MAP at Labour Party Conference: “Accountability key to ending humanitarian needs”

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was at the Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton this week to speak about the contemporary challenges to Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity, and the foreign policy and developmental aid action needed to address these.

The packed evening reception on Monday night, run in partnership with Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME), was hosted by LFPME Chair Lisa Nandy MP. It was held in the wake of the recent election in Israel, prior to which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley and northern parts of the Dead Sea coast – comprising some 30 percent of the occupied West Bank – if returned as PM after the election.

Lisa Nandy introduced MAP CEO Aimee Shalan to the MPs, delegates and Labour Party members in attendance, praising MAP not only for its valuable work in the occupied Palestinian territory but also for the support and guidance it provides to MPs in the UK. Aimee outlined how, whether or not this threat of official annexation is carried out, conditions in the Jordan Valley are already dire:

“Israel is already in control of almost all aspects of life through its civil and military control in Area C. Palestinian communities, particularly Bedouin refugees, live under the constant threat of home demolitions, forcible transfer, and attacks from settlers, deeply undermining their psychological wellbeing.

“They are prevented from developing their communities and building permanent health infrastructure such as clinics by Israel’s discriminatory planning regime. Access to water, grazing land and livelihoods is severely restricted, in stark contrast to the conditions of their neighbours living in illegal settlements. Food insecurity is rife, with 23 percent of children stunted, meaning they will never meet their full potential.”

Many MPs – including several in attendance – have seen these conditions for themselves while visiting the MAP-supported mobile clinic in the Jordan Valley during parliamentary delegations to the West Bank conducted by MAP in partnership with Caabu. Aimee called on MPs to “keep at the forefront of their thoughts those Palestinians [they] have met on visits … and stand by them as they pursue their modest demand of the rights, freedom and dignity we all take for granted.”

Aimee highlighted how many of the key challenges to the health and dignity of Palestinians – whether living under occupation, illegal closure and blockade, or as refugees – result from violations of international law, and called for UK action to ensure accountability for these.

“Continued impunity is a line that connects Palestinians across the region … It connects every Palestinian health worker shot and killed while working to save lives, to every patient denied a permit to exit Gaza for vital treatment, to every family traumatised by the destruction of their home, to every refugee denied the right to return and languishing in perpetual aid dependency in Lebanon’s camps.”

“Ensuring accountability is therefore key. It is key to ending the drivers of humanitarian needs that MAP’s programmes address. It is key to ending de-development and aid dependency for Palestinians across the region. It is key to ensuring Palestinians can live in health and dignity, and enjoy self-determination as is their right."

For foreign policy and DFID aid for the Palestinian people to make any real, sustainable difference to people’s lives it must be rooted in international law.”

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP also spoke, said that the rights of Palestinians would be top of her list of priorities if and when the Labour Party is in government. She highlighted the Urgent Question she tabled in parliament in March this year after the UK’s abstention on a key resolution at the UN Human Rights Council calling for accountability for potential violations of international law in the context of the ongoing “Great March of Return” protest in Gaza. She criticised the US too for turning a blind eye to Israel’s violations. Shadow Foreign Minister Fabian Hamilton MP told attendees of his party’s commitment to recognise the State of Palestine as part of their support to the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Both travelled to the occupied Palestinian territory with LFPME and MAP in November 2017.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot discussed the challenges faced by Palestinians due to the antagonistic policies of the United States government and Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, which Amb. Zomlot pointed out is the area of the West Bank with the largest concentration of essential natural resources including fresh water and fertile agricultural land. Shadow Minister for International Development Alex Norris MP and Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery MP also spoke, as did Chairperson of Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine Julie Pearn who described how people in Sheffield mobilised to achieve the recognition of the State of Palestine by their city council.  

MAP would like to thank LFPME, all the speakers, and those who attended. We will also be attending the SNP Party Conference in October, and you can keep up to date with this and other aspects of MAP’s work by joining our e-newsletter below:

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