Elham Asaad Buaras
The Government has been rocked by the protest resignation of Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi over what she called her fellow Conservatives’ “morally indefensible” position on Gaza.
Warsi resigned on August 5 saying, as the Minister with responsibility for the UN, the International Criminal Court and Human Rights, she found the Government’s refusal to stand up to Israel inconsistent with the country’s values and “detrimental” to the UK’s long term reputation.
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, killing almost 2,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip the vast majority of whom civilians. Prime Minister, David Cameron, had already looked increasingly isolated when senior Coalition’s Lib Dems rounded on the Government’s failure to confront Israel. Several backbench Conservative MPs also called on Cameron to take a more robust line with Israel amid concerns its actions in Gaza are “disproportionate”.
Warsi made her public announcement via Twitter a day after she took part in the First World War Centenary commemoration, saying she could, “no longer support Govt [sic] policy on #Gaza.”
She received strong backing from a series of influential Lib Dem figures including Sir Menzies Campbell, Lord Ashdown and Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Baroness Falkner, as well as the former Conservative Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell.
Britain’s only remaining Muslim Cabinet Minister, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said he “regrets” Warsi’s resignation and said that the Conservatives need to do more to appeal out to ethnic minority voters.
Javid, who in the past praised Israel and said he would live in Israel for its “embrace of freedom and liberty”, said he has a “great deal of respect” for Warsi, who he describes as a politician with “very clear principles”.
Warsi, who was previously Co-Chair of the Conservative Party, became the first Muslim Cabinet Minister when Cameron took office in 2010.
The Prime Minister said he “regretted” that she had not discussed her decision to quit with him before announcing it.
Cameron acknowledged the “intolerable” situation in Gaza but defended his policy insisting the Government believes that “Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end. As part of that, we have consistently called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”
Labour backed Warsi’s views, but Chancellor George Osborne called her resignation “disappointing and frankly unnecessary”.
Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, who condemned Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian civilians said of Warsi’s resignation: “I haven’t always agreed with Lady Warsi, but I think her decision to make a stand on this issue and speak up for the British public is genuinely courageous.”
In her resignation letter Warsi said her decision to step down was based on the Government’s Middle East peace process policy.
“Particularly as the Minister with responsibility for the United Nations, The International Criminal Court and Human Rights I believe our approach in relation to the current conflict is neither consistent with our values, specifically our commitment to the rule of law and our long history of support for International Justice.”
She singled out the Government’s “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” and that it was “not consistent with the rule of law and our long support for international justice”.
However, Warsi has not always been commended for her Human Rights stance. She has in the past been criticised for helping increase the aid package to Pakistan to £446 million, despite the Pakistan’s indiscriminate shelling of North Waziristan and Baluchistan has led to more than 870,000 internally displaced people, and the killing of many civilians.
She was also condemned for saying that the UK has not seen “specific evidence” for torture in Bahrain in the face of mounting NGO findings to the contrary, including that of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry which included torture had taken place in the Gulf island.