Baroness Warsi resigns over UK government's Gaza stance

Published 05 August 2014  |  
PA

The UK Minister for Faith and Communities has handed in her resignation, citing the government's policies towards the escalating crisis in Gaza as "morally indefensible".

Writing on twitter this morning that her decision is made "with deep regret," Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said she can "no longer support" the government's stance on Gaza.

The first ever female Muslim cabinet minister, the Baroness also serves as Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During her time in office, she has committed herself to encouraging and promoting the peaceful co-existence of different faiths.

More recently, she has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and a greater effort from international governments to facilitate an end to the violence.

"For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it," Baroness Warsi wrote in her resignation letter to PM David Cameron.

"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."

Offering her continued support to the Prime Minister as leader of the Conservative Party, the Baroness ended her letter by noting: "I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that."

On Monday, Cameron said the UK government had been "very clear that there needs to be an immediate, comprehensive, humanitarian ceasefire and that we want this conflict to stop."

However, he has faced criticism for refusing to say whether he agreed with UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon that an Israeli attack on a UN-run school in Gaza, which killed at least 10 people on Sunday, was "a moral outrage and a criminal act".

"I think the UN is right to speak out in the way that it has because international law is very clear that there mustn't be the targeting of civilians or the targeting of schools, if that's what's happened," Cameron responded, according to the BBC.

"I'm not an international lawyer... but international law is very, very clear that use of force always has to be proportionate and civilians should not be targeted.

"Hamas displays no regard for human life and must cease firing rockets into Israel and digging tunnels to facilitate the murder of civilians. But sustainable security for Israel cannot be achieved simply by permanent blockade, aerial bombardment and periodic ground incursion."

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband denounced Cameron's evasion, declaring "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."

Following the Baroness' announcement this morning, shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan tweeted his support:

Colin Bloom, Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) also tweeted:

Jeremy Moodey, CEO of Embrace the Middle East, told Christian Today that Lady Warsi's decision is "courageous", and expressed a hope that her resignation will encourage others in power to raise their own concerns about the UK's position on Gaza.

"A small but increasing number of Conservative backbenchers were already expressing their unease at the government's seemingly unqualified support for Israel's military intervention in Gaza, despite the appallingly high number of civilian casualties," Moodey said.

"Baroness Warsi's courageous resignation brings these tensions out into the open. Whether this leads to a change in course remains to be seen. The Conservative Party remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and the shadowy but highly influential Conservative Friends of Israel pressure group counts a majority of Tory MPs and several cabinet ministers in its ranks. It was after all a Conservative politician, Arthur Balfour, who lent the British government's support to a Jewish 'national home' in Palestine back in 1917."

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