Senior Conservative MP Paul Bristow, a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Science Department, has broken ranks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call for a “permanent” ceasefire in Gaza. The Telegraph has the story.
In a two-page letter to Mr. Sunak, Mr. Bristow said: “Thousands have been killed and more than one million now displaced. It is difficult to understand how this makes Israel more secure or indeed makes anything better.”
He welcomed calls from Mr. Sunak last week for “specific pauses” in the fighting, but added: “A permanent ceasefire would save lives and allow for a continued column of humanitarian aid [to] reach the people who need it the most.
“Access to water, electricity and fuel is vital for the Palestinian people. My constituents and I would be grateful for your comments on the actions our Government is taking to ensure that people in Gaza do not face collective punishment for the crimes of Hamas.”
In further comments on his Facebook page, Mr. Bristow said: “Ordinary Palestinians are not Hamas. I struggle to see how Israel is any safer following thousands of deaths of innocent Palestinians.
“They should not suffer collective punishment for the crimes of Hamas. We need a ceasefire.”
A post including the letter on Mr. Bristow’s website on Thursday has now been deleted, but it remains live on his Facebook page. It was not posted to his Twitter or Instagram profiles.
Mr. Bristow is the MP for Peterborough, where the Muslim population is almost double the national average.
According to the 2021 census, Peterborough has a Muslim population of 12.2%, while the proportion of the overall British population identifying as Muslim is 6.5%.
He is also the Co-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, which sets out to highlight the “aspirations and challenges” facing Muslim communities in Britain and recognise their contribution to society.
Worth reading in full.
Bristow doesn’t specify how, in his view, a post-ceasefire Israel should go about rescuing the hostages or dismantling Hamas. Presumably that’s because he doesn’t agree that dismantling Hamas is a legitimate military goal, or at least an achievable one. But we don’t know, because in common with almost everyone else calling for a permanent ceasefire he doesn’t feel the need to fill in the gaps of what Israel should do instead of sending in the military to try to rescue the hostages and disarm this long-running security threat.
His letter implies he thinks the Israeli response is intended to be a “collective punishment” for the recent Hamas atrocity. But that would be a war crime, and is clearly not what Israel is up to. Israel’s aims are clear: to return the hostages and neutralise Hamas. Civilian casualties are highly regrettable consequences of the way Hamas uses its population as human shields. They are obviously not what Israel is aiming for. The assumption that they are is redolent of antisemitic tropes – why assume Israel is trying to slaughter civilians? – even where such tropes are (if we’re being charitable) not intended.
Those calling for a ceasefire often say they want peace. But Hamas has shown that it has no intention of honouring a ceasefire or living at peace with Israel. We can be sure Israel is pursuing this strategy because it believes that it is the most likely way – indeed, the only way – to achieve a lasting peace. The notion that peace could be achieved were Israel simply to lay down its arms lacks seriousness. October 7th showed that there will be no peace in Gaza and Israel while Hamas remains at large. Maybe it will not be possible fully to dismantle Hamas and neutralise it as a threat to the Jewish state. But it’s now clear that to do so is the only way to reach an enduring end to hostilities in the country.
Stop Press: Bristow has now been sacked from his Government position.