By Dr Qari Asim
Imam at Makkah Mosque, Leeds
The historic parliamentary vote calling on the British government to recognise Palestine as an independent state takes place on 13 October. Imams Online urges all members of Parliament, from across all political backgrounds, to vote in favour of recognising Palestine as a sovereign state.
The issue of the independence of Palestine has been turned into a political football for well over half a century. Imams Online advocates that the Palestine-Israel conflict should not be seen as a conflict between two faith communities, rather it is an issue pertaining to safety, security, stability and the prosperity of two nations. The unprecedented parliamentary vote offers an opportunity not only to secure freedom and justice for the Palestinian people who have suffered considerably for many decades, but also safety and security for the people of Israel.
It is an opportunity to put an end to the cycle of violence and collective punishment of Palestinian people and re-kindle hope for peace and stability in the Middle East.
The chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, Grahame Morris MP has tabled a motion in the House of Commons, which calls for the UK Parliament to recognise the State of Palestine equally alongside the State of Israel.
The motion has cross-party support from members of the three major political parties. It is encouraging to note that the Labour leadership has instructed its MPs to vote in favour of the motion. The private members motion is non-binding and would not force the government to change its diplomatic stance. However, a ‘Yes’ vote would put future governments under increasing pressure to recognise the State of Palestine and would have profound international implications.
In November 2012, the United Nations assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state but the European Union and most EU countries, including Britain, have yet to give official recognition. Sweden’s government is leading on this issue and is set to officially recognise Palestine. Although Britain does not currently class Palestine as a state, it affirms that it could do so at any time if it believed it would help the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel. Britain is now at an appropriate juncture to recognise Palestine as an independent state.
Palestine: a Sovereign State
A parliamentary vote to recognise Palestine as an independent state would breathe new life into the peace process. The two-state solution, which has formed the basis of pretty much all efforts to build Middle East peace for the past half century, is currently at stalemate.
Acknowledging Palestine as a sovereign state will send a strong signal to the rest of the world that the British Parliament supported positive action to move towards a two state solution in an attempt to bring the Palestinian – Israeli conflict to an end. It would bring Palestine and Israel onto an equal footing for the first time to negotiate a practical and sustainable solution to the historic conflict in the region.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. While Gaza’s boundaries are clearly defined, the precise territory of what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will only be determined through negotiations with Israel in a two-state solution, negotiations on which are currently suspended.
Palestine – Israel Conflict
The recent bombardment in Gaza has led to the deaths of more than two thousand people, a large number of whom were children, and destruction of considerable infrastructure with nothing achieved. Meanwhile the policy of building settlements in the occupied West Bank continues. The rockets fired by Hamas also led to 68 people being killed on the Israeli side. However, the people of Israel do not want to live in a state of perpetual war. Any country’s long-term survival is dependent upon on it maintaining good relations with its neighbours and the same applies to Israel.
Hamas has still not accepted the legitimacy of Israel and that is an issue that will also need to be resolved before both sides are considered as independent states to reach a sustainable solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The current despair and disappointment on both sides will only lead to further violence and loss of life. A viable Palestinian state and a secure Israeli state would only come about if the path of politics and negotiations is adopted, and Britain has a historic opportunity to influence such a path by taking the bold step of recognising Palestine as an independent state. This vote is a unique opportunity to move from rhetoric to taking practical step to bring about peace and security to the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Ask Your MPs
Imams Online has campaigned for everyone to ask their MPs to vote to recognise Palestine as an independent sovereign state.
We urge everyone to take the time to send their MP an email, or write to them, and encourage others to do so as well. As this is a backbench debate, MPs will not be obliged by their political parties to vote. It is therefore important that everyone lobbies as many MPs as possible to attend the debate and vote for Palestine to be recognised as an independent state.
A ‘Yes’ vote would be a victory for the protection of the basic human rights of the Palestinian people, and the safety, security and prosperity of all in the region.