"Gaza Needs More Than Harsh Words and Hang Wringing"

15 January 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith has today (Thursday) hailed a near unanimous vote of the European Parliament calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and describing the Israeli blockade of Gaza as a "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people.

While welcoming the vote as the most strongly worded resolution of the Parliament ever on the Middle East crisis, Smith has reiterated his call to suspend all EU-Israel agreements pending a durable ceasefire. Smith grew up in the Middle East, maintains close ties with the region and visited Israel, the West bank and Gaza in late 2006.

Speaking from Strasbourg after the vote, Smith said:

"The situation in Gaza is getting worse, not better, and it is clear that the Israelis care not one jot about international opinion, so we need to see more action on the part of the EU than just harsh words and handwringing. I predict that hostilities will end with the inauguration of the new US President next week, but only after the Israelis have set back the cause of a durable peace by decades and at incalculable human cost.

"The international community has stood by and fiddled while Gaza burns. The EU member states gave critically mixed signals to the Israeli leadership with proposals, now shelved, to actually upgrade relations at a time when anybody with a satellite TV knew the Israelis were preparing for an offensive.

"The leadership of Hamas has not helped themselves or the people of Gaza, and I, like the Parliament, condemn all violence. However, it is just not serious to compare their violence with the might of the Israeli Defence Force, bombing schools and UN aid compounds, especially when anyone with a grasp of history knows that much of the land being shelled by the Hamas rockets is illegally held by the Israelis in any case.

"The situation highlights the weakness of the EU in dealing with a military crisis. Military matters are not the EU way or, in fairness, the EU role. But when the leading states in this conflict have so comprehensively failed to maintain clean hands or integrity, the EU must now step up. For the Israelis to pretend next week when President Obama is sworn in that we have reached a Year Zero would be a cruel insult to the Palestinian people and the integrity of the International community."