At Labour Party conference, MAP urges action on Israeli policies endangering Palestinian cancer sufferers

For the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last week, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) contributed strongly to both the packed daytime meeting at which our Gaza Director Fikr Shalltoot was a panellist, and also the evening reception. Both events were coordinated by Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME).

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy presided over the reception, attended by several hundred party delegates and supporters, and introduced on stage Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader said that human rights would be at the heart of the foreign policy of a Labour government and that on day one they would recognise the State of Palestine.


Dan Carden MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, described the harsh living conditions for the 2 million Palestinians in blockaded Gaza which, as he said, even former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called an “open-air prison”.  

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP was third, recounting the hardship of displacement, demolition and discrimination he had witnessed in the West Bank a few weeks earlier. Bambos Charalambous followed, and recalled a series of injustices he had similarly just witnessed in the West Bank and which as a human and as a lawyer, it was his duty to denounce and advocate against.

Dan Carden, Tan Dhesi and Bambos Charalambous all thanked MAP and its partner the Council for Arab British Understanding (Caabu) for having taken them on a delegation to the West Bank this year and the need for MPs to also find a way to access Gaza too.

Neil Sammonds, MAP’s Advocacy and Campaigns Director, was invited on stage. He said that the right to health, when championed, is an effective motor for combatting poverty and inequality, but sadly the occupying power’s policies cut the other way. Israel’s policies cause massive suffering to Palestinian cancer patients, among many others, as highlighted in the findings of the World Health Organisation and the calls of respected human rights and health organisations working with MAP.  Neil flagged the joint press release MAP issued with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al-Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights Israel raising international alarm on dozens of cancer patients who died last year after being denied access to treatment and then showed MAP’s “Deema” animation of a woman with breast cancer in Gaza. The animation was extremely well received.

Underlining the intense human suffering, he showed a picture of three children in Gaza holding the framed photograph of their late mother, Abeer Abu Jayyab. Abeer had breast cancer and died after Israel repeatedly rejected her application to travel to scheduled medical appointments in East Jerusalem for treatment with medication unavailable in Gaza. She was 46. Abeer’s husband told MAP:

“I tried to support her as much as I can. But some things are bigger than our will. Namely the blockade and the lack of adequate healthcare in Gaza.”

In closing, Neil highlighted the words of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Professor Michael Lynk, who produced a report for the UN this year in which he concluded that Israel was in “profound breach of the right to health with respect to the occupied Palestinian territory”. And in urging all present to take some action on this issue, he added Professor Lynk’s crucial recommendation that “[T]hat leaves to the rest of us the obligation to act decisively and effectively”.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry then took the microphone from Neil, noting she was proud that our organisation, MAP, is in her north London constituency and that she visited the West Bank with us last year. Images of that visit, with MAP’s CEO Aimee Shalan, were displayed while Emily Thornberry emphasised the need to adhere to international law with regards Israel and the Palestinians.

MAP thanks the MPs for their words of support for MAP and LFPME for making the event such a success.

Now that we are in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, people can learn more by reading MAP’s up-to-date briefing on Breast Cancer in the oPt, urge action from their MPs and government towards lifting the unlawful blockade and in support of other recommendations in the briefing, help spread awareness by wearing the #BreastCancerAwareness #oPt twibbon on social media, and by donating to MAP to continue and deepen its multiple projects supporting Palestinian women with breast cancer.