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Yesterday was the bloodiest day of violence on the border between Gaza and Israel since the recent wave of protests began. 59 Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli forces, including six children. Some 2,771 people were reported injured, including 1,359 by live ammunition, with 130 people in a critical condition. Since the end of March, 97 Palestinians, including twelve children, have been killed by Israeli forces during the course of the demonstrations.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, has expressed his profound alarm at the “sharp escalation of violence” and the “high number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests”. According to Save the Children, over 250 children were shot with live ammunition.

This morning, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, appeared on the Today Programme to defend these actions as necessary to protect Israel’s border and laid bare a series of statements made by Hamas leaders - even in recent weeks - seeking to incite violence against Israel and Israelis.

There can be no justification for Israel’s actions yesterday. None. The idea that Israel’s only options in response to a scenario that was entirely foreseen were to do nothing or to fire live ammunition is absurd. As the executive director of B’Tselem - an Israeli human rights organisation - has argued: “defending the border is not a licence to kill.”

To attempt, as some have done, to portray of tens of thousands of protestors as armed Hamas combatants is deeply disingenuous. There can be no doubt that there has been incitement to violence and those choosing to exploit these protests for their own ends. Nor is there any real doubt that there were armed combatants among the protesters. Violence is their method and the destruction of the State of Israel is their aim. We know what they stand for. But here is an uncomfortable truth for those defending the actions of the Netanyahu’s Government: Hamas has no better friend or recruiting sergeant than the present Israeli Government.

The failure of political leadership - Israeli, Palestinian and American - is contemptible. Today marks 70 years since the creation of the State of Israel - a day of celebration for Israelis who are proud of the great many achievements of their young state with ancient roots. For Palestinians, it is the Nakba - an anniversary of loss, displacement and ultimately occupation. For the international community this should be a moment of profound reflection of our collective failure to bring about two states for two people, where both Israelis and Palestinians can grow up surrounded by peace, security and opportunity.

Instead, we see the unedifying spectacle of the United States of America opening an embassy in Jerusalem for no other reason than the vanity of its President and an appeal to his evangelical base - emboldening reactionary forces in Israel, putting the prospects of peace further away. As John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, has said: “Deaths in Gaza [are the] result of utter disregard of Messers Trump and Netanyahu for Palestinian rights and homeland. By moving [the US] Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump played politics, destroyed US peacemaker role.”

While this jamboree takes place, 2 million Palestinians in Gaza continue to live in an open air prison, trapped under a blockade by Israel and Egypt that has been in place for the past 11 years. So men, women and children have chosen to march. They are marching against the conditions they endure - not living, existing. Every international NGO focused on humanitarian existence has raised the alarm of a systems collapse in Gaza: everything from health care, to sewage management, schools and energy are at breaking point and unable to provide essential services. Less than 4% of the water is drinkable and over 60% of the sea water is full of sewage.

Friends of Israel, including the British Government, have a responsibility to speak up. The current trajectory of Israeli and American policy offers no path to peace and a two state solution. It is a path that will only lead to the further oppression and humiliation of the Palestinian people and, ironically, it will only serve to undermine Israel’s founding principles as a democratic state and put Israel’s longer term security at risk.

There are progressive elements on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who can bring about the future that a majority of both peoples still want to see. We saw how close they came to success under Rabin. We see those elements at work through NGOs and coexistence projects in Israel and Palestine and here in the UK. They are undermined by those who act as apologists for these actions of the Israeli Government and those who amplify reactionary voices on both sides of the conflict.

After 70 years and decades of missed opportunities, the international community must reflect on the human consequences of placing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the ‘too difficult box’. A new generation of political leadership is required in Israel and Palestine and a new mindset is required here: one that doesn’t see the key divide as choosing between being pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine, but as between siding with reactionaries or progressives or between peacemakers and warmongers. It shouldn’t be hard to choose. 

You can see my contribution to today’s Q&A on Gaza in the House of Commons here.

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Yesterday was the bloodiest day of violence on the border between Gaza and Israel since the recent wave of protests began. 59 Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli forces, including...

I’m desperately saddened by the news that the wonderful Tessa Jowell has passed away overnight following her battle with brain cancer.

Tessa was the very best of us - and brought out the best in all of us. So kind, generous and determined to make a real difference. What a legacy she leaves - not least through Sure Start, London 2012 and her final mission to make sure that, in future, people can “live well with cancer, not just be dying of it. All of us, for longer.”

I will always be grateful for Tessa’s support and friendship - not least when she returned to Ilford North many times, having first been a candidate here in 1978, to help me win in 2015. She is truly an example to us all and we will do our best to follow her example and honour her legacy.

I will never forget her words to us just weeks ago in the House of Commons: “It was the honour of my life to be one of you. I shall cheer on from the sidelines as you keep fighting the good fight. Remember our battle cry – living with, not dying from cancer, for more people.”

Sending lots of love to Tessa’s husband, her children, family and other friends x

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Today I joined General Secretary, Tim Roache, GMB Union and trade unionists from across the country on the TUC’s march for a new deal.

Our country is increasingly divided and the few economic gains we’ve seen during the past decade have not been enjoyed by all. Pay is stagnating, more people are in low paid, insecure work and our public services are buckling under the pressure of budget cuts and increasing demand.

That’s why I joined today’s march. We need an economy that works in the interests of everyone - not just a privileged few at the top. I was proud to march with GMB, who’ve been leading the way in exposing the low pay and insecurity of jobs in the ‘gig economy’ and warning against a race to the bottom in pay, terms and conditions.

Trades unions are an essential safeguard for working people, but unions like the GMB shouldn’t need to rely on taking rogue employers to court to stand up for their members - they need a Labour Government to defend and extend the rights of working people and the public services we rely upon.

If you’re not in a union, join one! If you’re not sure which union you should join, the TUC website can help: https://www.tuc.org.uk/find-union-you.

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Today I joined General Secretary, Tim Roache, GMB Union and trade unionists from across the country on the TUC’s march for a new deal. Our country is increasingly divided and...

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