Tony Benn, the longest serving Labour MP in history was an inspiration to us and to all who struggle for peace and justice worldwide. One of the most popular UK politicians of all time, he was well loved and respected.
Across the globe, his commitment to socialism and a better world for all struck a chord with people of all ages and social backgrounds. His commitment for the Palestinian cause inspired generations.
He spoke at demonstrations and meetings organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other peace and anti-war organisations, and helped many activists understand that we could all help make a change, and end war, occupation and suffering.
He denounced the British government’s role over the years as “less than honest” in its supplying of arms to Israel and all too often joining the US in giving them the support they demanded. He insisted that a British Government should act firmly and independently, and not supporting Israeli troops who he described as “An occupying army in a neighbouring state which they have attacked in acts of aggression against international law.”
Tony Benn was also in favour of a boycott of Israeli goods and encouraged Britain in 2002 to support this strategy by stopping all arms sales to Israel, introducing trade sanctions and a ban on all investment.
In 2009, he accused the BBC of a “betrayal” of its public service obligations following its decision not to broadcast a public appeal for funds for Gaza.
BBC said it refused to broadcast the appeal because to do so could compromise its editorial impartiality and for fear money raised could be used for political purposes by Hamas.
When asked to comment on this by Ed Stourton on Today, Tony Benn said: “£50 would provide a food parcel for a family for a month. There are a million and a half people in Gaza without water, sanitation, shelter or electricity; 1330 have been killed, there are 5,450 casualties; 460 children. What I’m going to do now is to do the appeal myself and say if you want to make a cheque payable to the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Crisis, post it to PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA or go to any post office quoting pre-pay number 1210.”
When Stourton tried to steer Tony Benn back towards answering his original question, he replied: “I’m going to go on repeating it [the appeal] until you turn me out of the studio.”
He then addressed a rally called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the British Muslim Initiative outside Broadcasting House in central London stating that:
“The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, which has left aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations, is a betrayal of the obligation which it owes as a public service.
The destruction in Gaza, and the loss of the lives of over a thousand civilians and children, has shocked the world as Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, made clear, when he saw the devastation for himself. The human suffering that the people of Gaza have experienced over the last few weeks has appalled people who have seen it for themselves on their television screens.
To deny the help that the aid agencies and the UN need at this moment in time is incomprehensible and it follows the bias in BBC reporting of this crisis, which has been widely criticised.
I appeal to the chairman of the BBC Trust to intervene to reverse this decision to save the lives of those who are now in acute danger of dying through a lack of food, fuel, water and medical supplies.”