Layla Moran’s speech in tonight’s debate: We need to stop this now

I thought about putting Layla’s speech in the last post, but I didn’t want it getting lost. Her clarity and wisdom and persuasiveness, and her liberal desire to bring people together have been a huge credit to her and to this party in recent months. We can all be incredibly proud of her, especially when this has been so personally painful for her.

She spoke in the debate and her words in full are below:

I am speechless at the way this debate began. As the House knows, there has been scant opportunity for me to tell the story not just of my family or the hundreds in the church where they are in northern Gaza, but of Palestinians on the ground and, indeed, those who lost people in the horrendous attacks on 7 October, whether through murder or abduction. I am grateful that we have this opportunity. In the hours of debate in front of us, my first ask of anyone who speaks after me is, please, to hold all those people in their hearts as they say what they say. I believe sincerely that this House is moving towards a right position, and I will explain what I think that is in a moment. On the suggestion that this House is in some way against a ceasefire—I would hope an immediate one, however the semantics play out in the votes later—can we please try to send a message in particular to the Palestinian people perishing in their tens of thousands on the ground, and to those hostage families that, fundamentally, we need this to stop now? I do not care what we call it.

I should have started by drawing the House’s attention to my entry in the register of interests. I sit as an unpaid adviser on the board of the International Centre for Justice for Palestinians.

Last week I went to Israel and Palestine with Yachad, and I will start with a story. On the first day, we went down to the southern border with Gaza, to a place called Nativ Ha’asara, a place I have visited before. We met an incredible woman called Roni, who had lost family members—16 from that kibbutzim had perished. As I went there, I looked across at northern Gaza. I saw the plumes of smoke. I heard the drones and the “pop pop pop” of the gunfire, and I broke down. As I walked back through the village, Roni, an Israeli peace activist, took me to one side, gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry”, which I said back. We both cried and held each other.

It is important to remember that although those voices of peace in Israel have been silent for some time, many of the people killed on that day were allies of the Palestinian people who had been calling for decades against the occupation, calling out Netanyahu’s Government, and condemning Ben-Gvir and Smotrich. It is for that reason that I welcome the sanctions on those extremist settlers, because there is a direct link between the right wing elements of Netanyahu’s Government and those extremist settlers. The amendment that the Lib Dems tabled to the motion stated that we should not finish there. We need to continue those sanctions on those people and their connected entities.

I looked across, thinking of my family still in that church in northern Gaza with no food, no water and no way of getting down to the south, even if they could cross at Rafah with the 1.5 million people there. Without an immediate ceasefire, they and other families who are trapped cannot achieve anything. That is even without thinking about whether they would be allowed to come back if they left, or whether there would be a political solution. That political horizon is everything. Without a two-state solution on ’67 borders, we are condemning both Israelis and Palestinians to reliving this nightmare over and over and over again. If there is one message that we send Netanyahu and Hamas today, let it be that we will not accept that.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • The right woman in the right place at the right time in the midst of parliamentary chaos!

  • Nigel Jones 22nd Feb '24 - 3:25pm

    So good to have Layla representing us in Foreign Policy, especially on this issue. A pity she did not have time to say more, especially to put things in perspective as the secretary general of the UN tried to do at the start of this conflict, namely the oppression of Palestinians by Israeli government, backed too much by the US and UK, even though that does not justify the evil committed by certain leaders of Hamas.

  • Keith Sharp 23rd Feb '24 - 8:05am

    Humane, informed and principled – thank you Layla and what a terrible shame the posturing nonsense of others has dominated media reports of this dreadful Commons shambles.

    If ever there was an example of why our politics needs fundamental reform, that was it…but in the immediate we must focus on the present tragedy, our resolution and try to get Layla’s and our voice better heard.

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Feb '24 - 9:56am

    I agree with Keith it shows the need for political reform. What about a debate and free vote in Parliament on the key views, i.e. one free vote on each of the following: an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and Israel to allow whatever aid is needed for civilians, a lasting truce and negotiations to begin as soon as can be organised for a way towards lasting peace, that Hamas leadership has committed an evil act, that Israel has gone way over the top in its reaction and should not have inflicted collective punishment on Palestinian people. This wording needs improvement, but I hope you get my idea. I also feel government should have taken the lead on this and not left it to be done as an opposition party’s chosen motion, but instead brought all parties together to decide the wide list of statements that should be included for debate.

  • Leekliberal 23rd Feb '24 - 7:59pm

    Well said Nigel! If our leaders could only say bold Liberal innovative things like this, to include a Palestinian State, instead of our being the reactive ‘us to’ party, we could again gain our rightful place in the nations debate on this tragedy.

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