JVL public meeting at the Labour Party conference

JVL Introduction

There were three keynote speakers at JVL’s meeting at the Labour Party conference: former Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, Ilan Pappe, Israeli Historian, and Graham Bash, JVL’s Political Officer.

Here is the Morning Star report of the event.

This article was originally published by Morning Star on Tue 24 Sep 2019. Read the original here.

Jewish Voice for Labour conference lays Palestinian plight bare

THE plight of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation was laid bare at the Let’s Talk About Palestine fringe event organised by Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) on Sunday night.Around two hundred people squeezed into the conference room at the Mercure Hotel to hear speeches by JVL political officer Graham Bash, Israeli dissident historian Professor Ilhan Pappe and former Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi.

“The whole purpose of Jewish Voice for Labour was so that we can talk about Palestine, so that it was possible to hold meetings on Palestine without being closed down on the basis that there could be some anti-semitism,” JVL co-chair Jenny Manson said kicking off the conference.

“This is the meeting they tried to stop,” began Mr Bash who spoke of Labour’s historic support for Zionism and the creation of the Israeli state.

“But the blinkers have begun to come off. The boycott movement has grown. Pro-Palestinian sentiment in the party has mushroomed.”

The “witch hunt” against those critical of Israel and the supposed anti-semitism crisis in the Labour Party began soon after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, he said.

“Corbyn was a threat to the right-wing of the party because he was a socialist, but also because of his pro-Palestinian history.

“We are in a dangerous moment. We’re fighting the axis of evil: Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, Modi, Victor Orban and Putin. And in Britain this Brexit meltdown has exacerbated the rise of the far right.

“All this in the context of a desperate climate change crisis. The future of the world is in balance, and in this country, our best defence is a Corbyn-led Labour government.

“We have suffered decades of defeat since the miners’ strike and we face the contradiction between the most left-wing leadership in Labour’s history at the low ebb of class struggle.

“And therein lies the danger of this anti-semitism witch hunt. It is used to undermine the best leader we’ve ever had and a diversion from the fight against the Tories.

“If we don’t put an end to this, it will come back to haunt us.”

Professor Pappe discussed Britain’s historical role in the creation of Palestine.

“We are gathering as a Jewish voice for Labour because we would like to say that we are Jews and not Zionists… because we know history,” Prof Pappe said.

“We know that the Balfour Declaration was granted by one of the biggest anti-semites ever living in this country. A person who passed a resolution in 1905 to prevent Jews who were running away from pogroms in Eastern Europe to come to a safe place in Britain.

“He gave the Balfour declaration to divert Jewish immigration into Britain to Palestine. And because we know that truth, we cannot identify with that kind of ideology.”

Prof Pappe went on to describe the Israeli government’s annexation of Area C in the West Bank, saying that it is as if “Whitehall is wilfully blind” to the “callous and cynical abuse” that happens there every day.

“Every minute that the British media wastes on alleged institutional anti-semitism in the Labour Party is a minute that they should have used to report what is being done to the people in Palestine.

“Whether inside or out of the EU, Britain is part of Europe. And Europe has been silent since 2006, when Israel began to enact a genocidal policy on the people of the Gaza strip.

“Not one European member of parliament… has voiced any kind of outcry against the crime against humanity that Israel inflicts on the people of Palestine.

“We have a role as Europeans, regardless of the Brexit debate, we are part of a political entity that is beyond the EU, which is part of the Western world that has never dealt properly with the Holocaust, with its own policies of anti-semitism in Europe and threw it all on the Palestinians.

“It’s time for us to open the debate on our own anti-semitism, not to be afraid of it. But within the context that says, you do not solve racism and anti-semitism in Europe by allowing a Jewish state to be racist in the Middle East.

“I understand that not everyone wants to define themselves as anti-zionists. But I do think that if you do define yourself as such you can be a proud person.

“You are a person that opposes colonialism, you oppose racism, you oppose anti-semitism; you are facing an ideology that really contradicts everything you believe in as a universal humanist, socialist and a person who is a member of the Labour Party.”

Finally Ms Zoabi spoke of life as a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and the oppression her people face daily. Israel, she said, has enshrined apartheid into its laws.

“Two years ago, Israel changed the definition of the state and no-one talked about it: from Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy, to Israel as a Jewish nation state.

“The right of the Palestinians doesn’t exist in Israeli political discourse now.

“As an Israeli citizen, I am not allowed to define myself as a Palestinian. I must be an ‘Arab Israeli’.

“Growing up I was taught that Israeli is a home for the Jews and people often asked me what I was doing there.

“Israel no longer recognises Arabic as an official language.

“It is not just a colonial state, it is moving towards fascism. Zionists didn’t come to coexist with us, they came to replace us.

“We Palestinian people need to think in a unified and strategic way, not about borders and not just about discrimination, but about decolonalisation.

“Apartheid has become the most basic law of the state. So we must talk about decolonisation, justice and democracy. And it’s not just my rights as a Palestinian, it’s also the Jews’ rights inside Israel to live within a normal state, a normal situation.

“We can’t just liberate ourselves as Palestinians, we must also liberate the Jews in Israel.”