Labour passes anti-Israel motion supporting boycott, right of return

Members of the audience cheered, waved Palestinian flags and gave the speaker a standing ovation as she left the stage after shouting "Free Palestine!"

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September 25, 2019 15:10
4 minute read.
Ali Brownlie Bojang, Hove CLP

Ali Brownlie Bojang, Hove CLP. (photo credit: SCREENSHOT/LABOUR PARTY YOUTUBE CHANNEL)

In a conference with multiple speakers condemning Israel, the British Labour party passed a motion supporting an “ethical foreign policy” in terms of trade between the United Kingdom and Israel and supporting the Palestinians’ right to self determination and "right of return."

Shadow Foreign Secretary and Labour member Emily Thornberry promised that a Labour government would take immediate steps on the sale of arms for use in Yemen and in Gaza.

“We will also do what I promised two years ago on this stage: conduct a root and branch (complete) reform of our arms export regime to ensure that never again, never again, can ministers turn a blind eye when British made weapons are being used to kill innocent children,” said Thornberry.

Ali Brownlie Bojang, Hove Constituency Labour Party (CLP), also took the stage to bash Israel, focusing mostly on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and describing the Gaza Strip as the world’s “largest open-air prison.”

“A Labor government should ensure that any solution includes Palestinians’ right to self-determination and the right to return to their homes, protected by international law and expressed in countless UN resolutions,” said Bojang. “As socialists we stand always with the oppressed. Free Palestine!”

Members of the audience cheered, waved Palestinian flags and gave Bojang a standing ovation as she left the stage.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that party leader Jeremy Corbyn had signed a document, along with a myriad of high-level British politicians, including close ally and former Communist Party member Andrew Murray, calling for the boycott of Israel and accusing the state of being guilty of systematically administrating "apartheid" against Palestinian citizens.

Chris Davies, Birkenhead CLP, took the stage after Bojang to further discuss Labour’s plans for UK-Israel relations, especially trade policies between the two countries.

“A Jeremy Corbyn led government has committed to implement an ethical foreign policy in UK trade with Israel,” said Davies. “Anything less would be a violation of human rights and against our Labour values. We must be clear that the promotion of any groups rights cannot be at the expense of others.”

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is the home for anti-Jewish racists and Israel haters,” said Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), in response to the motion at a Labour conference fringe event. “It’s depressing, but thoroughly unsurprising that Labour has today ended its decades old opposition to the extremist Israel boycott movement. Boycotts do nothing to bring about peace and are designed entirely to demonize Israel. With Corbyn now uniquely singling out the world’s only Jewish state for boycotts, it’s no wonder the Jewish community fears the prospect of him becoming prime minister. This is another dark day in the history of the Labour party.”

“Yesterday, on the conference floor, we saw a standing ovation given to a delegate who denied there was any antisemitism in the Labour Party,” lamented chair of LFI Dame Louise Ellman. ”Not only that but a motion supporting boycotts was passed for the first time in Labour history.  Let us be clear about what this means, the only country the Labour party calls to boycott is the world’s only Jewish state.”

At a fringe event organized by the “Labour Against the Witchhunt” group, Jackie Walker, who was expelled from the Labour party, attacked Jewish members of the party who spoke out about the party’s antisemitism in a documentary on BBC’s Panorama series, saying, “the people in that Panorama documentary know nothing about Jewish history,” according to the Hope Not Hate campaign.

Walker also complained that a poster that depicted Netanyahu in a fighter jet attacking Corbyn as an antisemite while Corbyn talked about Palestinian rights was not antisemitic.

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, was scheduled to speak at an event on the fringes of the Labour Party conference, but was not able to attend when his visa was delayed, according to The Guardian.

“Unfortunately, the processing of your application has not been straightforward and we have been unable to make a decision on your application within our customer service targets,” read an email sent to Barghouti from the British embassy in Amman.

Barghouti ended up speaking by video link at the event.

“This is a desperate attempt to silence Palestinian human rights defenders, especially BDS advocates, who challenge not only Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid but also UK complicity in maintaining this regime,” said Barghouti.

Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights and critic of the Israeli government, has long been dogged by charges that he has allowed a culture of antisemitism to thrive in Britain's main opposition party, which he denies.

More than 60 opposition Labour members of Britain's upper House of Parliament signed a statement in a July newspaper accusing leader Corbyn of failing "the test of leadership" over antisemitism in the party.

A Labour spokesman said the party stood "in solidarity with Jewish people and are fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community" and supports speeding up its procedures to deal with antisemitism cases.

Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.


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