The Middle East Monitor hosted a press conference with Karen Koning AbuZayd, former Commissioner General of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) on Monday 22nd March. Mrs. AbuZayd was in Palestine during critical periods of the past decade, including the Israeli assault on Gaza last winter and is a strong and courageous individual who has given a voice to the voiceless Palestinians. Following a Parliamentary briefing yesterday (Tuesday) AbuZayd will be delivering a final lecture today at the University of Westminster on Human Rights and Justice for the Palestinians after the Goldstone Report.During yesterday’s Press Conference, Mrs. AbuZayd spoke about the strength of the Palestinian people and praised their endurance; for generations they have managed to adapt and persevere under continuously deteriorating circumstances and remain hopeful. This is applicable to both those living under occupation and in exile. This hope is important and Mrs AbuZayd highlighted that all Palestinian refugees worldwide should be entitled to return to their homeland as agreed by UNRWA when it was established. She also stated that this right does not cease to apply with second generation refugees or Palestinians who have acquired a second nationality.
Mrs. AbuZayd also commented on the critical economic situation in Gaza and in particular, the role of the underground tunnels that link Gaza and Egypt. As a direct consequence of the Israeli imposed blockade which has been in place for almost four years now, Gaza’s economy has ground to a halt. This means that the tunnels are quite literally Gaza’s life-support used to bring in the most basic necessities of life such as washing powder and light bulbs. With regard to perceived economic improvements in the West Bank, AbuZayd warned that observers must look at the situation in context. Houses are being continuously demolished, children are forced to live below the poverty line and survive on UNRWA rations and the lack of resources within the health-care system means that doctors have to see up to 100 patients a day.
As we approach the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was shocking for all those present to realise that every single one of these rights have been violated for the Palestinian people, as highlighted by AbuZayd.
The Palestinian General Delegation and Malaysian embassy were represented as well as representatives from the Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Labour Friends of Palestine, Crisis Action and the Saudi Press as well as the television stations al- Jazeera, Al Hiwar, Islam Channel and Press TV.