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Labour must continue to support peace – & justice – in the Middle East, by Nadia Jama, #GrassrootsVoice NEC candidate

“At our 2018 Conference, it was an inspiration to be in the hall and raise my hand to join the forest of outstretched hands all voting in support of the motion for Palestinian rights.”

The image of Jeremy Corbyn giving his speech at the Stop the War rally against the invasion of Iraq is still vivid in my mind, seventeen years later. Our party’s support for the war is a stain on our history. I know it caused many members to leave, some only returning in the last 5 years.

Many people would like to portray that part of Jeremy’s politics as “baggage”, but at that rally he spoke for the millions of people across the world who marched for peace that day and who continue to support peaceful resolution to conflicts across the globe.

So, let no one say our politics on these issues are “baggage”. On the key foreign policy issue of our time we were firmly on the side of the British people.

I’m a socialist. My politics are about getting working class people in to power. You can’t run a country without a foreign policy, so whatever the Tories and the right wing press say about us, we should never be ashamed to stand up for our own independent foreign policy which prioritises peace and diplomacy, rather than bowing to United States Presidents or big business interests.  

That means not only pressing for peace in the Middle East, but also addressing the burning injustices in the region – and Britain’s role in perpetuating them. 

The Saudi bombs raining down on Yemen right now have created a humanitarian disaster. Shockingly, the weapons they are using were sold to them by the UK.

While the soulless charlatans running this country scapegoat asylum seekers, they themselves are fuelling the wars that drive people from their homes, here to the UK. The arms trade to Saudi – and all human rights abusers – must end.

For as long as it commits human rights abuses, the arms embargo must also include the Israeli government.

In 2018, I travelled to Israel and Palestine with a delegation from Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine. It was a formative influence on my politics.

Back in 2016 our Party steadfastly committed to ‘conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule’. This is particularly important when I think about the stories I heard from Palestinians in the West Bank. They asked me to remind the UK of its historic role in Palestine and the duty we consequently have to work for a just peace today.

The Palestinian people wanted me to speak their truth about the daily hardships they face. That means using the right language to talk about their situation. They were clear. It’s not a conflict – it’s an occupation that’s illegal under international law, and that drives the cycle of violence and reprisals we see on our TVs.

Most of all they wanted me to relay their determination as a people – to live a life of dignity and that one day they would live in a free Palestine.

We should draw strength from that determination.  At our 2018 conference, it was an inspiration to be in the hall and raise my hand to join the forest of outstretched hands all voting in support of the motion for Palestinian rights. We must continue to reach for justice in the Middle East, and campaign for a foreign policy based on the values of solidarity which are the beating heart of our movement. 

  • Follow Nadia on Twitter here and support her campaign for the NEC on Facebook here.
  • Follow the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance on Facebook here and Twitter here and support the #GrassrootsVoice #GV6 for Labour’s NEC.
  • This piece was based on Nadia’s speech at the recent CLGA Labour, Peace & Internationalism event.

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