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Sayeeda Warsi 'appalled' at Arab world silence over Israel's war in Gaza

The former UK cabinet minister has explained why she stood down from office over Israel's military assault in Gaza
Sayeeda Warsi delivers a speech during the first day of the Conservative conference in 2010 (AFP)

Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim in Britain to become a cabinet minister, said on Monday that she resigned over Israel’s military assault on Gaza last summer because “she was less concerned about being on the wrong side of government than she was about being on the wrong side of history”.

Giving her first personal account of her resignation, Baroness Warsi delivered an impassioned address to an Arab audience about the decision that led to her, the daughter of a Pakistani economic migrant, to abandon the seat she had at the top political table of the United Kingdom.

Speaking to the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha, Baroness Warsi said that deeply ingrained British values of fairness, rule of law and accountability made her realise that she could no longer support Conservative leader David Cameron’s government.

“I could not comprehend how boys playing football on a beach should have had their lives so tragically ended,” Lady Warsi said, referring to a notorious incident when four boys were killed by Israeli rocket fire on beach outside a hotel used by foreign correspondents. “The boys playing football had lanky legs. Legs like my sons. It could have been any of our children.”

“And at that moment I could not support words handed down by my government, when I felt that those words lacked compassion.”

At the time Baroness Warsi was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister with responsibility for human rights, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

In Doha Baroness Warsi castigated Arab governments that failed to condemn Israel, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“I am convinced that governments in the West would have been prepared to play a role, if they had believed that the region meant business, and was sincere about resolving the Middle East crisis and were not just simply playing the game.”

She praised Qatar for speaking out against Israel’s attack on Gaza and supporting Gazans financially: “Our response is only ever going to be as clear as your vision [...] I was appalled at the silence in the Arab world and the lack of any collective leadership.”

Her decision to speak out on the eve of a British general election will cause further embarrassment to Cameron, who has been criticised for ignoring the British Muslim vote by former Daily Telegraph chief political commentator Peter Oborne in a recent column for Middle East Eye.

Baroness Warsi said she felt “deeply British” having being born, raised, and educated here, but also “completely Muslim and proud of my heritage”.

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