by Andy Brooks
WE HAVE NOT forgotten the refugees and we will never renounce their right to return. That was the clear message from Manual Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, speaking at a packed meeting in a committee room of the House of Commons last week.
Prof Hassassian called on the European Union to use its influence on Israel to end the impasse in the Middle East. “Israel is not invincible,” he said. “It is a small country dependent on the United States. Israel must understand that there is no way out of negotiations”.
The Palestinian envoy was speaking at a meeting organised by Third World Solidarity (TWS) to report on the current situation in the Gaza Strip after the devastating Israeli onslaught in January and to build solidarity with the Palestinians under the thumb of a ruthless and brutal Israeli occupation.
That call was introduced by Mohammad Sarwar, the Labour member of parliament for Glasgow Central, Britain’s first Muslim MP. Sarwar said the EU should send a very strong message to Israel that if they don’t respond to the latest peace efforts there will be some sort of sanctions from Europe.
This was echoed by Martin Linton MP and Andrew Slaughter MP, both from Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East (LFPME), a forum launched last November to provide a voice for the people of Palestine within the labour movement and to the wider public.
The Labour Party group is committed to a two-state solution with viable and secure Palestinian and Israeli states, but believe this can only be achieved once Israel complies with her international obligations. A LFPME delegation recently visited Gaza with the Britain-Palestine all-Party Parliamentary Group.
Israel must get out of Gaza and Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, cannot be ignored was another shared view. They had, after all, won the Palestinian elections and this was stressed by the Palestinian diplomat who said: “I speak in the name of all the Palestinians. Hamas won fair and square, the result of the democratic process…but we were ostracised and condemned. Then we set up a national unity government but the ostracism and boycott continued,” Prof Hassassian said.
“Perhaps we should go back to militarisation and dictatorship,” he rhetorically declared. “Israel has to understand it cannot have the cake and eat it too. We will not tolerate another 50 years of occupation”.
Winding up, the chair of Third World Solidarity Labour London councillor Mushtaq Lasharie, called on everyone to redouble their efforts to build links with the Palestinian people and help in the work of TWS for peace and tolerance, helping to resolve conflicts through negotiations and diplomatic means.