Lobby of Parliament in support of Human Rights attracts hundreds of supporters. The appalling record of the British government over Palestinian rights was challenged today by over 300 people crowding the corridors of the House of Commons to lobby their MPs on the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. Initial estimates also indicate that over 100 MPs were approached.
People travelled great distances across the UK to take part in the lobby – with participants from Preston to Penzance and from Scotland and Wales. Others will see their MPs in constituency surgeries over the next few weeks.
The main issues raised were the withholding of aid to the Palestinian Authority which has resulted in desperate levels of impoverishment throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
The British government has colluded in this collective punishment of the Palestinian people despite Israel being the belligerent party which is illegally occupying Palestine in contravention of numerous UN resolutions. The imprisonment of elected Palestinian MPs was also raised. Far from promoting democracy this indicates that Israel, with the support of Western leaders are prepared to flout democratic norms when the results of democratic elections are deemed unsuitable.
The British government’s arms exports to Israel, which are used in their attacks on the Palestinian people, was also raised.
The lobby was called for by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) and was also supported by one of the greatest range of organisations in recent years. These included AMICUS, Amos Trust, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, Arab Media Watch, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CWU, Friends of Al Aqsa, Friends of Lebanon, ICAHD UK, Jewish Socialist Group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Midland Palestinian Community Association, PCS, Pax Christi, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Palestine Return Centre, RMT, Stop the War Coalition, UNISON and War on Want.
The lobby was followed by a public meeting organised by the PSC in parliament. Over 200 stayed to hear Tony Benn, Prof Manuel Hassassian the Palestinian general delegate to the UK, Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Barry Camfield from the Transport and General Workers Union, Mohammed Abdul Bari from the Muslim Council of Britain and Dan Judelson from Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
The meeting was addressed by a number of MPs. Sir Gerald Kaufman MP referred to the Palestinian elections, saying that he didn’t like Hamas, and didn’t like the result. But he pointed out that he also didn’t like the results of some British elections. The US and the international community had called for the elections, and the elections had been declared by the international community as free and fair. He also called the removal of funding to the Palestinian Authority by the EU and the US as an ‘error’. He also strongly criticised Israel’s withholding of the taxes due to Palestine – comparing it to theft – and its arrest of elected Palestinian parliamentarians. Phyllis Starkey MP also took up this point, saying the ‘kidnapping of the Speaker of the Palestinian parliament attacked democracy itself’ as the Speaker was a symbol both of parliament and democracy. She welcomed the ceasefire, saying we should ‘seize every positive move’, but the underlying policy of the Israeli government had to change. Jeremy Corbyn MP pointed out that if the Palestinian Authority had decided there was a group of members of Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – and decided to abduct them and take them to Palestine, there would be an immediate military strike and condemnation.
Richard Burden MP highlighted the shelling in Beit Hanoun which ripped through a home in Gaza killing 19 people, 18 from one family. He urged for action to be taken on Israel’s settlement policy, particu
larly the E1 project which will be the final link in the separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank.
Emily Thornberry MP referred to the decision taken 39 years ago by the UN to declare 29 November the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
A number of Parliamentary Early Day Motions were tabled before the lobby and MPs were asked to sign them:
The PSC is calling on all supporters to continue lobbying their MPs to sign these EDMs.