British Foreign Office Minister quits over Gaza
The first Muslim minister to sit in the British cabinet, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, resigned on Tuesday over the government’s policy on Gaza.
“With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza,” Warsi, a minister at the Foreign Office and minister for faith and communities, posted on Twitter.
Warsi was appointed to Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet when his coalition government took power in 2010 and while she initially had a high media profile, her star had dimmed in recent years.
“The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker,” the former Foreign Office minister told The Huffington Post UK, adding: ” at the moment I do not think it is.”
On Monday, Cameron said the United Nations was “right” to condemn an air strike near a school in Rafah on Sunday which killed 10 people but would not say whether he thought it was a “criminal” act.
But he was criticized by Labour leader Ed Miliband last week, who accused Cameron of “inexplicable” silence over the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
“The government needs to send a much clearer message to Israel that its actions in Gaza are unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Miliband said.
“What I want to hear from David Cameron is that he believes that Israel’s actions in Gaza are wrong and unjustified, and we haven’t heard that from him.”
Despite the signing of another temporary ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the Tory peer said that one of the reasons she resigned was because she did not believe the British government would support a process of holding those who are alleged to have committed war crimes over the past four weeks, both in Gaza and in Israel, to account.
The bloodshed, which has cost the lives of more than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians in addition to 64 soldiers and three civilians in Israel, has sent tensions in the region soaring and garnered the Jewish state strong criticism.
“As the minister for the International Criminal Court, I’ve spent the last two and a half years helping to promote, support and fund the ICC. I felt I could not reconcile this with our continued pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to turn to the ICC to seek justice,” Warsi told The Huffington Post.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki on Tuesday pushed for a war crimes case against Israel as a three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect as of 0500 GMT.
Warsi’s resignation drew immediate praise on Twitter from some Labour MPs.
“Very courageous of my brave friend @SayeedaWarsi to resign over this Government’s inexplicable silence and total weakness on the #Gaza crisis,” wrote Sadiq Khan, Labour’s lead spokesman on justice.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, seen as a possible future successor to Cameron, said following Warsi’s resignation that events in Gaza were “utterly horrifying and unacceptable”.
“I cannot for the life of me see why this is a sensible strategy,” the Conservative said on his show on London radio station LBC.
“I cannot for the life of me see the purpose of this. It is disproportionate, ugly and tragic and will not do Israel any good the long run.”
Warsi made a member of parliament’s upper House of Lords in 2007. She was shuffled out of the full cabinet, the powerful inner circle of government ministers, in 2012.
‘Sad to see her go’
“It’s sad, very sad to see her go,” Mudassar Ahmed, a political media analyst and chief executive of London-based PR agency Unitas, told Al Arabiya News on Tuesday.
“She is one of the few high profile Muslim women [in British politics] and Britain has lost an important voice from the national debate. I hope she comes back soon,” Ahmed said.
He added that the Conservatives are now losing Warsi, whose parents were Pakistani immigrants, as an important ethnic minority voice in the party.
“She is the only Tory Muslim politician, now they will have to work extra. Given the cosmopolitan nature of Britain, the Tories really need to work in inner city areas, where they are not doing very well.”
“Losing a minister now, who is from an ethnic minority, will not be good for them,” he added.
For Chris Doyle, the director of the London-based Council for Arab British Understanding, Warsi’s resignation is “evidence of increasing widespread concern and anger in Britain about the Israeli war on Gaza.
“This goes way beyond the British Muslim community. It does include many members of the Conservative party too,” told Al Arabiya News.
However, will her resignation change Cameron’s position on Gaza?
“At best, it may do so marginally but in essence the British policy is unlikely to change in substance. Cameron has largely backed the Israeli assault, placed the blame on Hamas and refused to hold Israel to account for its breaches of international law,” Doyle said.