Baroness Warsi‘s Resignation over Gaza
Conflict is undoubtedly one of Principle
Dr. Mozammel Haque
After more than a month of the mind-numbing carnage of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza Strip, nearly 2,000 Palestinians killed, nearly 400 innocent children have been killed, more than 9,000 injured and an estimated 30% of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are internally displaced. Repeated shelling of a third UN school housing and United Nations facilities was described by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General as “outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable”.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister tried both at formal meetings and informal meetings to convince her colleagues that “our current policy on Gaza is morally indefensible”. She recently tweeted: “Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children. Whatever our politics there can never be justification, surely only regret.” Lady Warsi resigned as senior Foreign Office Minister on Tuesday, the 5th of August 2014 over the Government’s refusal to condemn the aggressive Israeli response to the Hamas rocket attacks. Will it have any effect on Government’s policy? Is there any precedent? Let’s see.
Death Destruction and Catastrophe in Gaza
Writing in The Guardian, Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Secretary wrote: “The past month has seen the continuation of Israeli air strikes and ground raids in Gaza, along with repeated rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. These are appalling and inexcusable acts of violence on both sides. With more than 1,800 confirmed dead – one in four of them reportedly children – and more than 9,000 injured, the conflict is causing unimaginable suffering for the innocent. This week saw the shelling near a third UN school housing displaced civilians in Gaza. As a husband and father, watching the news has become unbearable.” (The Guardian, 6 August 2014)
The Observer, editorially mentioned, “Israel's military says it has killed 900 Hamas fighters, destroyed 3,000 rockets and unearthed 32 tunnels.”
“The human cost is thus likely to rise from the current totals of approximately 1,900 dead and many more injured. Four hundred children have been killed. An estimated 30% of Gaza's 1.8 million people is internally displaced. This great distress is not justified by, nor does it facilitate, any long-term Palestinian political objective,” commented The Observer. (The Observer, Editorial, 10 August 2014)
The fact on the ground, the reality is: “Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, plus, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.” (Denis Kucinich in The Guardian, 5 August, 2014)
Shocked and shamed the world – Ban Ki-moon
In a strongly worded address to the UN General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General said the conflict in Gaza – which has left 67 Israelis and more than 1,800 Palestinians dead – had “shocked and shamed the world”. He added: “Perhaps nothing symbolised more the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza than the repeated shelling of United Nations facilities harbouring civilians who had been explicitly told to seek a safe haven there. These attacks were outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable.” (The Guardian, 7 August 2014)
“The senseless cycle of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in Israel, must end,” he said. “Do we have to continue like this: build, destroy, and build, and destroy? We will build again, but this must be the last time to rebuild. This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table,” he said. (The Guardian, 7 August 2014)
Former US President Jimmy Carter and Former Irish President Mary Robinson said, “There is no humane or legal justification for how the Israeli Defence Force is conducting this war, pulverising with bombs, missiles and artillery large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, displacing families and killing Palestinian non-combatants. Much of Gaza has lost its access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.” (Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson, The Guardian, 5 August 2014)
UK Government Policy
In spite of that, the UK Government’s policy towards the Israeli incursion into Gaza was falling into disarray. Patrick Wintour wrote, “The government's policy towards the Israeli incursion into Gaza was in danger of falling apart on Tuesday night in the wake of the surprise resignation of the Foreign Office minister Sayeeda Warsi and a demand by Nick Clegg that Britain immediately suspend arms export licences to Israel. (The Guardian, 6 August 2014)
Lady Warsi’s resignation over Gaza
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former senior Foreign Minister resigned from the government on Tuesday morning 5th of August, 2014 over the issue of Gaza. In her resignation letter, Lady Warsi wrote, “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and response to it.
“My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically,” Baroness Warsi said.
She also suggested the Israeli government should face international trial for alleged war crimes, but feared the British Government would not support that position. She wrote in the letter: “Particularly as the Minister with responsibility for the United Nations, The International Criminal Court and Human Rights, I believe our approach in relation to the current conflict is neither consistent with our values, specifically our commitment to the rule of law and our long history of support for international justice.”
Speaking afterwards, she told the Huffington Post website: "As the minister for the International Criminal Court, I’ve spent the last two and a half years helping to promote, support and fund the ICC. I felt I could not reconcile this with our continued pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to turn to the ICC to seek justice." (Matthew Holehouse, Political Correspondent of the daily Telegraph reported on 5 August 2014).
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Warsi said: “Our position not to recognise Palestinian statehood at the UN in November 2012 placed us on the wrong side of history and is something I deeply regret not speaking out against at the time.” In a further interview with Channel 4 News, Warsi suggested Cameron had been “mealy-mouthed” over his refusal to say Israel’s actions had been disproportionate.
“I think for me, it’s morally indefensible where after four weeks of a conflict – more than a quarter of the Gazan population displaced, nearly 2,000 people killed, nearly 400 innocent children killed – we still cannot find the words to say we condemn this and we feel this action has been disproportionate. These issues are far too serious for us to have been mealy-mouthed and for us to be dragging our heels.”
Warsi was known to have been unhappy with Cameron’s failure to unequivocally condemn Israel’s incursion into Gaza or the mounting death toll. On Monday, the prime minister’s spokesman refused to say if Israel was behaving disproportionately or doing enough to prevent civilian casualties. Warsi has been increasingly critical of Israel’s behaviour. She recently tweeted: “Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children. Whatever our politics there can never be justification, surely only regret.” (Patrick Wintour and Rowena Mason reported in The Guardian, 5th of August, 2014)
Following criticism about the timing of her resignation – on the 29th day of the conflict and after a ceasefire had been announced – Warsi spoke to the BBC to say: “Over the last four weeks, I have done everything that I can both at formal meetings and informal meetings trying to convince my colleagues that our current policy on Gaza is morally indefensible, that it’s not in our interests, it’s not in British interests and that it will have consequences for us both internationally and here at home. “In the end, for us I felt the government’s position was not moving and therefore I had to on a point of principle resign.” (Reported by Patrick and Rowena in The Guardian)
Viewpoints and Observations
of British Parliamentarians
Responding to Lady Warsi’s resignation, fellow parliamentarians wrote in newspapers, gave interviews to BBC and expressed their viewpoints and opinions. Labour was quick to respond to the news. Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary said it was “very courageous of my brave friend Sayeeda Warsi to resign over this Government’s inexplicable silence and total weakness on the Gaza crisis.” He mentioned in his write-up in The Guardian: “On Tuesday Sayeeda Warsi resigned as Foreign Office Minister, saying the government’s response to the situation in Gaza had been “morally indefensible ... not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation”. I haven’t always agreed with Lady Warsi, but I think her decision to make a stand on this issue and speak up for the British public is genuinely courageous.” (The Guardian)
“Warsi has done a brave thing in speaking out, and her resignation will be a big loss to David Cameron’s overwhelmingly male, white, wealthy and privately educated cabinet. I sincerely hope that the prime minister reflects on Warsi’s resignation, and when it comes to the crisis in Gaza, change his approach,” observed Sadiq Khan, MP.
Ed Miliband, the Opposition Labour leader, has previously criticised the Prime Minister for failing to send a “clearer message to Israel” over the conflict, reported by Adam Withnall in the Independent. On Saturday, the Labour leader said it was "wrong" of Mr Cameron not to publicly oppose Israel's incursion into Gaza, adding: "His silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally.”
Responding to Lady Warsi's resignation, fellow Conservative peer Lord Deben described her as a “class act in the House of Lords upon whom [the] Government relies”.
Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham text me a message saying, “Sayeeda Warsi has taken a courageous, ethical and principled decision to resign from the Government. She is right to express concerns regarding British arms being exported to Israel whilst they are slaughtering children and women in Gaza. We join the global people of the world by asking the ICC to pursue War Crimes tribunal on Israeli attacks on civilians and targeting the UN school full of refugees.”
Reporting on Lady Warsi’s resignation over Gaza conflict, Nigel Morris mentioned in The Independent on 6 August 2014 that the former Justice minister, Crispin Blunt, praised her decision as “brave and principled”, Damian Green, the former immigration minister, said she was a “brave woman who always speaks her mind” and the former Environment Secretary Lord Deben said: “She is a significant loss on a real matter of principle.” Sir Nicholas Soames, a former defence minister, tweeted: “The Government needs to note and learn from the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi she was right to leave over a matter of such great importance.” Her departure will be a blow to Tory efforts to reach out to Muslim voters, just 12 per cent of whom backed the party at the last election.
Nigel Morris also reported that the Tory MEP Sajjad Karim, who became the first British Muslim in the European Parliament, said: “There is quite clearly a directional shift in Government today and that goes against the grain of what the majority of British people will want to see.” “I think there is a growing awareness amongst many people that our Government’s position is out of step with what people are seeing on their screens. Much more needs to be done to ensure Israel is held to restraint.”
Whereas Patrick Wintour reported in The Guardian, on 6 August, 2014, “Alistair Burt, the recently sacked Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East, said Lady Warsi's departure was a huge loss, and Nicholas Soames, a senior figure on the 1922 committee, urged Cameron to take note.”
Wintour also mentioned, “She quit the government on Tuesday morning, saying she was leaving because she had lost the argument inside the Foreign Office over condemnation of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Her assessment was shared by Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general sacked in the summer reshuffle.”
Wintour also mentioned in the same report, “The Tory MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, who left the government in last month's reshuffle, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: Asked about Warsi's claims of a domestic backlash in terms of radicalisation, he replied: "She has a point. Of course she is absolutely right.
"She worked enormously hard on the question of our Syria policy and the radicalisation of young British Muslims. “She's absolutely right [that] our foreign policy does have implications for us domestically.” But he added: "You have to recognise that Israel is a state that feels very, very strongly about its own security. (The Guardian, 6 August 2014)
Editorial Comments and Observations
The Tories have lost an important asset and their Middle East policy is under harsh spotlight. The Guardian editorially observed, “Her (Baroness Warsi) departure will leave an indelible impression that the woman who shared Michael Gove’s outrage at the dominance of Etonians in her party has been forced out by a clique of posh white men.” (The Guardian, Editorial, 5 August 2014.)
“Lady Warsi is making some very serious criticisms of that policy. Her heartfelt attack includes an indictment of its understanding of where Britain’s national interest lies, a “morally indefensible” attitude to Israel’s bombardment, particularly the failure to condemn it as disproportionate, the failure to halt arms sales, and the attempt to head off a referral of Israel – and Hamas – to the international criminal court. She warned that government policy would fuel anger and resentment in the Muslim community,” editorially commented by The Guardian on 5 August 2014. .
Reports and Comments
Patrick Wintour observed, “the vitriolic tone of her attack on David Cameron’s policy towards Gaza, and her status as the first Muslim cabinet member, suggests her departure has the potential to inflict both political and moral damage on the Conservatives months before the general election.” (The Guardian, 5 August 2014)
Michael White wrote in The Guardian, “Warsi's own reasoning is set out in her resignation letter and tweet to David Cameron, an "astonishing charge sheet" in Patrick Wintour’s analysis, subtly amplified in Rafael Behr’s column. Warsi was increasingly distressed by the prime minister's failure to sufficiently condemn the Israeli bombings of Hamas-controlled Gaza. She was also dismayed by the departure from the government of moderate figures such as Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve, sacked as attorney general for (probably) resisting rightwing pressure to retreat from Britain's international legal – she's a lawyer – and human rights obligations. Fellow Yorkshire patriot William Hague's (voluntary) departure from the Foreign Office was another blow.” ( Michael White, The Guardian, 5 August 2014)
Mark Wallace wrote, Lady Warsi’s resignation over Gaza is undoubtedly one of principle. Lady Warsi’s resignation reveals the emptiness of Cameron’s diversity drive.” (Mark Wallace in The Guardian, 5 August 2014.)
52% of UK voters believe Israel acted
Disproportionately over Gaza – Poll
A majority of British voters believe Israel acted in a disproportionate manner during the recent Gaza conflict, according to the latest Guardian/ICM poll, which lends support to the arguments that persuaded Lady Warsi to resign from the government, reported by Nicholas Watt in The Guardian on 12 August, 2014
The poll found that 52% of voters believe Israel acted disproportionately when it responded to the firing of rockets by Hamas by launching air strikes against the Gaza Strip.
Findings lend support to Lady Warsi’s argument
The findings will lend weight to the argument of Lady Warsi who resigned last week as a senior Foreign Office minister after criticising David Cameron for his “morally indefensible” failure to describe the Israeli action as disproportionate, Nicholas Watt reported.