The Balfour Project condemns Hamas’ act of terrorism of 7 October, including heinous murder and the taking of mass hostages in Israel. Securing their safe release must be a top priority. Those responsible for this outrage must be held to account.
One war crime must not, however, be avenged by committing another. Nothing can justify the “complete siege of the Gaza Strip” declared by the Israeli Government. Denying electricity, food, water, medicine and fuel to a civilian population is a war crime committed by a state – not a non-state actor. All human life is equal.
As the occupying power, Israel has a clear legal obligation to safeguard the welfare of the civilians in this, the most densely populated land on earth. Instead, through an unprecedented aerial bombardment and threatened ground offensive, Israel is inflicting horrendous loss of life on over two million civilians. That must cease. The provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the recognised rules of war must be upheld. An immediate priority is to establish safe corridors to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid to those under siege and to care for the wounded.
The British Government and Opposition have a great responsibility: to insist that international law be respected at all times by all parties and that civilians are protected. We regret that political leaders in the UK have not done so. The equivocation on these matters of principle must end.
These awful events are not happening in a vacuum. There is a context, a history and with it an enduring British responsibility for the wellbeing and rights, civil and political, of the Palestinian people dating back to the British Mandate and continuing to this day.
The Balfour Project has submitted to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee a paper which defines that political context and suggests a way forward. But first, the hostages in Gaza must be released immediately by the Palestinian groups holding them, the siege ended and the killing of civilians must stop.