More than 150 UK citizens from across the country descended upon Westminster on Wednesday to lobby their MPs to do more for Palestine.
Clustering in small meetings throughout the day, constituents briefed members of Parliament about human-rights abuses against the Palestinian people, calling on them to raise the issue with the government.
Several of those attending, like retired teacher Ashok Sethi, were first-time activists, moved to attend the lobby by “the sheer scale of the injustice” occurring in Palestine.
Many had a personal connection to Palestine. Jim Malone, a retired firefighter, drove a firetruck from his native Dundee to the Palestinian city of Nablus to support fellow first responders there. Malone hoped that attending the lobby would make public servants remember that British citizens “haven’t forgotten about the Palestinian people.”
Those lobbying sought to raise awareness about two specific issues: The sale of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and the mistreatment of Palestinian child prisoners. With statistics, anecdotes and talking points on hand, more than 150 citizens met more than 40 MPs throughout the day, hoping to pressure the elected officials to take action.
Zahid Ali, an investor, met with MP Eleanor Smith who represents Wolverhampton South West, and said she had been particularly moved by the issue of child detainees. “She was surprised to hear about the extent of the issues, including solitary confinement and night arrests,” said Ali. “Hopefully there will be results.”
Some MPs expressed frustration over the situation. “I’ve heard these (demands) many times,” said John Glen, a conservative MP fro Salisbury. “I think there are some challenges in terms of working out what’s actionable on this,” he told Arab News. “I wish there was a way of making progress, and I just feel challenged all the time.”
Stephen Pound, a Labour MP who represents Ealing North, acknowledged the peace process was largely stalled, despite a “worsening” situation in Palestine. “The two-state solution seems almost dead in the water. (There) seems to be absolutely no movement on that whatsoever,” he said.
“It seems to me there is an absence of support for the Palestinian people on the world stage.”
Anna Tognarelli, a retired teacher who came down from Manchester for the lobby, said she sees “glimmers of hope” over the issue. Tognarelli says she regularly contacts British politicians about the abuses Palestinians face. “I keep getting the same answer,” she sighed — describing the tempered response she receives about promoting dialogue and co-existence. Still, she remains cautiously optimistic.
The sentiment was echoed by others who believe the Palestinian cause is getting more traction than in recent years.
Ben Jamal — director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organized the lobby — acknowledged the challenge ahead, but said the number of MPs genuinely concerned about the ongoing abuses in Palestine was a positive sign.
A lot of MPs “just come and get information and say ‘I’m supportive’,” he said.
“The task we have is making (MPs) feel there is a space to push for this. There is growing momentum; it’s one step forward at a time for us, that’s the reality.”