Parliament fails to call for a ceasefire: political games as genocide presses on

London, 21st February 2024– This evening, MPs failed to come together to pass a motion in favour of an immediate ceasefire – as Members of Parliament prioritised partisan party interests above the protection of Palestinian lives.  The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) condemns wholeheartedly the failure to support the immediate cessation of Israel’s genocidal campaign against Gaza, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 29,313 Palestinians, including 118 in the last 24 hours alone. The collapse of parliamentary procedure is a damning indictment on the ability of the Conservatives and Labour to demonstrate leadership.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) tabled an opposition day motion calling for an immediate ceasefire, to condemn any military assault on the refugee camp of Rafah and the collective punishment of Palestinian people. Ultimately, our MPs were unable to support the bare minimum needed for the alleviation of Palestinian suffering. In an ideal situation, each MP should be calling for Palestinian statehood, self-determination, the upholding of Palestinian rights and prosecution of those violating them – on top of an immediate ceasefire.

The debate was overshadowed by the departure from parliamentary procedure which saw both Labour and the Conservatives initially permitted to table amendments, both of which sought solely to deflect from their refusal to back an SNP-instituted motion. The Conservative Party withdrew from the House after disagreements with the breaking of precedent, not voting nor tabling their initially-raised amendment, while the SNP were forced to withdraw after their motion would’ve – in essence – been usurped by a poorer, less definitive ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ call by Labour. This left Labour’s amendment put to the House ahead of the initial motion, the latter of which was not voted on, with chaos ensuing, which undermined the democratic process.

The Labour Party’s amendment significantly watered-down the original SNP motion: declining to call out Israel’s use of collective punishment and offering the state of Israel – currently facing legal proceedings under the Genocide Convention – to set forth its conditions for the cessation of its campaign. This amendment served one purpose alone: with 71% of the British public overwhelmingly backing a ceasefire, Labour MPs were offered a convenient excuse for their failure to back the original call for an immediate ceasefire.

Laying bare Labour’s shameless conduct, today’s vote brought about the first time that the Party has dared to use the term ‘ceasefire’ – albeit with qualifications attached. Labour had their own opposition day on the 6th February – rather than putting forward their own motion for ceasefire, in the manner they find most suitable to them and their constituents – the Party decided instead to put forward a motion on Ministerial severance pay.

The Conservative’s amendment called for a ‘humanitarian pause in fighting’, allowing for aid delivery and hostage releases. Another humanitarian pause instead of a ceasefire is an unsustainable solution, given the fact that Israeli aggression in fact escalated after the seven-day pause in fighting in November. With a motivation existing to redirect the debate away from their government’s complicity in Israel’s atrocities, it is no surprise that the Conservatives are taking the opportunity to change the debate to one regarding the upholding of Parliamentary procedure. All the while, the situation worsens for Gaza: since Labour and the Conservatives first called for a ‘sustainable’ ceasefire instead of an immediate ceasefire, Israel has killed over 10,000 Palestinians.

In sum, this afternoon has showed that the House has failed to vote in accordance with the demands of international law, forgoing the opportunity to support the International Court of Justice’s provisional measure stating that Israel must cease all acts which lead to the deaths of Palestinians, the group at imminent risk of irreparable prejudice. This vote has come before an anticipated ground invasion of Rafah – a refugee tent city sheltering over one million Palestinians – with it being impossible that there could be a more urgent need, or more timely opportunity, for international leadership by the British Parliament.

If an escalation occurs, 85,750 more Palestinians will be killed by the 6th August as a result of traumatic injuries, infectious and non-communicable disease, according to modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Johns Hopkins University. In the continuation of current conditions, this would be 66,720. The implementation of an immediate ceasefire would reduce this figure to 11,580 – an abhorrent prospect, but a mitigation that would still save tens of thousands of lives. It is a sobering prospect for MPs who are searching their consciences ahead of this ceasefire vote, rather than those playing party politics.

The UK’s abstention on yesterday’s UN Security Council ceasefire motion, not to mention the United States’ despicable invocation of its veto power, demonstrates the same failure in leadership. Amidst these ongoing atrocities and the worsening humanitarian consequences, Britain and America risk further alienating themselves on the world stage, being perceived as obstacles to – as opposed to upholders of – international justice.

ICJP Director Tayab Ali has stated:

“Today, MPs had the chance to finally call for the bare minimum needed: an immediate ceasefire. Despite more than 29,000 Palestinian people being killed, this is not enough, apparently, to push our politicians to overcome party divides to demand an immediate ceasefire.

Instead of acting to protect the Palestinian lives hanging in the balance, we have seen our politicians undertake political gymnastics: embarrassing themselves in their attempts to find more ways to avoid straightforwardly demanding an immediate ceasefire.

If the motion had passed, our politicians could move forward with the urgent tasks of pursuing diplomatic routes to Palestinian statehood and self-determination, defending Palestinians’ rights and pursuing accountability for those violating them. Instead, we have been left with a show of petty and callous partisanship at a time where an urgent international response is a must.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law. 
  2. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Johns Hopkins, 19th February 2024, Crisis in Gaza: Scenario-based Health Impact Projections, Report One: 7 February to 6 August 2024
  3. Kusovac, Zoran, 9th December 2024, ‘Analysis: As Israel escalates Gaza war, its ‘kill-rate’ claims don’t add up’, Al Jazeera reports on the escalation in Israeli aggression following the expiration of November’s ‘humanitarian pause’.
  4. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory (OCHA oPt), 21st February 2024, Flash Update #123, reporting on the 29,313 Palestinians killed including 118 between 20th and 21st February
  5. YouGov, 15th February 2024, British attitudes to the Israel-Gaza conflict: February 2024 update shows 66% public support for a ceasefire.
  6. For more information, to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected].