Gaza conflict has led to Jews ‘having a hell of a time’, says Big Issue founder

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Gaza conflict has led to Jews ‘having a hell of a time’, says Big Issue founder

'Jewish people throughout the world are having a hell of a time because of what is happening there. This is the worst form of foreign policy ever, it is terrible,' Lord Bird said

Lord Bird blames Israel for rising antisemitism
Lord Bird blames Israel for rising antisemitism

Jews around the world are “having a hell of a time” because of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, Big Issue founder Lord Bird has said.

The surge in antisemitism since the start of the conflict was highlighted by the independent crossbencher, as concerns were raised over the worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory.

The latest report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a partnership of more than a dozen governments, UN aid and other agencies that determines the severity of food crises, has warned that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza.

It also said a further escalation of the war could push about half of the enclave’s population to the brink of starvation.

Israel launched its devastating campaign in retaliation for the deadly October 7 cross-border incursion by Hamas.

Speaking in Parliament during an urgent question on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, Lord Bird said: “I can honestly say that most of the people I meet and talk to, people from all walks of life, are appalled at what Israel is doing.

“Is somebody going to tell Israel about the damage it is doing not only to its own people but to people throughout the world?

“Jewish people throughout the world are having a hell of a time because of what is happening there. This is the worst form of foreign policy ever, it is terrible.

“The amount of antisemitism you see around the world is because Israel is thinking not about the next five or 10 years but only immediately.”

Foreign minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “I assure him that we are very clear to Israel, as a friend and partner, about Israel’s responsibilities in the appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza and the importance of acting with the rights of all its citizens.”

He added: “Israel is a democratic state and has important security concerns that need to be directly supported, but equally we are very clear that the only way of securing peace, stability and security in the region is to ensure an immediate stop in the fighting now, to get the hostages released and to let in humanitarian aid.

“A lot of work is being done, including directly by the Foreign Secretary and me on the diplomatic front, to ensure that we can address this shocking chapter in the history of Israel and across the Palestinian territories quite directly, and bring peace, stability and security through the two-state solution.”

But former Labour MP Lord Austin of Dudley, who quit the party under Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism, said: “How is it possible to ask or answer a question about the situation in Gaza without mentioning Hamas?

“It bears responsibility for this because it started the war, it hired weapons and terrorists in densely packed civilian areas, and it steals food and fuel meant for humanitarian relief.

“The quickest way to get food into Gaza is for Hamas to lay down its weapons and stop the fighting. Failing that, Israel has to defeat the terrorists for there to be any prospect of peace in the future.”

Lord Ahmad said: “We need this fighting to stop, which means that Hamas needs to stop launching the missiles, which it has done consistently.

“We agree that the events of October 7 were shocking and abhorrent – I have been very clear about that.”

Pointing to meetings with families of those taken hostage by Hamas, the minister added: “We know the pain directly from them, because they tell us quite directly. But I can also say, from the hostage families I have met, that they are also clear that we need this fighting to stop now.”

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