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The ongoing nakba of Britain’s Labour party
Relief that Labour has ended its antisemitism crisis is distinctly premature
At its annual conference in Brighton, the Labour party has been patting itself on the back for apparently having now satisfactorily dealt with the antisemitism which has besmirched it.
On Sunday, the conference voted to bring in a new disciplinary system independent of the leader's office — a key demand by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its report on the Jew-hatred that erupted in the party under its hard-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
As a result, the former MP Dame Louise Ellman, who in 2019 resigned from Labour over the Jew-baiting against which she had become an icon of resistance, announced that she was now rejoining the party. She described the rule change accepted this week as
an important step to ensure the party’s disciplinary processes are fit for purpose, a vital part of tackling antisemitism in the party.
Others intoned the mantra that the party had now put its antisemitism crisis behind it. Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said:
We've now closed the door on a shameful chapter in our history.
The former MP Ruth Smeeth, who had been the victim of antisemitic abuse and threats and who said about attending this week her 22nd Labour conference:
I feel sick at the idea of being in Brighton knowing that I will be a target for more racist abuse for being here,
But I'm here to help deliver the promise that Keir made when he became leader. He promised the country he would root out the antisemitism that has infected our party and end the anti-Jewish hate which undermines the values we were founded to protect.
Both Shabana Mahmood, the party’s national campaign co-ordinator, and Mark Ferguson, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, apologised to Jewish Labour members and the wider Jewish community for the party’s “shameful” record of unlawfully discriminating against and harassing Jews. Said Ferguson:
Conference, rest assured it will not happen again.
Well, that’s nice to know.
Now look at the resolution passed by this very same Labour party conference the very next day by approximately two to one. The motion said:
Conference condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, Israel’s militarised violence attacking the Al Aqsa mosque, the forced displacements from Sheikh Jarrah and the deadly assault on Gaza.
“Nakba,” which means “catastrophe” in Arabic, is used by Palestinian Arabs to describe the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948. The motion went on:
Together with the de facto annexation of Palestinian land by accelerated settlement building and statements of Israel’s intention to proceed with annexation, it is ever clearer that Israel is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination.
Conference notes the TUC [Trades Union Congress] 2020 Congress motion describing such settlement building and annexation as ‘another significant step’ towards the UN crime of apartheid, and calling on the European and international trade union movement to join the international campaign to stop annexation and end apartheid.
Conference also notes the unequivocal 2021 reports by by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that conclude unequivocally that Israel is practising the crime of apartheid as defined by the UN.
Conference welcomes the International Criminal Court decision to hold an inquiry into abuses committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2014.
Conference resolves that action is needed now due to Israel’s continuing illegal actions and that Labour should adhere to an ethical policy on all UK trade with Israel, including stopping any arms trade used to violate Palestinian human rights and trade with illegal Israeli settlements.
Conference resolves to support “effective measures” including sanctions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, against actions by the Israeli government that are illegal according to international law; in particular to ensure that Israel stops the building of settlements, reverses any annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, brings down the Wall and respects the right of Palestinian people, as enshrined in international law, to return to their homes.
Conference resolves that the Labour Party must stand on the right side of history and abide by these resolutions in its policy, communications and political strategy.
Conference resolutions aren’t binding on the party leadership but are nevertheless a powerful statement of Labour party feeling.
So now we know that the Labour faithful view Israel’s rebirth as a catastrophe. The Labour faithful promote the legally and historical illiterate falsehood that there is such a thing as “Palestinian land”. The Labour faithful misrepresent international law which, contrary to the persistent mis-statement of the relevant treaties by deeply anti-Israel international bodies and the British Foreign Office, the Israelis uphold.
The Labour faithful appear to believe that Israelis are not entitled to the protection of the rule of law, misrepresenting as “forced displacements” legal proceedings taken against Arab tenants in a district of Jerusalem, Shimon HaTzadik as it’s known to Jews or Sheikh Jarrah as it’s known to Arabs, because they were refusing to pay their rents.
The Labour faithful appear to believe that Israelis are not entitled to defend themselves against mass murder. Thus the motion demonised as Israel’s “militarised violence” against the al Aqsa mosque the defence of Israelis against jihadi attacks launched from the al Aqsa mosque.
The Labour faithful similarly misrepresented the deadly bombardments with thousands of missiles and rockets from Gaza as a deadly assault by Israel on Gaza — because Israel defended its citizens by taking military action against Gaza’s terrorists, an offensive that went to lengths unparalleled in the world to protect Gaza’s civilians from harm.
The Labour faithful further want to make it easier for Israelis to be murdered. Thus they demanded the destruction of the security barrier which has stopped the mass attacks committed by Arabs from the disputed territories that slaughtered more than 1000 Israelis between 2000 and 2005.
And most vicious of all, the Labour faithful smeared Israel with the libel of “apartheid” — a claim as fatuous as it is pernicious. Apartheid was the appalling system of separate development by which white South Africans not only excluded black South Africans from public life and denied them their civic and human rights but prohibited them from sharing buses, public amenities or even park benches.
By contrast, Israel is a democracy committed to the human rights of all its citizens. Arab Israelis have full equal rights, as can be seen immediately from their numbers studying in Israel’s universities, enjoying Israel’s beaches and parks, receiving treatment in Israel’s hospitals or working there as doctors and other medical staff, serving in the armed forces and as judges and members of Knesset in Israel’s governing coalition.
Those Arabs who live in the disputed territories don’t have Israeli rights for the very good reason that they are not Israeli citizens — because the status of those territories remains unsettled as a result of Palestinian Arab rejectionism and violence.
The Labour faithful thus singled out the Jews of Israel alone for treatment they afford to no other people or group — denial of their right to life, justice and their own historic homeland.
Singling out Israel for such unhinged and obsessional attack is unquestionably a form of Jew-hatred. Israel alone is subjected to such treatment because it is a Jewish state. The demonisation of Israel inevitably unleashes the demonisation of the Jews.
Various Labour folk who are deeply invested in the party ridding itself of the taint of antisemitism were appalled and embarrassed by this motion. After it was passed, Labour sources said Starmer would distance the leadership from it and make clear that it was not party policy.
Accordingly, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, told Jewish News:
We cannot support this motion.It does not address the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comprehensive or balanced way. We owe it to the people of Palestine and Israel to take a fair and balanced approach that recognises there can only be peace through a safe and secure Israel existing alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.
We remain committed to our position – agreed by the National Policy Forum – that there must be a negotiated, diplomatic settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution – a safe and secure Israel, alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. We will continue to be strong and consistent advocates for justice, human rights and international law in this conflict, and to condemn the unacceptable use of violence against civilians on all sides.
The deterioration in living conditions that many Palestinians have suffered in the last year is not due to a conflict of equals but is a result of the continuing military occupation. There will not be a just, lasting peace until the occupation is brought to a permanent end, where both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy security, dignity and human rights. We condemns all actions that are making that goal more difficult.
Oh dear. As a “distancing” measure, Nandy’s statement was wholly inadequate. For that conference motion wasn’t just “not comprehensive or balanced”. It was a sickening farrago of libellous and inflammatory falsehoods which was deeply and profoundly anti-Jew.
Instead of denouncing this for the vile bigotry that it embodied, Nandy actually added to this by blaming “deteriorating” Palestinian living conditions on the “continuing military occupation”. Yet any such deterioration is due to the one thing she failed to mention — the non-stop attempts by a number of those Palestinians to murder Israelis, as demonstrated by the foiling over the past few days of a major plot by a Hamas cell in the “West Bank” to conduct kidnappings and murders across the country.
But then, who can be surprised by such an omission? For Nandy, who bafflingly describes herself as a “Zionist”, is a supporter of the virulently anti-Israel Palestine Solidarity Campaign. In February last year, she said she supported three PSC “pledges”including the Palestinians’ “right of return” to “their homes” in Israel. Yet this mythical “right of return”, an actual demand for Israel’s Arab aggressors to be handed on a plate what they have tried to seize for the past century through conquest and ethnic cleansing of the Jews from their own ancient homeland, is a device for ending Israel as a Jewish state. Nandy said at the time:
We cannot allow the continued selling of arms to Israel, the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, the blockade of Gaza and for Palestinian refugees to be denied their rights. I am committed to ensuring that Palestinian rights are protected and international law is respected.
In response to the conference motion, Starmer should have denounced it unequivocally as an absolute disgrace because it was based on inflammatory and anti-Israel lies, and that it showed the persistence of the party’s problem with Jews. Instead he hid behind Nandy’s double-edged statement. But not to condemn the evil of that conference motion is tacitly to condone it.
This weaselly behaviour shows once again that, despite all Starmer’s undoubtedly strenuous attempts to bring Jews back into the Labour fold, the party remains dangerous for any Jew who cares about the fate of the Jewish people.
Maybe Starmer simply thinks the hostility to Israel in his party is too extensive to be dealt with. After all, Labour constituency parties had made “Israel/Palestine” the seventh most important issue out of a list of 10 that could be debated at conference.
Or maybe, like so many on the left — including, alas, within Britain’s Jewish community — Starmer really cannot grasp that you can’t endorse deranged lies about Israel and at the same time oppose antisemitism.
The antisemitism in the Labour party and on the left in general inescapably flows from the the progressives’ cause of causes — their demonisation of Israel, and their backing of the Palestinian cause that is itself based on paranoid loathing of the Jews. But even many apparently “moderate” supporters of Israel don’t realise the extent to which they too have swallowed some of these lies; and they certainly don’t grasp the anti-Jewish reflex that has produced mendacious claims, such as Israel’s breaches of law and human rights, that they have ignorantly accepted as true.
Ridding the party of the most egregious offenders in the hard-left circles around Jeremy Corbyn was merely to pluck the lowest-hanging fruit from the poisoned tree. This anti-Jewish cancer is eating the left alive — and it can’t smell its own metastasising rot.
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