British-Palestinian MP Layla Moran gives passionate speech on why the UK should recognise Palestine
British-Palestinian MP Layla Moran made a passionate speech before the House of Commons on Friday on her Palestinian Statehood Bill, slamming the Israeli government for its programme of settlement expansion.
Beginning her speech just after 2pm local time, Moran spoke briefly about her family's own history in Jerusalem, where her mother is from, and how the people coexisted before the creation of the State of Israel and Nakba that unfolded.
The Balfour Declaration "was a historic aberration, one, that whether we like it or not, altered reality in the region, and played a significant part in the story where peace now has never seemed so more elusive", she said.
Moran added that the UK government had a historic obligation toward the Palestinian people due to this but could repair some of the damage by recognising that, like Israel, they were also entitled to a state of their own.
Issued on 2 November 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised Jews a "national home" in Palestine without any regard for the opinion of Palestinians.
The events led to the 1948 Nakba - the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes by Zionist militias prior to the creation of Israel.
The bill presented by the Liberal Democrat MP, who also serves as the party's Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development, will seek to recognise Palestine "as a sovereign and independent state," based on pre-1967 borders.
By recognising a Palestinian state, Moran also wants to see the Palestinian mission in London upgraded to an embassy and given full diplomatic status.
She said her draft law offers something precious to the Palestinians, which is hope, calling on the UK to follow in the footsteps of 138 other countries which also recognise Palestine.
Further defending the bill, Moran said recognition of Palestinian independence and sovereignty would allow Palestine to become a UN member state which would help it raise its own funds, rather than rely on foreign aid and taxpayers’ money in Israel.
Moran’s speech also shed light on recent violence in the occupied West Bank, with 88 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and towns subject to pogroms by settlers. Thirteen Israelis, including soldiers, have been killed during this period.
"The current Israeli government whose cabinet includes convicted criminals is deeply problematic," Moran said. She added that their actions not only posed a threat to Palestinian lives and homes, but also a threat to Israeli democracy.
"The Israeli government seems intent on weakening the Palestinian Authority to the point of collapse."— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) January 12, 2023
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Israel has also vowed to go ahead with settlement expansion in these territories, defying international law and calls by Western nations to half the process, which has been condemned as a war crime.
Moran warned that, contrary to previous governments in Israel which tended to merely turn a blind eye to settlement activity, the current government led by Benjamin Netanyahu has made settlement construction and expansion a pillar of domestic policy.
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich both live in settlements on occupied land and are darlings of the settler movement.
Settler violence continues to pose a grave threat to Palestinian lives and dignity, with the MP giving the recent pogrom in the town of Hawara as an example.
The 26 February rampage saw hundreds of Israeli settlers burn down homes and cars in the town after the alleged killing of two Israelis by a Palestinian militant. It prompted international condemnation.
This happens while "the international community sits on its hands…it is no longer enough to tweet about it, we have to do something", she urged.
She warned of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising, if Israel is not held to account for its ongoing aggression in the occupied territories.
Taking this into consideration and "with the absence of a viable peace process," Moran said it was "only fair and only right that Palestinians are given their own state".
"There is no one thing which is going to fix this problem, there is no act that is going to erase what has happened in the past 100 years," she continued.
"We've seen settlers attacking in full daylight. We've seen coordination among settlers. We see settlers using bulldozers. We see more & more intimidation and harassment."— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) March 12, 2023
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Later speaking to The New Arab, Moran said she was honoured to present the bill to parliament on Friday.
"I felt the hand of my Palestinian family's past and future on my shoulder. I am glad I was able to make the case for why, especially now, recognition without preconditions would be the right thing to do," she said.
She renewed her calls for the UK to take responsibility and set boundaries for Israel which continues to act with impunity.
Despite Conservative Secretary of State for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell’s "disappointing" response to her speech, where he seemed unconvinced that recognising a Palestinian state now was imperative, Moran vowed to continue to fight with the bill and convince more MPs to back it over the next eight months.
She confirmed to The New Arab that the next reading of her bill will be on 24 November.
Despite the government's obfuscation on the issue, there appears to be strong support in the UK parliament for such a move. In 2014, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognising Palestine as a state, in a non-binding motion.
Palestinians in the UK have long called on their government to recognise a Palestinian state, particularly due to the country's role in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the lead-up to the 1948 Nakba.