“Whoever took decision to censor the PSC should think again. Does this mean any reference to the various reports from UN, Amnesty & Human Rights Watch can’t be referred to? Closing down the debate won’t sweep this issue under the carpet.”John McDonnell MP
By Our Correspondent
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have today “called on the Labour Party to confront the reality of Israel’s practice of the crime of apartheid rather than avoid using the term.” The move follows the decision by Labour Party administrators not to allow PSC to use the word apartheid to describe their annual conference stall or fringe meeting in Labour printed or online brochures. When asked for a justification of its decision, the leader Keir Starmer’s office said Labour would not publish content that “..we believe to be detrimental to the party”.
PSC will have a stall each day at the Labour conference and on Tuesday October 10th will host a fringe meeting entitled “Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid” – though this title will not appear in Labour Party listings.
The keynote speaker will be Saleh Hijazi, Apartheid Free policy coordinator at the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National committee. Saleh was also co-author of the seminal Amnesty International report, which PSC argues is “one of several in recent years by leading human rights agencies, confirming the reality Palestinians have attested to for years – that Israel is practising apartheid.”
This is defined under the Rome Statute 1998 as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
The context to these developments is that Israel has this year elected the most hard-right Government in its history. It has made overt its commitment to hugely expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, with policies which legal analysts are describing as a clear plan to annex the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
The PSC is concerned that instead of responding to these developments in adherence to international law and with concern for human rights, which would demand measures to hold Israel to account for its serial violations, “the Labour leadership is seeking to avoid engaging with the reality lived by Palestinians for decades, and its recent National Policy Forum document watered down a clear commitment to recognise a Palestinian state if elected.”
MP John McDonnell took to Twitter to condemn the decision saying that “Closing down the debate won’t sweep this issue under the carpet.”
Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, joint chair of TULO & member of Labour’s NEC, who will be speaking at the PSC fringe meeting, commented that “You cannot tackle an injustice unless you are prepared to name it. Solidarity with Palestinians means addressing the reality of the system of apartheid under which they are forced to live.”
Ben Jamal, Director of PSC, added, “a Labour Government should be fully committed to the upholding of international law and the principle that respect for human rights should be central to all relations with foreign states, including trade relations. Such a commitment would mean holding Israel to account for its practice of what amounts to a crime against humanity.”
Meanwhile, Yasmine Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Human Rights Watch’s findings were clear: Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. Unless and until governments and political parties acknowledge the systematic and severe discrimination that Palestinians face, then claims of promoting peace will ring hollow. There can never be peace without human rights.”