THE SNP have accused the Westminster system of “failing the people of Gaza” after the Speaker denied the party an emergency debate on calls for an immediate ceasefire.
Lindsay Hoyle rejected the party’s application for a fresh debate on the issue on Monday afternoon, despite explicitly offering one after his decision to allow a Labour amendment during the SNP’s opposition day debate meant there was no formal vote held on the SNP’s motion.
The SNP tabled a new motion for an emergency debate so the UK Parliament could vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel and push the UK Government to take “concrete steps” to help make a ceasefire happen.
Following Hoyle’s decision, a furious Flynn said: “Yet again, Westminster is failing the people of Gaza by blocking a vote on the urgent action the UK Government must take to help make an immediate ceasefire happen.
Read the SNP’s full emergency debate motion below:
That this House officially reaffirms its position, as of 21st February 2024, to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel; further reaffirms its horror at the October 7th 2023 terrorist attacks by Hamas and the subsequent collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza; demands the release of all hostages taken by Hamas; condemns any military assault on the 1.5 million refugees sheltering in Rafah; further demands the Government immediately halts all transfers of military equipment and technology, including components, to Israel, and to suspend the issuing of new licences; calls on the international community to ensure the rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief is provided in Gaza; further calls for an end to settlement expansion and violence; urges Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures; and urges all international partners to work together to establish a diplomatic process to deliver the peace of a two-state solution; recognises that statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and not in the gift of any neighbour; instructs the Government to vote for an immediate ceasefire, or wording with that effect, during the next relevant motion brought before the United Nations Security Council.
THE Prime Minister’s decision to frame the Speaker’s anti-democratic antics this week as “giving in to extremism” obscures reality.
Lindsay Hoyle’s claim he prioritised a Labour amendment over the SNP ceasefire motion because he was worried about MPs’ safety is a damage limitation bid.
But it chimes with ongoing Establishment propaganda painting peace demonstrators as extremists.
Every crisis of ruling-class legitimacy in recent years has prompted attacks on our democratic rights. Britain is racing towards an authoritarian future, with successive laws empowering police to make arrests on the vaguest grounds (such as causing a “nuisance”) and shut down protests before “disruption” even begins.
Now the idea that protest leaves MPs unsafe is used to justify curtailing democratic processes in Parliament itself. Keir Starmer did not browbeat Lindsay Hoyle into trashing procedures because he was worried about MPs’ safety.
He was trying to avoid the embarrassment of a revolt exposing divisions in his party.
The fact that Westminster is content to play cynical games while Palestinians suffer is beneath contempt writes Lindsey German
The shameful scenes in parliament where Labour manoeuvred to stop a principled motion calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza are bad enough. But even worse is the justification of many Labour MPs for the coercion of the Speaker: that they were fearful of intimidation and violence from demonstrators over Gaza.
Firstly, this is a lie: the protests that take place at MPs’ offices are overwhelmingly peaceful and no threat to MPs or their staff. They are a longstanding and valid form of expressing disagreement and concern over issues in a democracy. But such is the state of politics in Britain that they are now equated with intimidation of MPs. Perhaps these MPs – highly salaried and privileged in comparison with most of their constituents – should have reflected when they stood for office that being involved in politics of necessity involves disagreement and controversy at certain times.
There is a huge movement in support of the Palestinians across Britain and real anger that politicians have for the most part stood by as we witness a genocide in Gaza. None of these protests would take place if the MPs concerned had taken the very minimal step of backing an immediate ceasefire.
But there is also a second and more important question: why MPs are so self-centred to highlight the minimal inconvenience to them while people are starving in Gaza, while over 12,000 children have been killed and where the population is being ethnically cleansed? And why did the Labour leadership refuse to accept an amendment which talked about the collective punishment of the people of Gaza? The Labour position on Gaza has been a disgrace from the beginning and this is why they are facing a wave of protest.
The fact that they are trying to demonise protestors and to paint them as violent extremists shows their political and moral bankruptcy. The fact that they are content to play their cynical and pathetic games while the Palestinians suffer is beneath contempt.
“It is a disgrace that there has been so much playground politics in Parliament this evening, while so many lives are at stake.”
What was supposed to be a debate over a motion demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip quickly descended into mayhem and partisan bickering on Wednesday as members of the U.K. Parliament jockeyed for position—all while Israel continued dropping bombs on starving Palestinians.
Wednesday’s debate was started by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which introduced a motion calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, and “an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
The Conservative and Labour parties both put forth amendments aimed at watering down the SNP motion. House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle moved to allow a vote on all three motions, angering Tories who said the decision violated convention.
Ultimately, as The Associated Press reported, “many Conservatives and SNP members walked out, and in their absence the Labour version of the cease-fire call passed on a voice vote—by calls of ‘Aye’—without a full formal vote.” The Labour amendment dropped the SNP motion’s call for an end to collective punishment.
Diane Abbott, an MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said she entered Parliament on Wednesday to support the SNP motion, which she called “the only genuinely meant cease-fire motion on the order paper.”
“Instead things descended into a shambles,” said Abbott. “Meanwhile Israel’s military continues to kill 250 Palestinians a day.”
Jeremy Corbyn, an independent MP for Islington North and the former leader of the Labour Party, wrote Thursday that “yesterday was an appalling day for British Parliament.
“It was much, much worse for the people of Gaza, who are dying slowly and painfully from dehydration, disease, and starvation,” Corbyn added. “We must end this systematic slaughter—the existence of the Palestinian people is at stake.”
“An immediate and permanent cease-fire is the only solution to stop this devastating cycle of bloodshed.”
Oxfam GB’s head of advocacy, Katy Chakrabortty, also voiced outrage over Wednesday’s proceedings, saying in a statement, “It is a disgrace that there has been so much playground politics in Parliament this evening, while so many lives are at stake.”
“The people of Gaza can’t wait for our politicians to stop squabbling,” said Chakrabortty. “Much of the country lies in ruins and Rafah, where many Palestinian families have been forced to flee, is under threat of a full-scale military offensive. Children in the North of Gaza are dying from hunger because no aid can reach them due to Israel’s continued assault and restrictions on access.”
“An immediate and permanent cease-fire is the only solution to stop this devastating cycle of bloodshed, to ensure the safe release of hostages, and to allow urgent aid to reach all of those in desperate need,” Chakrabortty continued. “Many MPs spoke passionately tonight of the horrors in Gaza and we thank those who raised their voices. The government must listen and support U.N. votes for a cease-fire and end the sale of arms to Israel.”
Citing unnamed sources, The Guardian on Wednesday reported that the U.K.’s Tory government “will consider suspending arms export licenses to Israel” if the country’s military goes ahead with a ground invasion of Rafah, a severely overcrowded city near Gaza’s border with Egypt.
The U.K. has licensed more than £474 million worth of military exports to Israel over the past decade, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In December, HRW and other rights groups warned that “the U.K. risks being complicit in and facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law if it fails to halt arms exports to Israel immediately.”
“Our organizations demand an immediate suspension of arms transfers to all parties to the current conflict,” the groups wrote in a joint letter. “For the U.K. government, this requires a halt to the arming of Israel. Failure to do so risks the government breaching its own laws and being complicit in grave abuses.”
dizzy: While this is a very good account of what happened, I’m going to emphasize some extra issues. While the Speaker is supposed to be impartial he is acually an MP, currently a Labour MP. Labour Leader Keir Starmer acted improperly by effectively ‘lobbying’ the Speaker in person yesterday. Starmer has said that he didn’t threaten or impose pressure on the Speaker. I suggest that lobbying him in any way is out of order. The Speaker claims that he was concerned for MPs safety, that they are getting confronted by their constituents.
The winner from yesterday’s events is Keir Starmer since huge numbers – perhaps a hundred – of Labour MPs were expected to vote for the SNP’s motion against their party’s instruction. I consider that the Speaker should not be concerned with MPs’ safety and that they should be expected to be confronted by their constituents. The point here is that if you don’t want to be accused of complicity in genocide don’t be complicit in genocide.
24/2/24 I’ve used the wrong term ‘lobbying’. MPs are whipped by their own parties to follow their party’s chosen course of action.
WEDNESDAY is a fresh moment of truth for British politicians. For the second time, they will have the opportunity to vote in the House of Commons for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Since they backed the Israeli aggression by a majority last November, the genocidal assault on the Palestinians has only intensified.
More than 100,000 people have now been killed or wounded, nearly 5 per cent of Gaza’s total population. Of the dead, more than a third are children.
To date, the British government has not just acquiesced in this. It has enabled it — with arms supplies, logistical support, diplomatic backing and political indulgence.
It is complicit in genocide. So too is the Labour Party, which under Keir Starmer’s pro-imperialist leadership — it is the only issue on which he never wavers or changes course — has been hard line in its backing for the British and Israeli governments alike.
Labour amendments betray Gaza’s murdered and oppressed civilians and uses classic asymmetric language to value Palestinian life less than Israeli
Keir Starmer – after days of posing to try to bring Muslim and other decent voters onside by mouthing ceasefire language – has yet again betrayed the two million people in Gaza suffering violence and starvation and the more than 100,000 people murdered and maimed by Israel.
While the ‘mainstream’ media speculated whether Starmer would order MPs to support the SNP’s motion demanding a ceasefire, which is being debated in Parliament tomorrow, more realistic observers knew it was inevitable that Starmer would do the minimum he hopes will fool voters opposed to Israel’s genocide in Gaza, while protecting the interests of the pro-Israel right.
And so he did: Labour has tabled amendments to the original motion that gut it of its impact and has gone as far as making the motion more about Hamas’s supposed guilt and the feelings of Israel and its supporters. And the amendment uses the classic tactics of politicians and ‘mainstream’ media to present Israeli lives and suffering as more valuable than Palestinian.
In Starmer’s worldview, Palestinians are not being murdered by Israel – their lives are just ‘lost’, as if to a natural disaster and not to a campaign of mechanised mass murder. The sheer number of their deaths is presented as ‘intolerable’, but the loss of Israeli lives to Palestinian resistance is ‘horror’. Israelis have the ‘right to assurance’ against attack, but there is no mention of a Palestinian right not to be murdered by the occupation regime. Israel ‘cannot be expected’ to stop fighting if Hamas does not stop – but there is no acknowledgement that Hamas’s violence takes place against a backdrop of decades of wanton violence and oppression by the occupiers. Israel must be ‘safe and secure’ – but a Palestinian state only merits ‘viable’.
The SNP motion is an exemplar of directness and simplicity and rightly focuses on the many tens of thousands of civilians slaughtered by Israel, as well as on the forced displacement of 1.5 million Palestinians into Rafah, where they remain under constant bombardment and the threat of an all-out ground assault:
Labour’s lickspittle version calls resistance ‘terrorism’ but does not mention the Israeli terror state’s genocide and other war crimes, or the fact that so many are dying in Rafah because they were forced to cram there under bomb and bullet – and clearly hasn’t even been proofread, calling for ‘the UN Security Council to be meet urgently’:
Starmer is trying to mask his support for Israel’s war crimes and hoping that the millions in this country disgusted by that support will be fooled. His disregard for the true plight of Palestinians and his complicity in the war crimes being perpetrated against them by Israel is beyond contemptible.
U.S. and U.K. persecution of Assange has been continuous and severe.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during Prime Minister’s Questions on February 15, “This thing cannot just go on and on and on, indefinitely.”
The Prime Minister was addressing an action he took a day earlier, on Valentine’s Day. No, not his marriage proposal to his partner, Jodie Haydon (she said yes). He was explaining his support for a parliamentary motion that passed overwhelmingly, calling for the release of an Australian citizen, imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Albanese’s support builds on a growing demand from Australians across the political spectrum that the United Kingdom not extradite Assange to the United States, and for the U.S. to drop its espionage and hacking charges against him. Assange, who has been imprisoned in London’s notorious maximum-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019, has a court hearing in the UK.
Assange’s counsel, Jennifer Robinson, texted us on Thursday:
“The appeal next week could be Julian’s final appeal against U.S. extradition. If permission to appeal is denied, there are no further appeals available to us in the U.K.” If extradited, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison in the United States. Said Prime Minister Albanese, “Enough is enough.”
Prior to his imprisonment in Belmarsh, Julian Assange spent seven years cramped inside Ecuador’s small London embassy, where he’d been granted political asylum.
Assange founded WikiLeaks, a website that publishes leaked material while protecting the identity of the whistleblowers. While it launched in 2006, it wasn’t until 2010 that the U.S. government forcefully and publicly targeted Wikileaks and Assange, after Wikileaks made several massive disclosures of leaked documents related to the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Monday, April 5, 2010, Julian Assange released a shocking video at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The video, which WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder,” was shot in 2007 from a U.S. military Apache helicopter flying over Baghdad, Iraq. The video shows in grainy black and white detail the gunship’s attack on a group of people on the ground. Twelve civilians, including two Reuters news employees, were mowed down by automatic fire from the helicopter. The voices of the crew were recorded, as they sought permission to “engage” with their targets, and as they laughed and cursed through the slaughter. It was a chilling video, documenting a war crime.
The video’s release was followed by the publication on Wikileaks.org of hundreds of thousands of digital records from the U.S. military, dubbed the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary. These documents provided further proof that the U.S. was committing war crimes. Some elected officials in the U.S. called for Assange to be assassinated. Then-Vice President Joe Biden called him a “high-tech terrorist.”
Not long after, the U.S. Justice Department convened a secret grand jury which issued a sealed indictment against Assange. Existence of that indictment itself was revealed on WikiLeaks, in a subsequent leak, in 2012. U.S. and U.K. persecution of Assange since then has been continuous and severe. In 2017, as revealed in 2021 by journalist Michael Isikoff and colleagues, the CIA hatched plans to either kidnap Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy or even to assassinate him.
Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of the Australian Parliament from Tasmania, introduced the resolution in support of Assange this week, saying, “This House notes that on 20 and 21 February 2024, the High Court of Justice in the United Kingdom will hold a hearing into whether Walkley Award-winning journalist Julian Assange can appeal against his extradition to the United States of America… both the Australian Government and Opposition have publicly stated that this matter has gone on for too long; and underlines the importance of the U.K. and USA bringing the matter to a close so that Mr Assange can return home to his family in Australia.”
The Australian government is not alone in calling for Assange’s release. In November, 2022, five major newspapers that collaborated with WikiLeaks—The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais, and Der Spiegel—released a joint letter calling for an end to the prosecution. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker,” the letter read.
Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson will be in the London court for the hearing. She told us, “We have been saying for years: This is a political case which requires a political solution. The unprecedented showing of political support in the Australian Parliament overnight shows that Julian’s case is a priority for the Australian government, our parliament, and the people. The U.S. should listen to the concerns of its ally—and drop the case.”
In advance of Julian Assange’s next hearing in the UK courts ahead of his possible extradition to the US, Amnesty International reiterates concerns that Assange faces the risk of serious human rights violations if extradited and warns of a profound ‘chilling effect’ on global media freedom.
“The risk to publishers and investigative journalists around the world hangs in the balance. Should Julian Assange be sent to the US and prosecuted there, global media freedoms will be on trial, too,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and criminal justice in Europe.
The US must drop the charges under the espionage act against Assange and bring an end to his arbitrary detention in the UK.
Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and criminal justice in Europe
“Assange will suffer personally from these politically-motivated charges and the worldwide media community will be on notice that they too are not safe. The public’s right to information about what their governments are doing in their name will be profoundly undermined. The US must drop the charges under the espionage act against Assange and bring an end to his arbitrary detention in the UK.”
If Julian Assange loses the permission to appeal, he will be at risk of extradition to the US and prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917, a wartime law never intended to target the legitimate work of publishers and journalists. He could face up to 175 years in jail. On the less serious charge of computer fraud, he could receive a maximum of five years.
Assange would also be at high risk of prolonged solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. Although the US has offered ‘diplomatic assurances’ to the UK, allegedly guaranteeing his safety if imprisoned, the authorities’ assurances include so many caveats that they cannot be considered reliable.
“The US assurances cannot be trusted. Dubious assurances that he will be treated well in a US prison ring hollow considering that Assange potentially faces dozens of years of incarceration in a system well known for its abuses, including prolonged solitary confinement and poor health services for inmates. The US simply cannot guarantee his safety and well-being as it has also failed to do for the hundreds of thousands of people currently imprisoned in the US,” said Julia Hall.
Worldwide threat to media freedom
If Julian Assange is extradited, it will establish a dangerous precedent wherein the US government could target for extradition publishers and journalists around the world. Other countries could take the US example and follow suit.
“Julian Assange’s publication of documents disclosed to him by sources as part of his work with Wikileaks mirrors the work of investigative journalists. They routinely perform the activities outlined in the indictment: speaking with confidential sources, seeking clarification or additional documentation, and receiving and disseminating official and sometimes classified information,” said Julia Hall.
News and publishing outlets often and rightfully publish classified information to inform on matters of utmost public importance. Publishing information that is in the public interest is a cornerstone of media freedom. It’s also protected under international human rights law and should not be criminalized.
“The US’ efforts to intimidate and silence investigative journalists for uncovering governmental misconduct, such as revealing war crimes or other breaches of international law, must be stopped in its tracks.
“Sources such as legitimate whistle blowers who expose governmental wrongdoing to journalists and publishers must also be free to share information in the public interest. They will be far more reluctant to do so if Julian Assange is prosecuted for engaging in legitimate publishing work.
It’s not just Julian Assange in the dock. Silence Assange and others will be gagged
“This is a test for the US and UK authorities on their commitment to the fundamental tenets of media freedom that underpin the rights to freedom of expression and the public’s right to information. It’s not just Julian Assange in the dock. Silence Assange and others will be gagged,” said Julia Hall.
The High Court in the UK has confirmed a two-day hearing on 20 and 21 February 2024. The outcome will determine whether Julian Assange will have further opportunities to argue his case before the UK courts or if he will have exhausted all appeals in the UK, leading to the extradition process or an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
sourced from an Amnesty International press release
BRITAIN’S ruling class is eager to carry on the pretence that there is real choice under their political system.
Capitalism promises us that it’s the politicians that call the shots, there are real differences between those politicians and that we’re the ones that elect the politicians and they’re answerable to us.
But as with most tricks, when looked at too closely, reality and the nature of the fraud become clear.
Nowhere is it clearer that there is no real difference between the ruling-class parties than the imperialist consensus on questions of foreign policy, militarism and war.
Rather than questioning the Tory government’s policy or strategy on the burning issues of Palestine or Ukraine, Keir Starmer has bent over backwards (not hard when you’re spineless) at each and every turn to not only stymie any criticism, but to heartily endorse Tory policy.
Britain is a proud western democracy — the oldest in the world in fact: you can stand as a candidate for whoever you want; you can vote for whoever you want; just as long as they enthusiastically cheerlead genocide in 2024.