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Does the UK Conservative party have an Anti-Palestinian problem?

In recent months every major media outlet has been falling over themselves to report that the UK Labour party is 'apparently' infested with anti-Semitism. An intelligent human being would have paused for a moment and actually considered the evidence of such accusations before burning MPs at the stake. Yes, a few were undoubtedly guilty of making heinous remarks that anyone would find abhorrent and deservedly paid the price of suspension, however, most were guilty of simply criticising the Israeli government.

Obviously you do not need to be a genius to realise that, nowadays, any criticism of the 'only democracy in the Middle East' will have you tarred and feathered with the anti-Semite brush instantaneously. You can no longer preach anti-Zionism because, of course, we all know that anti-Zionist is secret code for 'anti-Semite'. Well done to the Zionist lobby for conflating the two so seamlessly in the minds of the public.

Yet, whilst the Labour government is in disarray and leader Jeremy Corbyn is left to wonder which of his colleagues is waiting to knife him in the back next. The Conservative party, and more specifically, the Home Office immigration and visa department, is quietly and happily refusing the standard entry visas of Palestinians.

When you consider that it was recently reported that some 375 British citizens known to have ventured to Syria to fight alongside Islamic State were somehow allowed back into the United Kingdom by our crack team of border guards it seems rather odd that they would have any issue with allowing a few Palestinians to visit one of the world's supposedly great democracies.

Now, were these Palestinians planning to arrive in the UK with the intention of orchestrating some major terrorist event then you could forgive the Home office for rejecting their applications to visit. However, given that two of the applicants, Nader al Masri and Sami Nateel are athletes from Gaza who were due to take part in the Derry Marathon you have to wonder what possible threat either could pose to the UK? Nader al-Masri is an Olympian who has proudly represented his people. Was he going to run too fast? Was that the reason the Home office decided against granting him entry?

Imagine, for a moment, that you live in Gaza. Imagine the restrictions you exist under. Imagine what you have witnessed in your life, what you've had to endure. Yet, despite this, you become an athlete, and a damn good one. You dream of participating in marathons and events worldwide like any other runner. Now imagine how you'd feel when your application to take part in a marathon in Derry is rejected. This is the reality of both Masri and Nateel. Apparently if you're Palestinian you can't come here.

Now imagine you are a photo journalist. In fact, imagine you are an award-winning photojournalist and an author to boot. Imagine that you spend your time living in the West Bank and, on a daily basis, put your life at risk by using your camera to capture moments of injustice dished out by the Israeli occupation forces. Imagine you've been shot at and had tear gas fired at you as a matter of routine. Imagine you also take time to capture the beauty of where you live, the people, the landscape. Imagine that your work has been exhibited in the UK and that it has countless admirers. Imagine the Network of Photographers for Palestine, a group based in Scotland, raise funds to sponsor and host your visit to the UK so that you can showcase your work and speak of your life in person. Now imagine, for a second time, your visa is rejected by the Home Office because you 'might get married whilst in the UK' or 'you might rob a bank whilst in the UK' or 'you might accidentally trip and get some of your blood on the pavement whilst in the UK'. The last two examples were of my own making but the marriage example is a reality for Hamde Abu Rahma. Apparently the Home Office believe he MAY get married? Why? Don't ask me.

Hamde Abu Rahma is the epitome of Palestine. He loves his country. He adores his people. He has no interest in remaining in the UK. He simply wants the opportunity as an artist to come here and exhibit his work. The problem is, drum roll…Hamde is Palestinian.

The minister of immigration for the UK is the Rt Hon James Brokenshire, Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup. Unsurprisingly he seems to have no interest whatsoever in replying to emails regarding why Palestinians are being denied UK visas for no apparent or justifiable reason. In fact, aside from Scottish and Irish politicians, none of the English MPs seem willing to get involved. Clearly the Labour party feel as if they can't touch this issue as they'll end up having to suspend themselves entirely for the crime of being 'pro Palestinian' for a moment. That leaves us with the Tories.

Whilst the country, and a large portion of the world and media, keep their beady eye on the supposedly prolific anti-Semites in the Labour party…the Conservatives are quietly denying Palestinians their rights and no one cares.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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