“Our strategy is to use nonviolent struggle inside Palestine and international action outside Palestine to support our right to independence,” Fatah Central Committee member and Palestinian Commissioner of International Relations Dr. Nabeel A. Shaath told me after a meeting organized by the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East in Westminster.
It was his sixth official engagement that day; he had already met with the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Committee for International Affairs and their leaders, shadow ministers from the Labour Party, Conservative MPs and the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke.
Dr. Shaath was in the UK as part of a tour that included the Russian Federation, Germany and Sweden. But there was something different about this visit. Whereas previously senior Palestinian Authority officials mostly met with parliamentarians and foreign office bigwigs, this time Dr. Shaath spent extra days here to engage with civil society.
The Palestinians see the UK as one of the key nations that could support them in two crucial votes this September: one for recognition of Palestine statehood, the other UN membership; they need two-thirds, from 128 to 134 member countries, of the General Assembly to vote in their favor, as well as a recommendation by the Security Council. So far, they have 116.
A key ally is South Africa, which empathizes with what it sees as a struggle against an apartheid it considers worse than the one it overcame, said Dr. Shaath. If necessary, he added, Palestine might accept observer status and lobby for full membership later.
Dr. Shaath’s audience at the Labour Friends of Palestine meeting ranged from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, one of the organizations on the far left of the peace group.
Dr. Shaath told the audience about the young Israelis who venture across “every week to demonstrate with us” and said that he often got more accurate local news from an Israeli newspaper, “Ha’Aretz,” than European ones. “I have not given up on the Israeli public’s desire for peace, but the Israeli government does not reflect that.”
(Rani Singh is a broadcaster who has worked with BBC television and radio, reporting, presenting and producing, and specializes in politics, business and security. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)