As the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted on Tuesday to adopt a report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza, two Conservative MPs defended Israel and emphasised the role of Hamas as the primary cause for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
John Howell OBE MP, Vice-Chairman of CFI’s Parliamentary Group and Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group, criticised the Council of Europe’s report for finding Israel responsible for the crisis in Gaza and called for the outright condemnation of Hamas. Responding to the report’s call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Mr Howell pointed out that not only was Egypt also imposing restrictions, but that such restrictions were justified in the face of Hamas terror.
Discussing the Hamas terror tunnels and the deployment of rockets against Israel, Mr Howell stated that “if effort and resources were not distracted [by tunnels and rockets], the humanitarian crisis would be ending”. He raised Hamas’s use of the Gazan population as a human shield by launching rockets from “from sensitive sites such as schools, hospitals and place of worship”.
Condemning Hamas as a “despicable organisation that continues to perpetuate the suffering of Gaza’s civilians”, the MP for Henley told the Assembly how 160 Gazans have been killed digging the tunnels, including at least nine children. Drawing attention Hamas’s hate education, he argued that “no peace agreement will be able to guarantee peace in the medium to long term if a generation of Palestinians are growing up indoctrinated in hate”.
Mr Howell highlighted the fact that “Hamas has a history of misappropriating genuine humanitarian aid”, thus further perpetuating the humanitarian crisis. He stated: “Six miles of tunnels are being dug each month; 600 000 tonnes of concrete are used in that, with another five million needed. Up to $90 million has been misappropriated, and the Hamas leadership has refused the Israeli offer of a desalination plant”.
Paul Scully MP spoke after Mr Howell, echoing his colleague’s condemnation of Hamas for having “no regard for its own people”, building cross-border terror tunnels, and “throwing rockets indiscriminately into Israeli territory”.
Mr Scully explained how the blockade has actually been eased by Israel in recent times, “with a 13% increase of goods entering Kerem Shalom, 10 000 Gazans moving into Israel for medical equipment and 100 tonnes of medical equipment going from Israel into Gaza each and every week”.
He stated unequivocally the role of Hamas was indeed “a barrier to peace” and a limiting factor for further progress. Expanding upon this, he raised the issue of incitement and indoctrination and recalled Mr Howell’s account of the diversion of resources to fund Hamas terror rather than support the wellbeing of the Gazan population. Mr Scully called upon the Assembly to “imagine how much the daily lives of those people could have been improved and how much progress could have been made in the peace process if those diversions had not taken place”.
The PACE resolution was passed with a vote of 46 in favour, 12 against and two abstentions. The report charges Israel with “excessive and intentional force without justification against Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone, including against farmers, journalists, medical crews and peaceful protesters, [which] runs blatantly counter to human rights principles and the international law-enforcement standards”.