Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest in London

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a protest in Parliament Square in London on February 21, 2024.

(Photo: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images)

Oxfam Rips UK Parliament for 'Squabbling' Over Cease-Fire as Israel Pummels Gaza

"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 Pressreported, "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."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.