The brutal assassination of Jo Cox MP by Thomas Mair was an act of far right terrorism that has deeply shaken communities all over Britain, and indeed the world. The MP has been described as a rising star in Parliament across the political parties, who fought for the rights not only for her own community, but was also an outspoken advocate for Syrian and Palestinian human rights.
As an outspoken humanitarian and antiracism campaigner, Jo's husband Brendad Cox told the BBC that she died for her views and would want people to stand up for her beliefs "in death as much as she did in life".
One of the many communities that have been affected by this brutal murder are those who are fighting for Palestinian rights. The Palestinian leadership and a number of Palestinian rights organisations, including the Palestinian Forum of Britain have paid a tribute to Jo and have expressed their condolences to Jo's family.
As a longstanding advocate on Palestinian rights in her work at Oxfam and her brief time as an MP, she made an meaningful impact. The following are Jo's endeavours and what she stood for.
A contribution that will be deeply missed by those who she was helping.
As an Oxfam worker, Jo spent time in both Gaza and occupied West Bank. During the onslaught on Gaza in 2014, Jo passionately pushed for the government to take a stronger stance for a ceasefire, to stop arming Israel, provide humanitarian assistance and to restart the peace process.
Despite only having been elected as an MP in 2015, Jo became involved in Labour Friends of Palestine and wrote part of a 2015 report by the group on Gaza's potential to flourish and economically thrive if it wasn't blockaded.
She highlighted that the blockade is in contravention of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and that under the fourth Geneva Convention "collective punishment" of a civilian population is a war crime and has been described as such by the EU and the UN.
Jo argued that the poverty and destruction of Gaza caused by the siege and frequent wars has already made it uninhabitable and urged the UK government to take responsibility in lifting the siege. She also pressed on the urgent need to allow the freedom of movement and ensure that other human rights available to Palestinians under IHL are met.
Also last year, Jo put down an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the anniversary of the 2014 onslaught on Gaza, that resulted in over 2000 civilian deaths, almost a quarter of whom were children; and hundreds of thousands of homes, buildings and services destroyed and affected. In the EDM motion, Jo called on the government to:
"challenge the violations of international law as exemplified by the security wall, the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the illegal blockade and separation of Gaza"
She also called the government not to ignore calls to "intensify its actions within the international community and towards the Israeli government to resolve the humanitarian and political crisis in Palestine; further calls for a more direct and stringent message to the Israeli government that progress on talks to reach a long-term and peaceful solution to be delivered within an agreed time frame; and calls on the Foreign Secretary to prioritise action through the UN Security Council for a meaningful UN resolution in this regard."
Arrest detention and treatment of Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
On 6th January, Jo attended an urgent parliamentary debate about the way in which children are arrested, detained and treated in the occupied Palestinian territories. In her brief but powerful contribution, she stated "I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. She will be aware that evidence from Military Court Watch suggests that 65% of children continue to report being arrested at night in what are described as terrifying raids by the military. Will she comment on that worrying fact?"
Following the debate, Jo wrote on her website of the "fundamental abuse of basic human rights and international law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child" of Palestinian children under Israeli Occupation. Jo eloquently described the disparity between a two-tier justice system, where Israeli children are tried in civil courts and Palestinian children are tried in Military Court. She argued that Israel is the only country in the world to systematically prosecute children in military court.
She talked about the physical abuse experienced by Palestinian children while detained by the Israeli military since 1967. In addition, Jo raised the issue of Palestinian children being inappropriately informed of their rights and forced to sign confessions. She also wrote her concerns on the transferring of detainees en mass which is effectively a war crime and in breach of the Geneva Convention.
In February, Jo fought against the governments' announcement to ban local councils, public bodies and student unions from boycotting "unethical" companies. The move by the government was sensationalised in the media as a tactic to install fear and falsely make believe that those who boycott Israel will be criminalised. This was untrue and a tactic described as a gift to Israel in their battle against the ever growing BDS movement. On her website, Jo expressed her concerns:
"This could mean losing the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products and a range of other unsavoury activities. I believe that this is a gross attack on democratic freedoms. It is our right to boycott unethical companies."
Jo stood up for many, including the Palestinians. These are just some of her views. She will always be remembered and the struggle to realise everything she stood for will go on. The work must continue.
On 23 November 2019, EuroPal Forum and Middle East Monitor co-hosted a conference at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London on the relations between Europe and Palestine. A first of its kind, the conference brought together individuals at the forefront of discourse on Palestine in
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