Hamas gets a hearing in House of Commons

By Jessica Elgot, June 14, 2012
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Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

An organisation which has featured Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at a seminar is to hold a meeting at the House of Commons, with the support of five Labour MPs.

MPs Sir Gerald Kaufman, Andy Slaughter, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Love are the guest speakers at the Palestinian Return Centre's (PRC) meeting on June 18 at the House of Commons to mark International Refugee Day.

Fellow MP Ian Murray co-sponsored the group's use of the room in the Palace of Westminster, but will not attend himself due to prior commitments.

Mr Haniyeh was the guest speaker at the PRC's annual conference in 2009.

The British government's official position is to refuse to engage with Hamas until it renounces violence. But MPs continue to visit Gaza and meet leading members of Hamas.

Mr Murray met Hamas officials last year as part of a delegation of 12 British parliamentarians, including Parliamentary Labour Party chair Tony Lloyd MP and Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party chair Lorely Burt MP.

Labour MP Richard Burden, who chairs the British-Palestine All Party Parliamentary group, has also held meetings with Hamas members in Gaza, on the grounds of "opening dialogue".

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt is one MP known to have joined Mr Burden in Gaza. Baroness Jenny Tonge and Respect MP George Galloway have met Mr Haniyeh. Hamas was given £25,000 by Mr Galloway in March 2009, who declared: "This is not charity. This is politics."

This week, the Guardian published a comment piece by the Hamas leader, who wrote: "The 'Palestinian problem' has many dimensions, but at its root is Israel's occupation… which attempts to look for so-called 'solutions' within its framework."

A Guardian spokeswoman said it had not had any complaints. She said: "We think it is right that the Palestinian voice is heard, even if some of the views held by contributors are unpalatable."

Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel said: "The Guardian seems to have no clear policy on where it draws the line on giving a platform to extremists, antisemites and representatives of terrorist organisations."

Last updated: 11:07am, June 14 2012