You should check before you sign… by Michael McCann, IBA Director
Parliamentarians are routinely asked to sign letters of support, petitions and collective letters about important issues.
They usually check the contents and the facts meticulously before applying their signatures, mindful that there are pitfalls in routinely adding your name to documents that will end up in the public domain.
Rightly so … your reputation is on the line if you inadvertently support someone with dubious credentials or if the narrative you’ve supported is simply wrong.
However, that attention to detail and desire to protect a hard-earned reputation appears to evaporate when (some) parliamentarians are asked to criticise Israel.
In the current climate you’d expect politicians to be double careful when considering how they will be perceived.
And the question must be asked, are these faux pas or premeditated attempts to spread fake news?
The most recent case emerged just this week.
Parliamentarians, MPs and Noble Lords, who have participated in trips to the Middle East funded by the Council for Arab British Understanding, CAABU for short, have written to the Foreign Secretary to highlight the plight of Palestinians who have been refused permits to travel to Israel for life saving medical treatments.
A full list of the parliamentary signatories can be found below.
In their letter they attribute responsibility for the lack of permits to Israel.
Some signatories, double eager to show their pro-Palestinian credentials, like the MP for Edinburgh East, Tommy Sheppard, took to social media to amplify the message.
Unfortunately, the MPs and Noble Lords leapt into the issue without checking their facts.
And when you only source information from one side of a conflict it is somewhat inevitable that you will get it wrong.
Had the signatories did more research, used valid reference data and not relied on narratives from organisations who have little interest in Israel’s security, they would have found out that the Palestinian Authority plays a pivotal role in the process of obtaining medical permits.
They would have found out that the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee has the responsibility to review all requests submitted by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip before prioritising them and forwarding them to the relevant Israeli authorities.
They would have found out that new guidelines to speed up the process were introduced on 24 May this year.
They would have found out that the PA is responsible for funding treatment, and perhaps if they didn’t spend so much money funding payments to convicted terrorists, subsidised by UK aid, they could designate more resources to life saving medical treatments.
They would have found out that the medical permit system is abused by Hamas to allow people to stay illegally in Israel and in the West Bank.
They would have found out that before 2017, 369 Palestinians used medical permits to carry out terror activities in Israel.
They would have found out that in April 2017 explosives were found in medical tubes being carried by two sisters from Gaza.
The two sisters had been approved entry into Israel for life-saving cancer treatment.
And despite all of that they would have found out that Israel has refused to cancel the medical permit program, and that in May 2018, 70% of the applications for cancer treatment and 74% of paediatric applications were approved.
It’s amazing what the Parliamentarians would have found out had they taken a little more care, checked their sources and been a little less eager to criticise Israel.
Their letter is plain wrong.
The IBA will now be writing to the Foreign Secretary, referencing the CAABU inspired letter and setting him straight.
But if the Parliamentarians, who pinned their names to a letter that was so much less than the truth, truly wanted a solution to the decades long Israel/Palestinian dispute, perhaps they should have focussed on the root causes of the conflict, rather than (fabricated) symptoms.
Hamas governs the Gaza strip using terror.
Their recent behaviour in using civilians as cover for their terror activities at the Gaza border is bad enough, but abusing a process designed to support civilians with serious medical conditions to pursue their genocidal ambitions is beyond the pale, even for Hamas.
The signatories to the letter addressed to the Foreign Secretary are part of the problem, not the solution.
The letter was signed by the following parliamentarians.
Paula Sheriff MP
Debbie Abrahams MP
Tracy Brabin MP
Alastair Carmichael MP
Joanna Cherry MP
Chris Elmore MP
Louise Haigh MP
Christine Jardine MP
Tim Loughton MP
Jess Philips MP
Andrew Slaughter MP
Lord Wood of Anfield
Richard Burden MP
Sarah Champion MP
Julie Elliot MP
Lilian Greenwood MP
Imran Hussain MP
Diana Johnson MP
Kerry McCarthy MP
Lord Purvis of Tweed
Tommy Sheppard MP
William Wragg MP