IT’S “ludicrous” to believe that Israel isn’t engaging in collective punishment, Oxfam’s policy lead in Gaza has said.

Bushra Khalidi told The National that the collective punishment of the Palestinian people happened “before October 7”.

And when asked if it was ludicrous to claim it isn’t happening now, she said: “Absolutely.”

“Israel has had decades of policies and practices that coerce Palestinian communities. That happens in Gaza and the West Bank through the demolition of homes, forcibly displacing entire communities,” Khalidi added.

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“Cutting off water and cutting off electricity to a civilian population that is being relentlessly bombed, with nowhere to go when all borders have been closed ... Israel also restricts aid, which amounts to collective punishment under international law and a war crime.”

It comes after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle took the decision to break with “long-established convention” and allow a debate on a Labour amendment to an SNP opposition-day motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday.

The decision meant the Labour amendment that ultimately passed didn’t include the term “collective punishment” – which Labour leader Keir Starmer reportedly objected to. The SNP's motion had included the term.

Hoyle's decision led to chaos in the House of Commons, with the SNP walking out alongside Tory MPs in protest.

In the aftermath, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot told Andrew Marr on LBC that it is “unthinkable” what happened in Westminster.

The National:

“We don’t see why Labour would pick on the SNP in terms of collective punishment. I mean seriously, cutting off water and electricity from children. Only yesterday, Hanin Jumaa – an 8-year-old girl – died because of starvation,” he said.

“And the House of Commons is still discussing whether Israel is applying policies of collective punishment."

Speaking before the Westminster chaos, Khalidi was of a similar thinking. She said there is a “looming famine” in Gaza, with more than half of people starving and most, if not all, eating just one meal a day “simply because aid is not able to come in”.

“If that doesn't amount to collective punishment, I really don't know what does,” she said.

The weakening of the aid operation in Gaza threatens to deepen misery across the territory, where Israel’s air and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack, has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, obliterated entire neighbourhoods and displaced more than 80% of the population of 2.3 million.

Khalidi added that what frustrates her most about the reaction in the West is “how polarized the world has become on the word ceasefire”.

“It’s a stain on our humanity,” she said.

“It's not just frustration. It's an absolute disappointment and almost disgust.

She also said that if the UK being silent about a ceasefire and arms transfers to Israel means that it “risks to be complicit in the deepening crisis and the unfolding crimes in Gaza”.