The event was hosted by the chair of LFPME Simon Danczuk MP and vice chairs Richard Burden MP and Andy Slaughter MP.
In a message to LFPME the Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, the leader of the Labour party, congratulated the organisation on the work they do to raise the issue of peace and justice in the Middle East within the Party.
At the reception, speeches were made by the Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander MP, H.E. the Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian, as well as MPs who had visited the West Bank recently: the shadow Middle East Minister Ian Lucas MP, John Denham MP, the shadow Justice Minister Sadiq Khan MP and Lisa Nandy MP.
Douglas Alexander MP thanked LFPME for the work they do to in raising the consciences of people about the need for peace and justice in the region. He said the inability to resolve the Israeli-Palestine conflict was the greatest diplomatic failure of the last several decades. Douglas also said that, while we all supported the two state solution, time was running out and there was an urgent need to continue the unstinting work being done to make the case for a fair and just resolution.
He added that the Labour Party making the right decision by supporting Palestinian statehood and making its position clear to the British government and urging them to do the same in 2011. He said there was no contradiction between recognition and continuing the work to achieving the two state solution. He also referenced the record of the Labour Government and its support to the Palestinian people through DFID to support the development of institutions. He concluded by assuring the audience that he would continue to make the case for justice, reconciliation and peace.
His Excellency the Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian thanked the Labour Party for the decision it took to support Palestinian statehood and thanked LFPME for the work they do to promote justice for the Palestinians.
The Ambassador said it was unfortunate that the UK Coalition Government was not bold enough to recognise and support Palestinian statehood - adding that even when the Palestinians applied for membership of UNESCO to help safeguard historical sites in the region, the UK Government chose to abstain. The Ambassador was able to announce, to much applause from the audience, the news that the Palestinian Prisoners hunger strike was over and an agreement had been reached. He agreed with Douglas Alexander that it was important to be optimistic but said it was a difficult be so and remain patient, while in reality ‘the two state solution was slipping away’. In a very short time he said ‘the two state solution would be lost forever’. He questioned Israel’s commitment to a peace process while they continue to build settlements and state publicly that the 1967 borders, endorsed by most countries as being the basis of an peace agreement, now 'pose' a security threat to Israel.
The Ambassador said that the settlements were like an incurable and growing cancer, killing any chance of a Palestinian state. He also mentioned the exchange of letters and said that Israel had offered no freeze of settlements. He said the Palestinians want and expect an independent state, justice, and the right of return and that will only happen if illegal settlements and their growth is halted. He urged the international community to do more and take action to save the two state solution and hoped that the UK Government takes measures conducive to achieving a viable and just resolution.
John Denham MP who just returned from the West Bank spoke about the changes since his previous visit in 2006. Regretfully he said there was more optimism in 2006 then there was today. He spoke about the places they visited and seeing the impact of the Wall on Palestinian communities and the suffering of the Bedouin community. He said whichever way it was looked at, it was hard to find any optimism. However, he said, what did come across, was the resilience of the Palestinian people.
John also spoke about how international aid to Palestine was playing a role in paying for the illegal occupation of the West Bank and how that is an issue which British constituents would not tolerate. He added that that external pressure was required and this point came across from both the Palestinians and Israelis they met. He concluded by urging people to support lfpme and the work it does and promised to re-double his effort to this important cause.
The shadow Middle East Minister Ian Lucas MP spoke of his three visits to Israel and Palestine and how what he saw was fundamentally unfair and should not be tolerated.
He spoke of the 'dreadful' court system for children and witnessing the situation in Hebron which has made life economically difficult due to settlers. He echoed other speakers fears about time running out for a two state solution and how renewed and urgent pressure was required to support a resolution. He also said pressure on the UK government and the labour party was also needed to ensure they support steps that could lead to a breakthrough and progress to deliver peace and justice in the region.
Sadiq Khan MP and Lisa Nandy MP spoke passionately about their trip to the West Bank in 2011 and gave examples of the what they witnessed. They mentioned the children they met and families whose homes and lives were trapped and suffocated by the infrastructure of the Occupation; with homes trapped by the Wall and settlements, and young people not being able to reach schools or university because of checkpoints and restrictions on movement. They highlighted their concern of the traumatic psychological impact the occupation and violations of international law was having on next generation of Palestinians.
Lisa added that it was particularly frightening that Palestinian children never meet Israelis and only did so when they saw their parents being humiliated at checkpoints. Sadiq Khan said that achieving peace and justice was important not just for people in the region but also an issue which resonates with many British constituents.
Andy Slaughter MP and Richard Burden MP thanked the speakers and guests for attending and urged people to continue to campaign for justice and support the work of LFPME.
You can see photos from the event here.
LFPME is hosting a Gala Dinner on 27th June to help support its work. To find out more please click here.