Sir Gerald Kaufman, leader of the delegation, speaking at "Eyewitness Gaza"
Speakers from LFPME and the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) reported back on the devastation they witnessed during the delegation of 60 European parliamentarians on the anniversary of Israel’s assault that killed almost 1,400 Palestinians. The parliamentarians were able to break the siege on Gaza and witness first hand the conditions on the ground.
Martin Linton MP, Chair of LFPME hosted the event and said, “the UK Government needs to put greater pressure on Israel to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict in line with the international consensus. It must also support the Goldstone Report and press Israel and the United States to accept it.”
Bob Marshall-Andrews QC MP stated that ‘this was the most extraordinary experience of my life, nothing prepares you for what we saw and heard in Gaza’ going on to describe the dinner provided to the delegation by the host government in Gaza in the bombed-out parliament building.
Leader of the delegation Sir Gerald Kaufman MP described Gaza as ‘worse than I ever thought possible…it was incredible and callous destruction. What we saw was collective punishment in Gaza and it is the responsibility of the people of this country and western democracy to remind everyone of the atrocity taking place every day’.
Richard Howitt MEP, European Parliament - Labour Party Foreign Affairs spokesman, stressed the importance of pressuring EU governments to maintain the non-upgrading the EU-Israel trade agreement. ‘If we can maintain this it is a significant victory because the Israelis are desperate for the legitimacy it would bring’ he said.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, veteran of a number of previous delegations to Palestine, including one in November 2008 just before Israel broke the ceasefire, explained his amazement that living conditions in Gaza had deteriorated even further. He also called on the international community to support Palestinian democracy stating. ‘The international community was prepared to engage in a long bloody war which killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq with the intention to spread democracy and here in Palestine there was democracy in action, not dictated by the barrel of the gun and we spurned it’.
LFPME Policy Committee member Jeremy Corbyn MP said ‘I felt bitter, frustrated, angry and unworthy’ in describing his emotions at witnessing the conditions in Gaza. He called for an end to Israel’s illegal siege and occupation in line with the overwhelming international consensus.
Majed al-Zeer, director of the PRC placed the current devestation in Gaza in it’s historical context as a the continuation of a single problem which is the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe). ‘The Nakba was there before Hamas and before Hamas rockets, the Nakba was there before the PLO and Arafat, the Nakba was there before any Palestinian resistance, it started in 1948 and has continued ever since’.