The new leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband MP, promised to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, when he addressed the Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East Reception during the Labour Party conference in Manchester.
The Labour leader told a meeting of more than 200 delegates and supporters (including MPs and MEPs) that the rights of the Palestinian people were not being upheld. He urged the Israelis to lift the blockade of Gaza and to recognise Palestinian statehood. He also criticised Israel over the attack on the aid flotilla.
In a statement before his election he told Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East: “If elected leader of the Labour Party, I would visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority and take a first-hand look at what is happening on the ground in Gaza.” At the reception with Labour Friends of Palestine, he said: “I did say I would make a visit to see for myself the situation and I promise to do that.”
The following day during his address to the Labour Party conference he reiterated his stance that there can be “no solution to the conflicts of the Middle East without international action, providing support where it is needed, and pressure where it is right to do so.” He went on to say “the government must step up and work with our partners in Europe and around the world to help bring a just and lasting peace to the Middle East.”
At the reception he further added: “I want to say to you from the bottom of my heart that this is a fantastically important cause to me” and thanked LFPME for its campaigning work and committed himself to working with the group in the months and years ahead.
Martin Linton, Director of LFPME, welcomed Ed Miliband’s very clear statements on the issue of Palestinian statehood and the siege of Gaza. He said “We are glad that Ed has said he will go and see the situation on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza for himself. It is difficult for anyone to understand just how desperate the situation is until they have seen it for themselves. We also welcome his emphasis on international law. All that is necessary for the peace process to succeed is for Israel to conform with international law on the settlements, the wall, Gaza and Jerusalem.”
The reception was also addressed by Andy Burnham MP, Richard Howitt MEP, Labour Party Foreign Affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Professor Hassassian, and Andy Slaughter MP.
Other events the LFPME held at the Labour Party Conference included: Michael White, Assistant Editor of the Guardian, interviewing Sir Gerald Kaufman MP; and a joint event with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Unite entitled ‘Ending the siege on Gaza’ which included speakers Tony Woodley, Andy Slaughter MP, Richard Burden MP, Hugh Lanning, and international guest, Member of the Israeli Knesset, Haneen Zuabi.