By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine
The title of Kubrick’s film “eyes wide shut” aptly describes the attitude of successive UK and other Western Governments to Israel’s aggressive colonisation of Palestine.
To put it simply, they believe it is necessary to turn a blind eye to some failings to keep a relationship alive.
The Israeli Government itself has a two-pronged strategy.
It is important to understand that this is not a conspiracy – it is a plan and an open political strategy. People don’t have to believe those of us who stand in solidarity with Palestine, they just need to listen to Israel’s Government itself.
Firstly, it is not to pursue peace. Israel has never recognised the right of Palestine to exist or defined its own borders.
As Trump grants Netanyahu his wish list, so the wish list then grows, covering areas such as the status of Jerusalem and settlements, plus demands for further annexation.
This adds up to the subjugation of the Palestinian people as a whole and Israel’s intention is to confine as many Palestinians as possible on as little land as possible.
Secondly, central to their strategy is the – to quote Israel’s influential Reut Institute – ‘outing, naming and shaming’ of their opponents, who are critics of the Israeli Government’s policies.
It is within this context, that MPs, Lords, trade unions, Labour and Palestine together with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others have sent a letter to all Labour Leadership candidates asking them to commit to speaking up for Palestine.
All the candidates have made statements criticising Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’ which ignores UN policy on Palestine. But looking at their track records on Palestine, none hold a light to the present incumbent Jeremy Corbyn, and this will make our campaigning on the issue all the more important.
The letter therefore 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.
It also asks for commitments to an ethical trade policy including in relation to Israel, including a commitment to stop any arms trade with Israel used in the violation of human rights of Palestinians.
This will require action starting with holding accountable those British companies named in the UN’s recently published database listing companies active in illegal Israeli settlements.
Finally, it 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.
This last point is vital as we have already seen in Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda a proposal to outlaw here the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns called for by Palestinians until Israel ends the occupation and complies with international law.
As part of our campaigning on Palestine in the Labour Party and here in Britain, we also have to recognise Britain’s historical role in the colonisation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.
Wherever you see a straight line on a map, you can guarantee the British were involved somewhere. Syria, Iran, Iraq and many others were not self-determined nations. They were colonial constructs.
After World War 1 Palestine came under British control – which, although not ours to give, was handed over to enable the creation of modern Israel – initially with the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then after WW2 standing aside during the Nakba – the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and homes in 1947/8.
This is something which continues to this day, and we need to set out the brutal truth that again today, Palestinians are being systematically expelled from their homes. This is being endorsed by Trump, who in turn is endorsed by Boris Johnson.
Now Trump’s “deal of the century” is leading to Israel threatening to steal ever more slices of Palestinian land.
Labour and all UK parties need to remove the blinkers and, with their eyes wide open, act on the reality they see. Israel’s Government needs to be treated as what it is – an aggressive, law-breaking power which needs to be pressured to behave in line with international law, not given the favoured treatment it receives.
Now is not the time to retreat on support for Palestine but to speak up and organise to defeat both Trump’s plan and organise to defeat Johnson’s plan to keep us quiet on the issue.
In other words, now is the time to speak up for Palestine.