Labour Speaks Up for Palestine


“We’ve seen a strong show of solidarity between the UK labour movement & the people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom. This is something we should be proud of.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS

By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine

It was uplifting to see Labour Conference this year overwhelmingly pass a motion in support of peace and justice for Palestine.

The motion argued that “Labour’s ethical foreign policy must prioritise Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel,” and resolved “to oppose any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s ‘deal’, not based on international law and UN resolutions recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes.”

In one of a number of great speeches in the debate, Unite Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke said that “this motion calls for our solidarity at a critical moment [as] the Palestinians, occupied and besieged, are facing a new attack.”

The motion came just weeks after TUC Congress also passed a strong motion in solidarity with the Palestinian people entitled “Palestine – supporting rights to self-determination.”

The motion rightly noted that “The US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stopping funding for Palestinian refugees, the continuing siege of Gaza, expanding illegal settlements and plans to annex illegally large areas of the West Bank.”

As PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka commented, “Over the past few weeks, we have seen a strong show of solidarity between the UK labour movement and the people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom. This is something we should be proud of.”

This solidarity couldn’t be more important in a situation where recent actions by US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine, and the proposals in Trump’s “deal of the century” are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.

In addition to the policies mentioned above, we have seen Netanyahu announce plans to annex illegally large areas of land occupied in 1967.And, linked to this, there was the demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus in July. This was not just another ‘nasty act’ by Israel as part of its on-going – 50-year-old – military occupation.

We should be clear that it was a conscious and deliberate step by the Trump-Netanyahu alliance to push the envelope of global acquiescence to Israel’s continuing and continuous violation of international law and Palestinian human rights.

The overall situation for the people of Palestine is that the ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and siege of Gaza undermines any prospect of a viable Palestinian economy and leaves millions of Palestinians in poverty and extremely vulnerable to precarious, low-paid work, unemployment and underemployment.

Labour members must understand that Britain has a special responsibility to redress the ongoing injustices against the Palestinian people, denied their right to self-determination during the British Mandate, not least because of the role Britain played as a colonial power during the 1948 Nakba when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes. As part of this, we must work to stop any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians and as the motion at Conference declared, “work globally for an alliance with progressive sister parties rejecting trade agreements with Israel that fail to recognise the rights of Palestinians.”

Israel’s banning this Summer, at Trump’s request, of a visit by two Muslim US Democrat Congresswoman, was yet another demonstration of their joint determination to silence criticism and democratic action aimed at holding Israel to account for its violations of Palestinian rights.

We must not be silenced – now is the time to speak up for Palestine.

In passing the motion at Conference this year, Labour made it clear that its ethical foreign policy should always mean that Labour will side with the oppressed, not the oppressor.
Now this policy is in place, it is up to us in the Labour Party to put the substance into practice.

As Tony Burke also said in the debate at Conference, “Comrades, as our movement has always said, an injury to one is an injury to all. We stand alongside the Palestinian people – people facing the massive forces arrayed against them with dignity, fortitude and courage. They will not struggle alone.”

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  • This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing (Co-operative.)

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