Rhun ap Iorwerth's full speech during the Senedd debate calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel
I’ll begin if I may with some purely personal words, some personal reflections on what we have witnessed over the past month.
We have watched with horror. I mourn the deaths of all those who died in the heinous attacks by Hamas on October 7th. I mourn the many thousands who have died in Gaza since. The thousands of children. As a parent, I can’t fathom the scale of it. One child lost to war is too many.
I can barely imagine the anguish of the families of the hostages. Taken against their will. Held as prisoners. In fear.
I feel the need to speak today as a member of humanity. We are human. The pain of loss is felt equally by an Israeli and a Palestinian mother. Today we speak up for peace for all mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
We speak today in pursuit of unity. We reject division. We take a stand against those seeking to encourage division. To those seeking to provoke anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim sentiment, we say STOP. Now! In fact Jewish and Muslim representatives here in Wales have told me in recent days how support for each other means so much to them. This is the Wales we seek. Based on harmony. A community of communities.
But just as anything that threatens that harmony here in Wales must stop – so must the killing in this awful conflict. I hope we can ALL agree on that.
Every Senedd motion has to have a proposer, but my sincere wish is that we can all own the spirit and the substance of what is before us today.
We are at our best as parliamentarians when we speak with a united voice, sadly for too many today, we are also a voice for the voiceless.
It is in that spirit that we sought cross party support for the motion, and can I place on record my heartfelt thanks to all those who have signed the motion, indicated their support for it or who will be persuaded to do so.
My limited time will not allow me to adequately reflect the complex chronology of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Neither will it allow me to set out the detailed context to a conflict that LONG pre-dates October the 7th.
But let me set out AGAIN what all of us have responded to with absolute unity.
The horrifying, unspeakable attacks by Hamas and loss of innocent lives in terrible circumstances, the sheer fear felt by Israelis and the taking of hostages must be condemned - and has been condemned by us all - in the strongest terms.
When Hamas attacked that music festival in southern Israel bringing an end to life as it was only just beginning – it left one survivor recounting how she prayed to die quickly. I heard directly myself this morning the experience of one Israeli family. Sheer helplessness.
On Saturday, the Guardian laid bare another scene as its reporter wrote “The stench of death still pervades the Kibbits of Kfar Aza.”
We can ALL, surely, sympathise with and understand Israel’s anger. The motion today – condemning as it does the horrifying attacks... and calling for the immediate release of hostages - notes clearly that Israel has a duty to ensure the protection, security and welfare of its citizens.
But in the war that ensued after October 7th – the response that ensued... inevitable as a response was - so there has to be a duty to be proportionate. International law is clear on that. There can not be justification for the collective punishment of an entire population.
The United Nations reports that the overall death toll currently stands at over 10,000 people as a result of the relentless bombardment.
10,000 people who leave behind widows and widowers, grieving parents, and lost orphans. 4,500 of the dead are children.
And whilst we may be looking on from afar, it’s important to remember that there are families in Wales who are directly impacted. The grief is not confined to Israel or Gaza.
Aymen Aladham is an IT consultant and engineer based in Swansea.
In three separate airstrikes on Gaza during October, he lost 18 members of his family. In the first airstrike, four of his nephews were killed. Nine days later, his uncle and extended family were killed. And last week, his cousin and family were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
We owe it to all those who have lost their lives, Israeli and Palestinian, to speak up for a lasting peace.
That desire lies at the heart of Plaid Cymru’s motion today. A clear and unequivocal call for a ceasefire, both sides, an immediate and lasting end to the violence, and a global effort to ease the humanitarian suffering.
Whilst any pause in the fighting would be welcome to enable vital aid and supplies to reach those in need, any pause must surely be with a view to becoming permanent. That’s why a ceasefire is the call. Plaid Cymru believes pursuing a pause, a suspension, implies the acceptance of the inevitability of a return to further loss of civilian life.
As Oxfam argues, anything short of a ceasefire would be putting both humanitarian agencies and civilians at further risk. The UN agency for Palestinians report that more than 70 of their staff have lost their lives in the past three weeks, and the toll on local organisations taking the lead in Gaza is high. There can be no aid without aid workers.
Similarly, there can be no supplies transferred across a land where bombs and missiles continue to fall on already ruined roads.
Infrastructure in Gaza isn’t collapsing – it has collapsed. One UN official at a compound in the southern city of Khan Younis told UK media on Monday night that “It is a terrible, terrible situation. There is no room even to sleep on the floor. There is one toilet for 700 or 800 people. No bread, no stoves for cooking. We are drinking irrigation water.”
Isn’t this humanitarian catastrophe a failure of humanity itself?
Do we not owe it to every man, woman, and child to speak with one voice and to say that all such suffering is unconscionable?
And if today is not the day to call on all parties in the conflict to follow the path of peace, when is?
Hamas’ attacks on October 7th were unjust and inhumane. Indescribable.
But the collective punishment of the Palestinian population is also unjust and inhumane.
1.4 million people displaced from their homes.
2.2 million people desperately waiting for aid as water becomes more scarce and power cuts more common.
4500 children dead.
I will close with a harrowing testimony from Natalie Elghazzawi who lives in Cardiff. Natalie has chosen to use a pseudonym due to fear of reprisals against her family.
“I told my sister to write the names of her children on their arms because her children can’t talk”, she says.
“If they bomb them and my sister and her husband are killed, the children won’t be able to tell anyone who they are.”
Today’s debate is about giving a voice to the voiceless. It is about telling the world that it’s time to answer the plight of Gaza’s children. Israelis want peace too. We grieve with them also.
Whilst some will doubt the strength of a solitary parliament’s call for a ceasefire, we bring forward this motion in hope as OUR contribution towards what we see as an international effort.
Wales can, in this hour of unimaginable horror, be a small nation making a powerful statement for peace.
For the sake of others and in the name of peace, please support this motion today.
Mi fydd rhai yn gofyn pam ein bod ni wedi cyflwyno’r ddadl hon heddiw?
Pam ein bod ni’n trafod erchyllterau dair mil o ffilltiroedd i ffwrdd mewn Senedd sydd ddim â chyfrifoldeb uniongyrchol dros faterion tramor?
Mae’r ateb yn syml.
Onid dyma pwy ydy ni fel cenedl?
Y Gymru rwy’n ei hadnabod ydi’r Gymru sy’n gweld heddwch a dynoliaeth yn mynd law yn llaw.
A Chymru sy’n pwysleisio’r hyn sy’n ein huno, nid ein gwahanu.
Mae rheswm arall hefyd.
Gwn fod y dioddefaint yn Israel a Gaza yn cael ei deimlo i’r byw mewn cymunedau ledled Cymru.
Dwi’n gwybod y bydd pob un ohonom yn y Senedd hon yn cyd sefyll gyda’r cymunedau Iddewig a Mslemaidd sy’n profi be mae casineb yn gallu ei olygu.
As I said in my opening remarks, we tabled the motion in the spirit of being able to achieve the broadest support possible, and I’m grateful to all those who answered that call for unity by either signing or supporting th emotion. That’s what we sought.
We have to keep this an open delate, and honest debate. We should never try to exploit division. I have to comment on my dissapointment in the member for Blaenau Gwent, who despite discussing this very issue in a conversation yesterday, told BBC Radio Cymru this morning, and I quote, ~”Plaid Cymru say nothing in the motion about the hostages being held”
That is patently untrue as evidenced by the first line of the motion condemning Hamas and calling for the release of the hostages.
What we have before us now in reality are two not dissimilar motions, the original and the amendment. But there is one very noticeable and significant difference.
The former is centred around the call for a ceasefire, the latter omits the call for a ceasefire.
Of course a pause or a suspension of hostilities is better than nothing, but it isn’t the answer. And as I said earlier, implicit in it is an acceptance that the killing will then resume.
Under international law we shouldn’t have to depend on a pause to protect civilians and allow aid to flow.
Pauses and ceasefires can be fragile, but the experience of aid workers from other conflicts is that pauses to create safe corridors fuel rather than de-escalate a conflict.
Some members may have wanted to use different words in this motion, and I understand that. In fact 60 members could probably come up with 60 differnet workdings for the same thing! I know that in reaching out across party lines we did express our willingness to look again at the wording, but
- I realise that can sometimes be difficult to get things aligned and
- We couldn’t compromise on the call for a ceasefire.
What we ask all members to do is support the overarching aim of the motion – that this Senedd, representing the people of our nation takes a stand in the cause of humanity. That the killing must stop. That all lives are precious and that a ceasefire is the precursor to peace talks, bringing an end to the deaths of civilians in Israel and Palestine.
I referred earlier to a radio interview this moornig., IN the same interview, we heard the view that there won’t be a ceasefire. But we can’t afford to turn our backs on ANY chance to promote peace. We shouldn’t give up as lives are indiscriminately lost. We can’t lose hope. We shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.
I urge you all to support the motion.