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UK MP criticised for comparing Ukraine crisis to Israeli occupation of Palestine

Labour MP for Sunderland Central, Julie Elliott, was told that she was wrong to make parallels between the two conflicts during a debate on the recognition of Palestine
Pro-Palestine protesters at a demonstration in central London, on 26 June 2021 (AFP)

A British politician was criticised on Thursday after likening the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and urging for international law to be respected in both situations. 

"My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people," said Labour MP Julie Elliott during a Commons debate on the recognition of Palestine, as she pressed the government to consider recognising the state of Palestine alongside Israel in pursuit of a two-state solution. 

"Quite rightly we talk about international law. In fact, I listened to the minister [Amanda Milling] only a few minutes ago on the vital importance of the sovereignty of states. Yet when Palestinians hear that, how must they feel? They have endured 54 years of occupation, which in itself is an aggression.”

Conservative MP Stephen Crabb then interjected, calling Elliott's comparison "historically wrong, factually wrong and morally wrong. [It's] a huge disservice not just to the people of Ukraine but also to the people of Palestine and the people of Israel as well, who face a unique situation and set of challenges," he said.

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Elliott called for a "complete and total ban on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank" and said that recognising Palestine was the "bare minimum" of what the UK should do as part of a two-state solution. 

Responding to Crabb, she said: "What I was talking about was the upholding of international law, which your own minister talked about a few minutes ago, and the right of upholding international law is as relevant in Ukraine as it is in Palestine."

Scottish National Party MP Philippa Whitford backed the Sunderland MP's views, and said: "After 55 years of occupation, 15 years of Gaza blockade, and the ongoing annexation of the West Bank, the two-state solution is simply becoming unviable unless there is a reversal of current Israeli policy."

Foreign Office minister Amanda Milling said the UK would recognise a permanent Palestinian state "at a time when it best serves the objective of peace".

She told the Commons: "We firmly believe that a just and lasting solution delivering peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. We also believe that the best way to make progress towards this is through negotiations between both sides, which take account of their legitimate concerns."

Earlier this week, the British government overwhelmingly voted in favour of an amendment that would ban public sector employees from boycotting Israeli investments within their pension pots.

While the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel was not explicitly mentioned in the amendment, it was made clear in the debate tabled by Conservative MP Robert Jenrick that the policy was centred around the boycott. 

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