Labour Speaks Up For Palestine

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.”

  • Sign up to Labour and Palestine’s statement here

“They do not struggle alone” – Unite speech in support of Palestine at Labour Conference 2019

Please find below the speech given by Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union, to support the motion in support of Palestine at Labour Conference 2019 – you can read the motion passed here:

“Tony Burke, Unite, proud to speak in support of this motion in support of the Palestinian people – a motion that highlights the escalating attacks taking place against them.

Today, we call upon our labour movement to return to its greatest tradition: solidarity. 

From the ranks of this movement, our comrades have fought and died in the battle against fascism in Spain, have campaigned for the end to British colonial rule around the world and played a crucial role bringing down the evils of apartheid in South Africa.

This motion calls for our solidarity at a critical moment. The Palestinians, already occupied and besieged, are now facing a new attack.

There is a need for a strong determined show of solidarity to confront the Trump sponsored ‘Deal of the Century’, which is nothing less than a concerted attempt to destroy the Palestinian cause by stopping all vital funding to the humanitarian agency UNRWA for Palestinian refugees, increasing the siege of Gaza, and rapidly expanding illegal settlements.

The motion calls for Labour to address this by adopting an ethical and internationalist foreign policy, including by ending arms sales to Israel that are used for aggression and human rights abuses.

Comrades, as our movement has always taught, an injury to one is an injury to all. This motion gives us a chance to stand alongside the Palestinian people, who are facing the massive forces arrayed against them with dignity, with fortitude and with courage.

They do not struggle alone.”

Peace & Justice for Palestine – Motion Passed by Labour Conference 2019

Please find below the text of the motion carried nearly unanimously at Labour Party Conference 2019 in support of peace and justice for Palestine.

Conference notes:

  • Recent actions by US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stopping funding UNRWA for Palestinian refugees, the continuing siege of Gaza, expanding illegal settlements and announcing plans to annex illegally large areas of land occupied in 1967.
  • The proposals in Trump’s “deal of the century” are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.

Conference believes:

  • 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.
  • An internationalist Labour Party has a special responsibility to redress the ongoing injustices against the Palestinian people, denied their right to self-determination during the British Mandate, because of the role Britain played as a colonial power during the 1948 Nakba when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

Conference resolves:

  • 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 an ethical policy on all UK’s trade with 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 work globally for an alliance with progressive sister parties rejecting trade agreements with Israel that fail to recognise the rights of the Palestinians.

TUC Speaks Up for Palestine

In an important decision this week, TUC Congress passed a motion (see below) expressing its solidarity with Palestine, and supporting policy based on prioritising “Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality.”

Speaking in the debate, Philippa Marsden, Unite representative and member of the recent trade union women’s delegation to Palestine, said that “besieged and blockaded from all sides, the Gaza Strip remains the world’s largest prison,” adding that, “but increasing numbers of annexations and the building of illegal settlements has built a string of mini Gazas across the country,” and concluding that “All of us here must redouble our efforts to build solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Continue reading “TUC Speaks Up for Palestine”

Speak up against the demolition of Palestinians’ homes

By the Labour & Palestine Team.

Wadi Hummus is a neighbourhood in the Palestinian district of Sur Baher within part of East Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel in 1967. On Monday 22nd July Israeli soldiers stormed hundreds of residential homes and began bulldozing them – cheering and taking selfies as they blew the houses up.

House demolitions are not new, but this is part of the largest demolition programme since 1967 – egged on by President Trump’s support for Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land. However, these demolitions are particularly significant, because Sur Baher is not only located on occupied Palestinian land, but is in areas supposedly under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The ostensible excuse for this is that the houses are too close to Israel’s wall that illegally imprisons millions of Palestinians in their own land. The problem with this argument is that 85% of the wall is built occupied Palestinian territory. It was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

Of course, if proximity of the houses was the real issue, it could be readily solved by taking down the wall or moving it out of occupied Palestinian territories. But the wall is used to grab land and the demolitions are part of a systematic programme to drive Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

Home demolitions are caused directly by Israel’s ongoing policy of settlement expansion. As Amnesty International said in a statement, “Israel must immediately end its cruel and discriminatory policy of home demolitions and forced displacement. Instead of destroying families’ homes Israel must dismantle parts of the fence/wall built inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in parts of Sur Baher, in violation of international law.”

According to OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), Israel has destroyed 126 structures in East Jerusalem – displacing 203 people – in the short time between the 2nd January and 17th July 2019 alone, and sadly this is a very familiar story for the Palestinian people.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, the transfer of the population by an occupying state into an occupied territory is a breach of article 147. Furthermore, destruction of property which is not rendered absolutely necessary by military operations is a breach of Article 53.

Labour Conference policy last year made clear that the UK is legally required to take action in upholding international law. This should mean not facilitating and supporting the settlement infrastructure through trade or by selling arms to Israel which could be used for the human rights abuses of the Palestinian people.

With Trump ally, Boris Johnson, becoming Prime Minister – this is a key time for Labour to speak up about the dangerous shift in US policy on Israel since Trump became President, which is encouraging a more aggressive stance from Israel’s reactionary government.

Since Trump’s election, we have seen a number of hostile acts including shifting the US Embassy to Jerusalem, cutting all aid to UNRWA (the official UN agency for assisting Palestinian refugees) and the proposal of the so-called  ‘deal of the century’ which would in fact kill all possibility of an independent Palestinian state.

Now more than ever we must argue that Britain must take a stand for Palestinians’ human rights.

  • You can follow Labour & Palestine on Twitter here and Facebook here, and sign their Speak Up for Palestine statement here.
  • The Palestine Solidarity Campaign have an online tool where you can ask your MP to speak up on this issue here and Jewish Voice for Peace have produced this video here.

LABOUR FRINGE: Speaking up for a Palestine – a key Part of An Ethical Foreign Policy.

Monday September 23, 5.30pm / close of session, Charlotte Room, Grand Hotel, BN1 2FW.

Organised by Labour & Palestine. Hosted by Unite the Union

Speaking up for a Palestine – a key Part of An Ethical Foreign Policy.

Fringe with: Karma Nabulsi, Palestinian writer & activist // Diane Abbott MP // Richard Burgon MP // Huda Elmi, Labour NEC // Becky Boumelha, Momentum NGC // Phillipa Harvey, NEU member, TUC women’s delegation to Palestine // Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary // Roger McKenzie, UNISON AGS // Mick Whelan, ASLEF GS.

Chair: Tony Burke, Unite AGS and Labour & Palestine.

RSVP & info at