Labour Middle East Minister claims Israeli ‘occupation’ is barrier to peace
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Labour Middle East Minister claims Israeli ‘occupation’ is barrier to peace

MP Bambos Charalambous returns from second trip to the region since March and writes in new article of "the 'brutal reality of occupation'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Bambos Charalambous (right) with LFI parliamentary chair Steve McCabe on visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in March
Bambos Charalambous (right) with LFI parliamentary chair Steve McCabe on visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in March

Labour’s shadow minister for the Middle East Bambos Charalambous has said he has “never been clearer in my mind that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is an obstacle to peace.”

The MP for Enfield Southgate returned from his second visit to the region since March, writing in a new article:”When it comes to the question of achieving peace in the Middle East, Labour is clear: in government, we would immediately recognise the state of Palestine.

“We want to see a two-state solution, with a sovereign and secure Palestine and Israel existing in peace alongside one another. But we must acknowledge how far away that goal is.”

Having travelled to Israel with Labour Friends of Israel in March, Charalambous returned again two weeks ago in a trip organised by Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Council for Arab and British Understanding.

In his article for the Labour List website, the shadow minister claimed
“the brutal reality of occupation” was shown by events at Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem.

He said the delegation were taken to a high dependency neonatal unit, imn which premature babies were left alone without their mothers.

“Why were these babies alone?,” wrote the MP. “Firstly, the occupied territories are unable to provide the hospitals to treat complex births or premature children – hence the need for some mothers to give birth in Makassed hospital. Secondly, under the rules of the occupation, mothers are allowed a three-day permit to give birth and recover.

“When the permit runs out the mothers must return to the West Bank or Gaza. If their newborns are too tiny or not well enough to go too, mothers must leave them at the hospital.

Worse still, doctors told us how mothers cannot get permits to visit babies after they have been forced to leave them in the hospital. Even collecting babies when they are fully recovered is difficult – permits to do so are often delayed by months.

“One of the babies we saw there had been well enough to be collected four months ago, but the Israeli authorities had denied the necessary collection permit to his mother. This, we were told, is common.”

After the article was published Lord Ian Austin, who quit Labour ahead of the last election, was amongst those to react angrily to it tone.

Now a trade envoy to Israel, Austin tweeted that the MP’s article:”is hopeless. ”

He added:” It shows no real understanding of the complexity of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

“I’ve campaigned for a Palestinian state all my life but he fails to mention any of the security threats facing Israel or much bigger barriers to peace like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.”

But Yachad’s director Hannah Weisfeld said Charalambous had written an “excellent piece” which acknowledged “that denying people their basic political and human rights is a disaster for the possibility of peace.”

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