Public meeting on Gaza at Newbury Town Hall

imageIt was standing room only last night, as Richard Benyon MP held a public meeting on Gaza in Newbury Town Hall.

Of about 20 speakers, 18 spoke up for the Palestinian cause with great passion and knowledge. There were a surprising number of people with a declared personal interest to some extent or another.

That well known Israeli government spokesman, Hans Christian Andersen, was remarkably absent.

Two people made brief comments in support of Israel. I’m afraid to say that one gentleman was cut off/shouted down as he spoke in support of Israel. The shouting down came from an elderly gentleman who said that he had been “ethnically cleansed” from his homeland of Palestine. I don’t think that is good or edifying. We should hear out our opponents, not shout them down. The pro-Israeli speaker was saying how Israel are “surrounded by crazies”. Rather than shouting him down I would have retorted at the end that Israel itself has become one of the “crazies”.

I was heartened by Richard’s closing remarks. He is at the enlightened end of the Conservative party on this subject. For example, he readily accepted my point that arms licenses should be suspended. He also clearly said that the Israeli response is “disproprotionate” and gave several examples of this.

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat PPC, thanked Richard for organising the meeting and asked what the view of the likes of Phillip Hammond are on this.

I was the first person to be called to speak (an old trick – always put your hand up first and get in before other people pluck up the courage). The following is the full points/questions I had prepared. I skipped over a few of the numbers at the beginning because Richard had already read some of them out:

Thank you very much for arranging this meeting, Richard.
I fully support Israel’s right to defend its citizens. I wholly condemn the Hamas rocket and tunnel terrorist attacks on Israel.
What I question is the proportionality of the Israeli response. According to the UN, 1,135 Palestinian civilians, including 246 children, have been killed in the last month’s hostilities which have included attacks on three UN schools designated as shelters. According to Mondoweiss.net, since 2002 in the entire history of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel, 28 Israeli civilians have been killed. That is a disproportionate situation.
I make three proposals:
1. Parliament should be recalled immediately to discuss this issue and the Iraq situation
2. All UK arms sales licences for Israel should be immediately and indefinitely suspended. It is unconscionable that those licences should be left open after the three attacks on UN schools.
3. With the EU the Uk should play a much more active role in encouraging talks to establish a fair peace and the establishment of a fully recognized, free Palestinian state, alongside the state of Israel.
Thank you.

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