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Blind Peer leads the way

April 19, 2014 at 11:11 am

A delegation of 50 European parliamentarians has just returned from a visit to Gaza, where they saw for themselves the human and environmental cost of Israel’s invasion a year ago. Among those in the delegation were Baroness Jenny Tonge, Clare Short MP and veteran MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, a leading member of the Jewish community who has nonetheless been extremely critical of Israeli policies over the past few years.

Although the British media has, yet again and to its shame, virtually ignored this visit, Al-Jazeera television has not, and one amazing clip showed a very special meeting taking place. The delegation visited a school that had been bombed by the Israelis, and 67 year-old Lord Colin Low of Dalston, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, met 12 year-old Louai Subh. What was so remarkable about that? Louai was injured during the Israeli assault and is now blind; Lord Low has been blind since birth. Meeting the peer gave the boy an understanding that losing his sight should not mean that he has no future. Colin Low ended up as a professor of law and the Chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Blind; when he made his maiden speech in the House of Lords in 2006 he said, “There is now a pressing need for blindness to be raised higher up the political and social agenda”.

For many people, the possibility of losing one’s sight is the greatest fear in life, even in Britain where, despite the need for more access facilities for blind and partially-sighted people – hence Lord Low’s statement – relatively speaking difficulties can be overcome. In a place like Gaza where even a relatively simple task like walking along a pavement is fraught with danger it is hard to imagine how those with any disability manage to cope. The European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza – which organized this delegation recognized this and arranged for 100 minibuses to be sent to Gaza last month, many of them equipped for disabled access. Including Lord Low in the latest parliamentary delegation was perhaps an unintentional bonus for someone like Louai Subh, who will now face the many obstacles in his life with a little more confidence and determination.

At the end of his maiden speech, Lord Low said, “My Lords, it will be my aim in this House to attempt to find solutions rather than difficulties.” The people of Gaza hope that he will be able to find some solutions for their difficulties. While in Gaza, he went, he listened, and then insisted, “We have to do something.” Looking at his extraordinary and inspirational career to-date, I have no doubt that he will.