'The rule of law, not the rule of the jungle'

Palestinian ambassador to UK speaks out at Unite fringe

Reading time: 5 min

Against a background of increasing bloodshed in Israel and Gaza, the Unite fringe on Building solidarity and speaking up for Palestine in the Labour Party, held yesterday (October 9) at the Labour Party conference was potentially going to be a difficult event.

But nothing could have been further from the truth as speakers spoke of their horror of the terrible collective loss of life and delegates listened intently and silently to each speaker with the utmost of respect.

Speakers included Hugh Lanning, from Labour and Palestine, John Mc Donnell MP, and the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Said Zumlot.

Chairing was Unite’s director of international, Simon Dubbins. He said, “As people with our trade union and labour movement values, we should always mourn the loss of all human life – and we do now, both Israeli and Palestinian. 

“No lives of either people are worth more or less than the others, and hundreds of innocent lives have been lost in the last days. To avoid more tragedy, the people of Palestine and Israel urgently need de-escalation, a ceasefire, and meaningful negotiations for peace. Civilian lives must be protected as set out in international law.

“In order to resolve conflicts, it is absolutely essential to address the root causes of those conflicts.”

He believed the “failure of the international community over decades to act to defend Palestinian rights,” has “ultimately played a very important role in enabling the situation to develop in the tragic manner that it now has.

“In light of the appalling background that this meeting is taking place against, I think it’s absolutely right that we ask ourselves what the Labour Party can do now, and if it becomes the government, to help address some of the root causes of the conflict and bring about lasting peace in the region,” he concluded.

Guest speakers took their turns at the rostrum but the last speaker was the Palestinian ambassador, Husam Said Zomlot.

In an electrifying speech from the heart, Husam described the situation that was happening in Gaza.

He told the fringe event that just minutes before he arrived to speak, he received the devastating news that six of his family members – including his cousin and their young children – had been killed in the Israeli bombardment in Gaza two hours ago.

“Their entire family was wiped out – we have failed to provide our people with a different path,” he said.

Despite this shocking revelation, Husam calmly asserted, “People ask me if we reject targeting civilians – from all sides. Yes, we do reject targeting civilians. Civilians must be protected. They must never be targeted.”

‘We need justice not revenge’

“We need justice; not revenge. We need wisdom and statesmanship. What we need from Labour is the enforcement of your values.”

Explaining why he joined Fatah, Labour’s sister party in Palestine, he said, “I wanted to give my children a different path, a different future, a different destiny – a better opportunity, respect, dignity.”

A tall, dignified man, Husam spoke directly to the audience. He said, “I see the beginning of a South Africa moment here, because it emanated from here. I see the people everywhere I go – I see your understanding, your compassion. This is what Britain is known for.

“If we fail to get governments to intervene, it is you who are going to intervene and end this illegality and injustice.

“Britain is renowned for the rule of law. And if you want to ask me what is the one thing that could describe how we get out of the dark tunnel we’re in, I’ll tell you – it’s the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle.”

By UniteLive team

Pics by Mark Thomas