The LFPME hosted its annual conference reception at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool (Monday 26th September 2011). Over 250 guests enjoyed Arabic food and Palestinian Taybeh beer and heard speeches from the Labour leadership.
The Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband MP and the shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander MP attended as guest speakers and were introduced by LFPME chair Simon Danczuk MP. LFPME vice chair Richard Burden MP, the Labour Party spokesman for foreign Affairs in the European Parliament Richard Howitt MEP, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian and former Consul General in Jerusalem Robin Kealey also made speeches at the reception. You can see video’s of some of the speeches on our YouTube channel by clicking here.
In his speech, Ed Miliband MP highlighted the Labour Party’s “support for the Palestinian application for an upgrading of their status at the United Nation.” He said this reflected the Labour Party’s long-standing position supporting a two state solution and was the right thing to do. He reiterated that settlements were wrong as were rockets fired from Gaza. He pledged “to do everything in our power, in opposition and then hopefully in government to push the Middle East Peace Process.” He said it was the top foreign policy priority for the Party. He ended by congratulating the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East for the work they do to raise awareness of the situation and furthering understanding.
In his speech Douglas Alexander MP said, “Anybody who has visited the West Bank and Gaza are aware of the scale of the suffering that demands a response.” He said “it would have been open to the Labour Party to say nothing about the UN statehood bid, and leave it to Government but that was not the right response. Instead we should be willing to say publicly to the Foreign Secretary William Hague that he should travel to New York as the representative of the British Government and be willing to recognise a Palestinian state in the course of the negotiations.” He added, “42 years of suffering have to give way to a future of justice and possibility to all the people of the Middle East” and that “we will continue to press the Government to do more to help achieve a comprehensive peace settlement”. He concluded by saying he will do all he can as shadow foreign secretary to push for peace and justice for all the people in the Middle East.
The Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian thanked the Labour leadership for its bold stance in supporting the UN recognition bid. He said, “We (Palestinians) are no longer the object of history but the subject of history and we are entitled to independence.” He went on to say “we are extending our hand to our Israeli partners, and asking them to be bold, come forward, stop the settlements, and lets have an agreement once and for all”. He spoke of the irony of history “where today the US is calling for freedom for Arab states but is blocking freedom and independence for the Palestinian people.” He urged everyone to continue to support freedom for Palestine.
Richard Howitt MEP reiterated his support for the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. He said, “the case has been made and should be fully supported. If we fail, the risks are the possibility of third intifada; and violence that none of us want to see.” He added “It would be hypocritical for us to support the aspirations across North Africa and the Middle East countries but not for Palestinians.”
Richard also spoke about the fear people have in the region, “The fear that you will not get past a check point, the fear of a stray rocket or bullet that may kill you, the fear that your husband in an Israeli prison may not come back and the fear of not having a future”. He said we must “not let that fear win but support Palestinian aspirations for statehood”.
Robin Kealy and Richard Burden MP also addressed the guests at the reception.
You can view photos from our conference events by clicking here