Lords shown Sderot bomb part at debate

The Israeli army’s tactics and the aftermath of the Gaza conflict have been discussed at length during a special House of Lords debate.

An additional session of the Upper House was convened last Friday, with 34 peers taking the opportunity to give their views on Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent humanitarian crisis.

Many recalled their personal experiences of visits to both sides of the border.

Lord Janner brought to the chamber pieces of a shattered car tail light and a bomb fragment which he had collected in the aftermath of a rocket attack on Sderot last month.

He told peers how the conflict had caused a surge in antisemitic incidents in Britain, and quoted last week’s JC report of an attack on a 12-year-old girl in Birmingham.

He was followed by Lord Kalms, who said there had been “a terrible misapportionment of blame” and criticised comparisons with Britain’s struggle in Ireland with the IRA.

“Had we in Britain faced such an existential threat in the IRA, and seen such a force not just supported, but sponsored by, our near neighbours — as Hamas is supported by Iran — then I am by no means certain that this state would have been as restrained as Israel has been in response to the repeated assaults of recent years,” he said.

Baroness Deech questioned the parliamentary response, asking why the Lords had heard 161 questions and statements on Israel and Gaza in the past 12 months, while conflicts in Sri Lanka and Tibet had collectively been raised only 57 times.

Attacks on Tamils had seen 70,000 people killed, she said, but “this has attracted little opprobrium and no calls for the obliteration of Sri Lanka, or talk of its brutalisation”.

A number of speakers bemoaned the absence of a Nelson Mandela figure in the peace process and called on President Barack Obama to take a leading role.

Viscount Waverley, who identified himself as a shareholder in the Gaza Power Station, said: “Some suggest that Israel has an Eretz Israel, a greater Israel, as the endgame; as the saying goes, ‘From the sea to the river’. That agenda must be stopped dead in its tracks.”

Lord Ahmed, criticised last week for claiming student societies had recruited young British Jews to fight in the IDF, said the debate had dealt in “deliberate propaganda and misinformation” and claimed he knew 12 speeches “could have been written by the same person”.

Linking Hamas with Islam was wrong, he said, adding: “God forbid I should demonise Israel and link it with the Jewish faith. There would be headlines in the Jewish Chronicle.”

Meanwhile, meetings she had held with Hamas leaders in Gaza and Syria had led Lib Dem peeress Baroness Tonge to question whether Israel “truly wanted peace”.

Baroness Kennedy, president of Medical Aid for Palestinians, claimed Gazans were losing hope of founding a Palestinian state.

“This should no longer be a discussion in which people have to choose whether they are pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. This is a discussion where people should be talking about being pro-peace,” she said.

Closing the session, Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown called the rising tide of antisemitism in Britain “utterly abhorrent” and said it was essential to move beyond assigning blame in order to have any hope of peace.

    Last updated: 1:48pm, February 12 2009