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Saturday, 22 January 2011

NGOs ‘Valuable, Legitimate Role’ in Israel – U.K. Minister


Listening to Arfab concerns

I was delighted to learn for  personal reasons that Alistair Burt has been in Northern Israel.

Mr Burt, now Coalition Minister for the Middle East, was born in Bury, Lancashire – which is where I lived for almost 25 years before I ‘made aliya’ – emigrated to Israel.Alistair.Burt

He was previously M.P. for Bury North and history now tells us that we residents were the real losers when Mr Burt lost his seat to Labour’s disgraced David Chaytor at the 1997 General Election.

He spent a couple of days in the Galilee and took time  to chat both to Arab leaders in Nazareth  and  to residents of Kibbutz Beit Oren about the damage inflicted on them by the Carmel Forest Fire. He walked around the burnt-out shells of the homes on the kibbutz and a resident explained how the fire was controlled barely metres from the kibbutz's central gas supply.

But his tour started at Given Imaging (in Yoqneam) -  home of the  ‘PillCam’ - a pill-sized camera that can be swallowed to picture the inside of the body.

His next stop was Kibbutz Eshbal where he was  impressed by the dedication to education of its founders and their desire to make a difference to the lives of those young Israelis who would otherwise live on the streets.

In Nazareth, aside from his political duties, he made his first visit in 30 years to the Basilica of the Annunciation.

While there he met  Mayor Ramez Jaraisy, MKs Hana Sweid and Jamal Zahalka and other senior officials from the Arab community in Israel and heard their concerns about issues facing them, including the move to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry into NGOs.

Mr Burt said the UK was concerned by the proposed parliamentary committee of inquiry, saying that NGOs played a valuable and legitimate role in a democracy. The UK has funded many of the organisations which could be probed, and he believed that they played a critical role in the region, helping to contribute towards resolving the conflict between the sides.


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