Hundreds attended a fundraiser hosted by a local Labour MP in East London to support the work of an organisation that provides critical medical aid in Palestine.
The event, “Humanitarian aid for Gaza Fundraiser” and hosted by Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford South, took place last Thursday at the Mayfair Venue in Chadwell Heath, Romford where over 500 gathered to raise funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), an organisation dedicated to upholding the rights to health and dignity for Palestinians.
Speakers included Marwan Yaghi, the official representative of the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, Samantha Patel, chair of Redbridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Maryam Eslamdoust, General Secretary of Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), and Halla Keir, Advocacy and Research Officer for MAP.
The proceeds, approximately £20,000, will support MAP in providing vital aid on the ground to the Palestinians in Gaza, whose lives continue to be affected by the collapse of the local health system, battered by more than 40 days of Israeli airstrikes in the aftermath of the 7 October Hamas-led attack.
Tarry said: “This is not just about doing the right thing politically here in the UK, it means standing in solidarity with people and saying – ‘you are just human as us’.
“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza will last for years and years: sanitation systems and hospitals destroyed, basic infrastructure in literal rubble and ruins… the consequences and the death toll for Palestinians will continue even beyond the time we get a ceasefire.”
Halla Keir, who represented MAP at the event, said: “Our staff on the ground have been doing heroic work in the face of displacement and constant bombardment.
“Many of them have lost family members and almost all of them are displaced but they are still working to get hot food, hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets to their communities.
“I am grateful to all of you and constituencies across the country who have made clear their support for a ceasefire, it shows us hope and that there is power in community.
“I do want to remind you that MAP’s work is incredibly important, but it alone isn’t enough and we need to see a political shift.”
When Marwan Yaghi, a lawyer and human rights activist representing Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot, delivered his speech, the crowd fell silent.
He said: “It is hugely important that we join all our efforts to empower what will have to be a massive emergency relief effort. And it is equally important that we keep an eye out for the day after – the reconstruction of hospitals, sewage networks, medical centres… there is an acute need for clear water, food, equipment, beds and medicines.
“And there is a need for psychological and emotional support, for families torn apart by horrific violence, for children caught up in this madness and for orphans, elderly and all those who have been left traumatised.
“This is before we address what is likely to be an enormous homelessness problem, and the complete breakdown of every sector, from education to agriculture, that has simply ceased functioning.
“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for our people in Gaza and in the West Bank to know that even as the world appears to have abandoned us, there are still so many good people everywhere – you are a light at the end of this very dark tunnel and with you we will, and we can, rescue tomorrow.
“But whatever happens, we – the Palestinian people – will exist.”
In a passionate speech, Maryam Eslamdoust, first woman and person of colour to hold the position of General Secretary of TSSA, said: “The first six years of my life in Iran were marked by bombs and the fear of invasion by the Iran-Iraq war. The scars it created still burn bitterly years later.
“No child should have to go through these fears – no Palestinians, no Israelis, no Iranians, no Iraqis.”
Referring to the Labour party’s stance on Palestine she added: “My party is supposed to stand on the side of the oppressed, instead we’ve seen them abstain on a vote for ceasefire. MPs have been forced to resign by simply supporting the cause of peace.
“A child is dying every 10 minutes in Gaza, if only all Labour MPs had done the right thing 144 kids might still be alive today.
“I urge you every one of you to care: let’s make peace more than a dream.”
Cllr Muhammed Javed was the only member of the Labour-run Redbridge Councill in attendance. He admitted to being a little disappointed not to see his colleagues there.
He said: “This is about humanity, not about politics. Young children and women are getting killed, babies in incubators… this is what I am here for.
“My leader [Starmer] sadly followed the Western line which is in favour of a humanitarian pause… but what is going to happen after?
“People in power can get together and make peace, this is what our leaders should ask for – we are Labour, we are caring and considerate but that didn’t come across.”
In a statement issued on 9 October, the Council leader Jas Athwal, expressed his solidarity with the Jewish community and the Jewish neighbours in Redbridge. He said Redbridge remains united in the face of violence, hatred and aggression.
A peaceful protest was held in front of Redbridge Town Hall in Ilford, East London on 18 November. Over 100 locals – children, families, teachers, Jewish activists and trade unionists – attended. A Palestinian woman who survived the 1948 Nakba was there with her daughter.
All images: Emanuela Gioia