Cllr humbled by refugee effort in Palestine
A Central Rochdale Councillor has spoken of the “inspiring collective effort” to address the humanitarian crisis in Palestine after spending 10 days in the Palestinian territories and witnessing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first hand.
Councillor Ibrar Khan recently travelled with Rochdale’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate Simon Danczuk to Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Ramallah as part of a self-funded study tour.
Describing the bleak humanitarian and economic situation facing most Palestinians, he said that it was important that Washington re-doubled its efforts to find a political solution and praised the efforts of those working hard on the ground to alleviate the effects of the humanitarian crisis.
“It really is heartbreaking to see young malnourished children playing in rubble after they have had their houses demolished by the Israeli defence force,” he said. “The sense of oppression is totally overwhelming. Innocent children are trying to make sense of shattered lives against a backdrop of barbed wire, demolished houses, tanks and soldiers with guns. We went to the UN refugee camps and saw thousands of dispossessed people who have had their only means of survival taken away from them. The only encouragement you could draw from such a desperate snapshot of humanity was the sight of so many different agencies representing all different faiths working hard to help the people and deliver basic services such as food, water and shelter.”
As part of their visit, Councillor Khan met with the Mayor of Bethlehem, the Mayor of Nazareth and the Palestinian Health Minister to get a better understanding of how they were managing the conflict.
“It is very humbling and inspiring to see the Mayors working hard to deliver services on a shoestring budget,” he said. “There is a real passion for public service and a determination to help their people.”
He added that he was especially moved by the scale of the challenge outlined by the Palestinian Health Minister. “People are dying because they can’t get to a hospital,” he said. “Patients are being refused permits on security grounds. Women are giving birth at the checkpoints because they can’t get through to the hospital. There is a massive shortage of essential medical supplies and severe problems caused by mental health disorders. The psychological effects of violence, particularly for children, are hugely traumatic. Combined with land confiscation, random house demolitions and movement restrictions, this has created very high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Rochdale’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Simon Danczuk, added that he had been “sickened” by the human rights abuses he had seen during the visit and stressed that a huge collective effort was needed to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
“It is impossible not to be affected by this appalling level of child poverty and violence,” he said. “Our Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has recently said that 2009 will be a chance to achieve comprehensive peace and stability in the Middle East. I very much hope this is the case and I applaud his recent efforts to try and get Syria involved in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US President elect, Barack Obama, has also previously said that ‘no one is suffering more than the Palestinian people’ and I hope he will be unwavering in his commitment to promote the peace process.”