Chi speaks on Gaza at Monument

Thank you

Today people from all around the north east are here in solidarity with Gaza.

And across the country and across the world people are marching for the same cause.

Whatever your political affiliation, whatever you religion or race, there can be no justification of the slaughter of civilians on the scale that is happening right now in Gaza.

Or indeed, and let us be clear about this, the targeting of civilians as Hamas is doing.

Hamas’ military wing is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Firing rockets indiscriminately into towns and cities in Israel is indefensible.

Equally there can be no justification for the anti-Semitism which on occasion accompanies criticism of Israel.

Or the targeting of civilian citizens in Israel.

This is a conflict between the Israeli Government and Hamas but the people suffering are overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians.

As Harriet Harman has said, this conflict cannot be reduced to a ledger of casualties.

But we must recognise the horrendous scale of the suffering in Gaza happening right now.

That is why I last week asked the British Foreign Minister to convey our sense of outrage to the Israeli Government.

I am not here today to apportion blame for starting this round of violence or the previous round or the round before that.

The fact is, people – children – are dying. One child every hour is being killed.

Palestinian children. It would be no different if they were Israeli children. It has to stop.

We cannot continue with these ever escalating cycles of violence.

The suffering, the brutalisation and trauma inflicted on civilians will scar Gaza and its people for years to come.

For every victim killed or wounded, there are many more victims who lose loved ones and the result is that we grow ever further from a long term settlement.

This conflict cannot be ‘won’ militarily.

The Labour Party is opposed to any escalation, from any side.

It’s why we have called for an immediate ceasefire and oppose the ground invasion of Gaza.

We have been here too many times before.

Escalation after escalation only takes us further and further from a lasting solution.

So I’m pleased that [so many of] you have come to show your support and solidarity for Palestinian civilians being brutalised with nowhere to hide.

As the UN said this week. “There is literally no safe place for civilians in Gaza.”

“Military action will not increase Israeli security in the longer term”

And the UN Secretary General was right when he said that:

“Israelis, but also Palestinians, need to feel a sense of security. Palestinians, but also Israelis, need to see a horizon of hope.”

The first step to that horizon is an immediate ceasefire.

But there is a longer term need to build a lasting peace.

Ultimately the underlying cause of this latest crisis is the failure over decades to achieve a two state solution for two peoples. 

That is why Labour will continue to call for an end to terror, blockade and occupation.

Finally

I have received hundreds of emails, tweets and letters from constituents condemning the suffering of the Palestinians and asking me to speak out.

But I have also received a few – not from constituents –  criticising me for deciding to speak here. Some in quite threatening terms.

My earliest memories are of fleeing at dead of night under anti aircraft fire the Biafran War. A conflict in which a million civilians died, many of them children, starved to death.

At that time people demonstrated in Newcastle in solidarity and opposition to such a slaughter.

And that is why I feel we have both the right and the duty to do the same for the people of Gaza.

Thank you again to all of you for coming out and joining this demonstration.

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