Letting Israel off the hook

"Labour to Win" is organising to prevent us seeing scenes like this ever again at a Party conference

JVL Introduction

As the right attempts to tighten its grip on the Party it is clear that policy on Israel-Palestine is likely to be up for grabs.

Still smarting from the glorious display of solidarity for Palestine expressed at the 2018 Party conference, Labour to Win and its allies are organising to undermine what little commitment there is to Palestine in current policy.

As 81-year old orthodox Jew and JVL activist Diana Neslen argues here, Labour to Win’s model motion is an attempt to let Israel off the hook as it continues along the apartheid path it has mapped out for itself.


Diana Neslen writes:

The right wing of the party was still fresh from success in getting its standard bearer elected leader (on a platform of party unity), its bête noire dispatched from the parliamentary party, and its adversaries effectively silenced through bureaucratic manoeuvrings, when it produced a resolution on Israel-Palestine which it hopes conference will pass.

The passage of this resolution will, those on the right hope, finally bury memories of conferences where the flag of Palestine flew and where Israel’s policies were everywhere condemned. The resolution, one of a number circulated by the grouping Labour to Win, bears the fingerprints of the Jewish Labour Movement, a group that did so much to elevate the party’s profile at the last election.

If this is to be the Party’s standard, it is worth looking at it in more detail:

Two-State Solution

Conference reiterates Labour’s position that the only way to create peace in the Middle East and end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the negotiated creation of two states for two peoples: a Jewish state in Israel alongside a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, living alongside each other in peace and security. The rights of minority communities in both states must be fully respected.

West Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel, East Jerusalem the capital of the new Palestinian state. The Holy sites in the Old City must be accessible to all. The issue of the main Israeli settlement blocks in the West Bank should be resolved through mutually agreed land swaps.

Conference recognises the right to national self-determination and liberation of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples and recognises the legitimacy of both Zionism and the Palestinian national movement.

Conference condemns all acts of terrorism unequivocally. Conference calls for free and democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority and the restoration of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza. Conference calls for the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to be removed from power in Gaza and disarmed in return for massive investment to improve life for citizens in Gaza.

Conference rejects negative and one-sided tactics such as boycotts, divestment and sanctions and commits to supporting practical schemes that build peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, including the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Conference expresses solidarity with sister parties Israeli Labour, Meretz and Fatah.

The first thing that stands out about this is that it is a plea to keep the status quo in place. It repeats the trope that there is a ‘conflict’ between two equal adversaries, necessitating both sides to work towards ‘peace’. The fact that one side is an armed occupier and the other an occupied people is nowhere clarified. Nor are the minimal obligations on the occupying party under international law.

Buzzwords like ‘peace and security’ are much in evidence here in a bid to convince sceptics by sleight of hand. But it is difficult to see how the onset of peace would help the Israeli economy, dominated as it is by arms manufacture and the maintenance of its role as the supreme military power in the Middle East.  Real peace would involve concessions, military demobilization, addressing painful internal divisions postponed by war, and calling for substantial economic industrial and social change.  Change which this unequal and racist society is ill-equipped to manage.

Security though is a different element.  The idea of security has worked very well for the Israeli state.  Behind the screen of security Israel has enacted all manner of belligerence including acts now being investigated as war crimes. Clearly its occupation and settlement building programme is in breach of international law.

Yet the movers of this arrogant resolution have made their own map of the future terrain of the ‘two states’ which rewards Israel’s aggression and thumbs its nose at international law. It is not within the gift of outsiders to dictate to the parties in negotiation what the outcome will be, still less to reward the oppressing party, but clearly Labour to Win first feels emboldened so to do.

While it is true that Palestinians are in desperate need of self-determination, the same cannot be said about Jews.  The idea of ‘self-determination’ of the Jewish people together with Zionism as its ideology, is contested by many non-Zionist Jews who do not share or wish to share a territorial space stolen from another people. Denying Jews the right to challenge current ideas shows at best ignorance of Jewish culture, history and sensibility and at worst, contempt for a minority population.

It is in the last two paragraphs that the movers of this resolution expose their colonial mindset. The resolution condemns ‘all acts of terrorism unequivocally’. This though seems to apply solely to what Israel would consider ‘terrorism’. From their superior perch they tell the Palestinians, clearly not their equals, that they cannot vote for Hamas or support Islamic Jihad. What do they have to say to the Israelis? Nothing. These are the words of the master defining the parameters of the subject.

And who is to “remove” Hamas and Islamic Jihad from power in Gaza? Is conference being asked to vote for another Israeli invasion of the sort that has killed hundreds of civilians since 2008 with white phosphorous, indiscriminate bombing campaigns and massacres of civilian demonstrations? Or is it being asked to support an Israeli-backed civil war between different Palestinian factions that would weaken their national unity, collective strength and negotiating capacity? Using the language of neutrality, this motion attempts to align conference with what we have seen are the precursors to Israeli war crimes in the past.

It’s all very well to condemn non-violent tactics like boycott, divestment and sanctions, but by posing the desired alternative as Palestinian subjugation, the motion’s authors reveal their true agenda. Over the past 50 odd years Israel has shown no inclination to offer any solution acceptable to the Palestinian polity. Any scrutiny of the negotiations undertaken shows that Israel’s desire is not “peace” but as much territory with as few indigenous Palestinians as possible.

Since the world accepts Israel whatever it does, it has no need to change unless there is a sanction and since this resolution denies even the minimum sanction of BDS, it would seem that it is asking that Israel be allowed to continue on the path it has mapped out. And since the path is described by eminent human rights organisations like B’tselem in Israel and Human Rights watch as apartheid, this resolution is giving apartheid the seal of approval. From the party that once stood against apartheid in South Africa this is a disgrace.

Comments (18)

  • Paul Smith says:

    The resolution is imbued with Israeli ethno-nationalist norms and values; it represents a return to Labour’s past.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Sad to say Diana, that is spot on!

  • Tony Booth says:

    Great article from Diana Neslen, that makes clear the attempt by sections of the Labour Party to throw away the best elements of our anti-racist history by supporting apartheid in Israel. The motion is a plea for the status quo, the military supremacy of Israel, and is a recipe for continued conflict within the Party.

  • Alan Deadman says:

    What I ask could a mutually agreed land swop mean? I steal some of your land, build a settlement on it, and then agree to swop it with you for what?
    I have already taken your most fertile land, your purest water and your rights. What is there left to swop for? Magic beans?

  • Paul Smith says:

    I fear that Evans will prohibit the display of Palestinian flags and symbols within the Labour Party conference and meetings next (as making the party unwelcome to Jewish members).

  • Caroline Raine says:

    Interesting to know how an occupied people are supposed to hold “free and democratic elections”, specially when the occupying power actually seeks to determine the outcome of those elections. Presumably those elections won’t be “free” to elect Hamas which the motion makes clear should be “removed”.

  • Dr Rodney Watts says:

    As Naomi says “spot on”. Quite a few of us have been saying the 2 state solution is a dead duck for at least 10 years, so personally I am sick of seeing it still repeated. Good comment Alan Deadman. Just another reason for not joining the LP.

  • It hardly need saying that this motion is a Zionist motion. It adopts the idea of a conflict between 2 equal parties not the settler colonial paradigm. That is why ‘self determination’ is inappropriate. Even were the Israeli Jew a nation, then as an oppressor nation the question of self-determination does not arrive.

    However it is far worse than that. Land swaps means keeping the settlements where they are on stolen land. What it does do is fulfill the programme of Lieberman and Bennet to remove the Triangle and heavily Arab areas of Israel to the new Palestinian ‘state’. It is in other words a continuation of transfer and is a war crime.

    It calls the racist Israeli Labour Party and Meretz its ‘sister’ parties. The Zionist left has never opposed a single war against the Palestinians or Lebanon. Both of them are Jewish supremacist parties and both of them are currently in alliance with the far-Right government in Israel today.

    As for Fateh being a ‘sister party’ that is a new one. The same Fateh that runs the quisling government in Ramallah and whose thugs were responsible for murdering Nizar Banat and beating demonstrators off the streets in the West Bank.

    But of course 2 states will not happen. It is therefore a continued recipe for apartheid and it opposes the one means, BDS, which will help defeat Apartheid. We can expect no more of Starmer, who is a self-declared racist (‘Zionist without qualification’).

  • Nick Jenkins says:

    How is the British Labour Party planning to remove Hamas from power?!
    And why the hell would we want to express solidarity with the Israeli Labour Party? What solidarity have they shown us in recent years?

  • Caroline says:

    Great article Diana. And yes re the comments too – the ‘land swap’ suggestion unbelievable. It is hard to remain a member of the Labour Party these days. I hope your article can be widely shared and re-published.

  • Steven Bliss says:

    If Conference passes this resolution I will finally give up and leave the Party.

  • John Bowley says:

    Good stuff, Diana and colleagues, about more bad stuff from bad guys who are also counter-productive towards our Labour Party and Britain.

    As noted here and elsewhere, the Israel Labor Party is part of the oppression of the indigenous inhabitants, is part of the racist Israel government and does not show any solidarity with our Labour Party; the Jewish Labour Movement, its affiliate here, being consistently hostile to us.

    What a crummy motion from the establishment wing of the Labour Party. It is indeed full of contradictons, light on facts and heavy on hypocrisy. Let us hope that it is panned.

  • Mike Scott says:

    Everyone should be quite clear of one thing: not only is the two-state solution dead, it was never alive in the first place. At the time of the Oslo accords, there were already hundreds of thousands of “settlers” in the West Bank and now there are around 750,000. There is no conceivable “land swop” big enough to make up for this invasion and, as noted above, the “settlements” have stolen the best land and any swop would be for less (and less fertile) territory. And any attempt to remove the “settlers” would result in a civil war and that is just not going to happen.

    The only possible solution is One Democratic State (www.onestatecampaign.org) and I would encourage you to look at their website and consider their proposals.

  • rc says:

    I’m afraid that Steve Bliss is proposing to play into the hands of David Evans, Keir Starmer, the Zionist Apartheid State and US imperialism, whose clearest and most honest spokesman is still Mike Pompeo – who declared that he would not permit a LP led by Corbyn anywhere near power. And he and his allies proved him right, didn’t they? The inevitable result of Steve’s ‘policy ‘ (sorry, Steve…) would be the continued, deepened and expanded domination of the US-Israel axis over the Middle East. And this at a time when US ideologists and strategists are already yearning for – and no doubt preparing – plans to overcome the new ‘Saigon effect’ of their Afghan catastrophe – itself the result of that earlier effect…
    Only strong and united forces to push the LP far leftwards, away from uncritical support for NATO and international finance capital are worth leaving the LP for. I’m afraid Steve’s conscience doesn’t count towards that requirement.

  • Margaret Egerton says:

    I would like to add that Hamas is not recognised by the UN or UK government as a terrorist organisation.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    Jeremy will be attending Conference this year. Delegates bring your Palestinian flags & vote against any such policy. The ideal resolution for all peoples is a one Party Solution in which Arab & Jew share equal human rights in the ‘Holy Land’ creating a secular democratic state, where no religion determines policy & Ephraim Mirvis has no more influence on the Labour Party leader than the Pope.

  • Hamish Coubrough says:

    This is a brilliant rebuttal of a shameful attempt to overturn everything Labour has stood for. I completely agree.

  • John Spencer says:

    The assassination of Nizar Banat sheds a glaring light on the collaboration between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and the murderous Israel occupation in Palestine. (This morning’s Guardian has a powerful account of this despicable crime.) It shows the real content of the “solidarity” of the resolution’s authors with the Fatah Party in its current manifestation. One might expect Labour to Win to link up with the “sister parties” Israeli Labor and Meretz (both declining in terms of votes and seats). But are the armchair soldiers of Starmerism really ready to risk their necks to remove Hamas and Islamic Jihad from Gaza and disarm them?

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