denounced what they described as a massacre in the village of Deir Yassin. It was denied that there was such a massacre, but it was later officially established by the incoming Israeli Government that 254 Palestinians had been murdered wantonly by Begin's Irgun and the Stern gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir—later, like Begin and Sharon, a Likud Prime Minister.

It is undeniable that something dreadful happened in Jenin. Despite an Israeli attempt at a cover-up, the press have now managed to get into Jenin. The Telegraph newspapers, which are pro-Sharon in their editorial line, deserve credit for reporting objectively what happened in Jenin last week. The Sunday Telegraph said:

Yesterday's edition of The Daily Telegraph described how Israeli soldiers beat Muntaha Seraya with their fists and guns after bursting into her home. Four months pregnant, she suffered a miscarriage half an hour after the soldiers left. Today's Daily Telegraph accepts the Palestinian estimate of hundreds killed. The Times today describes the "stench of death" in Jenin, and The Independent calls what happened there a "war crime".

The difference between the Deir Yassin massacre and what happened in Jenin is that Deir Yassin was the work of terrorist groups denounced by mainstream Jewish organisations, whereas the horrors in Jenin were carried out by the official Israeli army. In 1901, Henry Campbell-Bannerman asked, "When is a war not a war?" Talking about the British Government and the Boer war, his answer was, "When it is carried on by methods of barbarism." Sharon has ordered his troops to use methods of barbarism against the Palestinians. Two thousand years ago, Tacitus said, "Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant",

That is a precise description of Sharon's actions.

It is time to remind Sharon that the star of David belongs to all Jews, not to his repulsive Government. His actions are staining the star of David with blood. The Jewish people, whose gifts to civilised discourse include Einstein and Epstein, Mendelssohn and Mahler, Sergei Eisenstein and Billy Wilder, are now symbolised throughout the world by the blustering bully Ariel Sharon, a war criminal implicated in the murder of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila camps and now involved in killing Palestinians once again.

Sharon is not simply a war criminal; he is a fool. He says that Jerusalem must never again be divided, yet it is divided in a way that it has not been for 35 years. I used

16 Apr 2002 : Column 492

to walk, shop and dine in east Jerusalem. No westerner or Israeli would dare to do that now. The state of Israel was founded so that Jews would no longer be penned up in ghettos. Now the state of Israel is a ghetto: an international pariah.

Sharon has reduced Israel's economy to its worst state for nearly half a century. As a consequence of his policies, more innocent Israelis have been killed by terrorists than for decades. More Israeli soldiers are being killed than at any time since Sharon tricked Begin into invading Lebanon 20 years ago. Sharon has rehabilitated Yasser Arafat, who had become sidelined and discredited and is now a Palestinian icon. The United States Secretary of State waited on Arafat in Ramallah like a petitioner. If Sharon succeeds in exiling him, Arafat will be welcomed throughout the world as a spokesman for the oppressed Palestinian people.

Sharon's most dangerous enemy is Iraq. Although I ardently wish for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, I have my doubts about taking action against him now because the confusion in American policy makes success extremely unlikely. The current fighting in Afghanistan involving the Royal Marines six months after we first went in shows how much more difficult a campaign would be in Iraq, with its huge, well equipped armed forces. In any case, Sharon has made it impossible for the Americans to take action against Iraq. If they did, the whole Muslim world would be united against the United States, the coalition against terrorism would disintegrate, and western economies could suffer a disaster comparable to the oil shock of 1973.

It is time for the United States to take action. Sharon must make a full withdrawal from Palestinian territories. If he does not, economic sanctions and an arms ban must be imposed. In 1956, President Eisenhower ordered the Israelis to withdraw from Sinai, which was occupied during the Suez war, and the Israelis, under a sensible Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, complied.

In 1991, when the Israeli Prime Minister, former terrorist and assassin Yitzhak Shamir refused to participate in peace talks in Madrid, President Bush senior imposed economic sanctions by withholding $10 billion in loan guarantees from the Israeli Government, and Shamir turned up in Madrid. President George W. Bush told the Israelis to withdraw from the Palestinian territories. Instead, Sharon has stepped up his aggression. Jenin has happened since Bush's call for withdrawal. The international credibility of the United States presidency is at stake. If Bush continues to be defied by Sharon, the United States presidency will be proved ineffectual with ominous consequences for the entire free world.

Our Prime Minister is an internationally respected statesman. He must use his influence with the United States—the special relationship—so that Bush speedily compels Sharon to return Israel to the international community. No alternative is acceptable. If it does not happen, the outlook for us all is bleak.

Next Section

IndexHome Page