Letter to Labour leadership candidates on Palestine policy

The following letter has been sent to all of the candidates in the Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections. It was signed by ourselves at Labour and Palestine, representatives of core groupings, Members of Parliament, Trade Unions, and prominent party members with a track record of campaigning on internationalism and human rights.

The letter asks for candidates to commit to make a priority of ensuring that the Labour party’s policy towards Palestine is rooted in respecting international law and UN resolutions recognising the collective rights of the Palestinian people including their right to self determination and the right to return.

It asks for commitments to an ethical trade policy including in relation to Israel, and including a commitment to stop any arms trade with Israel used in the violation of human rights of Palestinians. These commitments reflect policy passed at the last Labour Party Conference.

It also addresses the threats posed to freedom of expression by the Government’s proposed law to stop public bodies from making decisions not to invest in companies complicit in a state’s human rights abuses where the Government itself has not imposed sanctions.

We will be publicising all responses we get from candidates.

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Respecting International Law and Human Rights

US President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’ represents not a proposal for peace but a demand to the Palestinian people to live under conditions of inequality, external control and occupation in perpetuity. Palestinians are denied their core collective rights and are being offered no viable state, but instead a series of Bantustans with no capital in historic Jerusalem and no pathway for the realisation of the rights of Palestinian refugees enshrined in UN resolutions.

The plan undermines international law, making no mention of illegal settlements or occupation. Instead, Israel is given the green light to annex further swathes of the West Bank, which the US would then recognise.

The UK Government’s welcoming of the deal, even while hiding behind its avoidance of formal endorsement of the plan, does a disservice to the cause of peace and is a shameful contradiction of historic and bipartisan UK-expressed support for international law and UN resolutions, including the non-acquisition of territory by force and the confirming of the rights of Palestinians, inter alia the right to self-determination.

In its flirtation with the plan, HMG has stepped further back from a UK foreign and trade policy predicated on respect for international law and human rights – which should be applied not just to Israel-Palestine, but to all instances where violations of international law are taking place in war and conflict zones in which the UK could be implicated and to other arenas vital to our future including environmental policy and climate change.

But this Trump White House plan announced on Tuesday January 28th did not emerge in a vacuum. This assault on all who strive for peace and justice, on the rule of law and on a normative values-driven international order, had its enablers. Reaching this point was facilitated by sins of both omission and commission that include the actions of successive UK governments in failing to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. The current government is now taking unprecedented measures to guarantee those actions will even be protected under UK law.

The Johnson government has announced its intention – in the Queen’s Speech and accompanying notes – to introduce legislation to stop all public bodies from making purchasing, procurement and investment decisions not in line with UK government foreign policy and sanctions.

This will severely limit the freedom of expression of civil society, public bodies and democratic institutions to spend, invest and trade ethically in line with international law and human rights across all issues including the environment and fossil fuel industries, the arms trade and conflict situations including, but not limited to, Yemen.

Its aim is to limit the effectiveness of those campaigning peacefully in pursuit of policies with which the government disagrees. In particular, the government has stated publicly that the prime motivation for the legislation is to limit the effectiveness of lawful, non-violent campaigns in support of Palestinian rights.

This kind of UK Government position helped create the enabling environment in which the US plan was introduced and helps empower and guarantee impunity for those in Israel who are now pushing to annex further areas of the illegally occupied West Bank.

We welcome the statements you have made opposing Trump’s deal. We also recall policy adopted at the Labour Party Conference in 2019 stating that a Palestine policy based on human rights and international law meant applying those principles to trade with Israel, including any arms traded or used in violation of human rights. This policy was later reflected in the Party manifesto.

If elected as Leader of the Labour Party will you commit:

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.
To adhere to a consistent ethical UK trade policy, including in relation to Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
To oppose the government’s proposed restrictive legislation regarding procurement and investment and, if that is passed, to promise that a future Labour government would make it a priority to rescind laws which restrict the globally recognised rights to freedom of expression and association to campaign for ethical trade policies.

Signed:

Andy Slaughter MP

Yasmin Qureshi MP

Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Baroness Christine Blower

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF

Barbara Plant, President of GMB

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of TSSA

Kamel Hawwash, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Hugh Lanning, Labour and Palestine

Asad Rehman