News and Views

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

‘New Palestine’ or no Palestine?

Trump’s proposal is not a basis for a state, merely a string of cantons under Israel’s military control, writes Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine.

The leaked contents of Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” proposals — drawn up by a team led by his son-in-law — will apparently resolve the issue of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by the creation of a “New Palestine.”

There will be no Palestine — merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders. The land currently militarily occupied by Israel would be divided up with a political three card trick that has been dubbed “politicide.” Egypt would assume greater responsibility for Gaza — allowing more access and trade via Northern Sinai. With Israel annexing all the settlements and land it wants in the West Bank — including the Jordan valley, into a greater Israel — Jordan would oversee land corridors into the remaining parts of the West Bank.

Apparently according Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living in the stolen territory that is to be “annexed,” is in fact merely adding to the number of second class Arab “citizens” living within Israel not entitled to full citizenship due to its racially based Nation State Law passed last year.

During the Israeli election Benjamin Netanyahu declared that there would be no Palestinian state if he was re-elected. If, as expected, the annexation includes most of the land called Area C under the Oslo agreements that would leave a mere 12 per cent of historic Palestine for the creation of a “New Palestine.” Not a basis for a state, merely a string of cantons under Israel’s military control, whatever they are called.

International law and the UN recognise the state of Israel based on the boundaries prior to 1967 when Israel’s military occupation started. Multiple resolutions say there should be a Palestinian state, but Israel has never recognised a Palestinian state nor ever defined its own borders. As the land grab and ethnic cleansing continues one can see why. Since 1967 Israeli authorities have denied that the Geneva Convention applies to its occupation and therefore it can annex territories under its military control. At other times the Conventions are used by Israel to justify treating Palestinians differently to Israeli citizens because they live outside of their sovereign territory.

So, by what criteria should the Trump deal be judged? Dictionaries define a deal as an “an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.” By any definition of a deal Trump’s fails — there is no agreement or mutual benefit. Through the force of armed and economic power it is intended to impose the deal on Palestinians as a one-sided attempt to systematically destroy and take off the table their collective rights under international law. History has shown that bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine are inherently unequal — with the US, as Trump is showing, the dis-honest broker and enforcer.

Using international law and UN resolutions as a framework — freedom, justice and equality would be good principles for a Labour ethical foreign policy to use as criteria. If the Labour Party in government or opposition were to judge on this basis the Trump deal or anything like it should be resoundingly rejected. It fails at every hurdle.

On equality — Palestinians are discriminated against in and out of Israel in almost every conceivable way — the law, right to travel, using the roads, owning property; all whilst their history and heritage is literally being wiped out on the ground and in books and language.

As regards international law, Israel is in breach on the right of return, the occupation and the siege of Gaza. The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law. UN resolutions are flouted just as regularly — over Jerusalem, the Wall or the ever-growing settlements. With every act Palestinians are denied freedom and justice. Their lands, houses, trees and water are stolen. And the world stands idly by.

The publication of the deal has been much delayed, it is now rumoured to come after Ramadan, having been postponed to avoid the Israeli elections. However, when or whether it is finally published is of less consequence than how it is being used as an agenda. The US is already implementing it, Israel is treating it as political cover to use as a blueprint to justify its actions. It is based on the belief, which has been justified in practice, that Israel has an impunity guaranteed by the US to ignore international law and treaties to which it is a party if they don’t suit its territorial ambitions.

It is the very real risk of Palestine being forcibly carved up and atomised before our eyes that underpins Labour & Palestine’s decision to make the Trump/Netanyahu plan the subject of its model motion for this year’s Labour Party conference.

It partly recognises that to be an internationalist party, Labour needs to take ownership of Britain’s historic responsibility. The Nakba took place in 1947/8 when the post-war Attlee government was in power — we walked away and allowed 700,000 Palestinians to be forcibly expelled.

From the Balfour Declaration in 1917 we have promised to protect Palestinian rights — something we have singularly failed to do during the time when Palestine was under a British mandate to the present day.

Therefore, the motion goes further than simply rejecting the Trump proposals — it argues that there must also be consequences for Israel’s continuing breaches of international law.

Our trade — be it finance, arms or goods and services — should all comply with international law. If the settlements are illegal, then surely their goods should not be freely available in our shops. If the occupation is illegal, then the arms and technology used to enforce it should not be bought and sold with Israel when we know they are going to be used to violate Palestinian human rights.

It will not be enough for us to be silent if something called a “New Palestine” is forced into existence but there is no Palestine. Those of us in the Labour Party should perhaps be inherently cautious of anything that is rebranded as “new.” Under Trump’s plan there will not be two states, just one called Israel.

It will not be a solution if it is not based on the consent of the Palestinian people recognising their international and human right to self determination and to return to their homes. It is not a solution if it doesn’t recognise equality for all. It is not a solution that Labour should accept.

You can sign the Labour & Palestine statement at https://labourandpalestine.eaction.online/statement. This article was originally published in the ‘Morning Star.’

Labour Support for Palestine Shown

Seeing thousands of people march through London on May 11 in solidarity with Palestine was an inspiring sight to see, and from a Labour perspective it was great to see hundreds of Party activists join the demonstration, and its very visible Labour Bloc.

This impressive turnout of Labour activists shows a growing wave of solidarity in the Party. This bloc was called by the recently launched Labour & Palestine, and we were joined by a dozen CLP and other Labour banners, clearly illustrating the support there is growing in the Labour Party for the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation, self-determination, and return.

Support for the demonstration and the people of Palestine also came from Labour’s leadership and the Parliamentary party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn put out a statement supporting the demonstration, and Labour MPs Diane Abbott, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Richard Burgon spoke at the rally outside Downing Street, and joined with the Labour and Palestine banner to show their support. A number of other MPs also made videos in the run-up to the demonstration urging people to attend.

Following the important policy agreed at Labour’s 2018 party conference, this important demonstration and over 2500 Labour members signing the launch statement of Labour & Palestine, the next period will be a vital one for further building support for the people of Palestine in Labour, and to ensure that Palestine is a key issue within Labour’s ethical foreign policy.

In addition to this, there will be a further chance to publicly show our support for Palestine at the Together Against Trump demonstration on 4th June in London. In the light of Trump’s aforementioned recent proposals, it is vitally important that there is a strong voice present speaking up for Palestine.

See you there!

Gaza: UK fails to act over Israel’s unlawful use of force

By the Labour and Palestine team

Last Friday, the UK government abstained on an important vote to hold Israel responsible for unlawful use of force against protesters in Gaza. The vote was on the recommendations of a UN Independent Commission of Inquiry Report into Israeli actions last March.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP tweeted in response to the report that the “The UN says Israel’s killings of demonstrators in Gaza – including children, paramedics and journalists – may constitute “war crimes or crimes against humanity,” and further demanded that “the UK government must unequivocally condemn the killings and freeze arms sales to Israel. ”

The report regarding Israel’s excessive force last year had received widespread international media coverage in the run-up to the vote. Specifically, it accuses Israel’s army of killing demonstrators ‘who were not posing an imminent threat.’

The government joined with 15 other nations in not voting on an accountability resolution moving to adopt a UN report condemning Israel’s “intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against civilian protesters in 2018.

This decision was despite the fact that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, War on Want and others reporting that over 5,000 emails have been sent to MPs and the Foreign Office calling on them to support the recommendations of the UN independent commission of inquiry report into Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Despite the position of the UK Government the resolution did pass at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, with 23 countries voting in favour and only eight voting against. Current government policy condemns settlements as illegal under international law and calls on Israel to cease all settlement expansion. Yet despite this apparent acceptance that international law should be applied, in what can only be described as an example of double standards and hypocrisy, the Tory government abstained anyway.

The same has been true for other resolutions relating to the right of the Palestinian people – to self-determination, human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israeli settlements in occupied territories – which were all voted against by the UK government. You cannot pick and choose when to support international law. The British government should promote human rights and respect for international law on the world stage, but instead (including when it comes to Palestine) it too often just follows Trump’s reactionary lead.

It needs to be replaced by a Labour government with a progressive, ethical foreign policy, including in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people.

If you would like to help in this regard, please sign the Labour & Palestine ‘Speaking up for Palestine’ statement here.

  • You can also follow Labour & Palestine  Twitter and Facebook to get the latest information.

Standing up for Palestine

By Tony Burke, Unite Assistant General Secretary and Labour & Palestine.

A new network has been launched in Labour, with a founding statement that we need to ‘speak up for Palestine’. 

Labour and Palestine’s purpose is to build solid support for Palestine across the Labour Party and the trade union movement and support Labour’s commitment to immediate recognition of the state of Palestine, and an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements.

The response so far has been very encouraging. The launch statement already has the support of a number of Labour’s trade union affiliates including Unite, Unison, Aslef, TSSA and NUM and over 2,000 Labour Party members. MPs have alsotweeted messages of support.

The launch of Labour and Palestine follows on from the Labour Party Conference in 2018, at which we identified both the urgent need not only for increased solidarity with the Palestinian people – whose basic rights have faced renewed attack from both the government of Israel and the Trump administration in recent times –  but also for reliable and accurate information and sources on the latest developments for Labour members to use in raising the issue.

As well as the policy passed at Labour Conference, the Trades Union Congress also passed important motions in solidarity with Palestine.

In these wide-ranging motions, which showed the level of support that exists for the cause of justice, a number of key points were made.

The Labour Conference motion condemned the heavy repression by the Israeli government against “thousands of Palestinians [who] have engaged in mass and overwhelmingly non-violent protests in the Gaza Strip.” In light of this, Labour called for “an independent international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators; a freeze of UK Government arms sales to Israel; and an immediate unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza.”

The Labour Conference also recognised “Britain’s direct role in the terrible fate of the Palestinian people, who still seek their internationally protected rights to self-determination, and to return,” and linked this to the Trump administration’s confirmation of funding cuts to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA.)

The TUC Congress motion meanwhile “condemned the 24th August 2018 decision by the Trump Administration to cut $300 million from the aid budget to UNWRA which is responsible for 5.4 million Palestinian refugees,” adding that this would “result in threats to the education of over 526,000 Palestinian children and the jobs of 22,000 teachers.”

As both Labour Conference and the TUC identified, Labour must now speak up for the rights of the Palestinian people and against these attacks, including by shaping and backing a detailed and progressive approach from Labour on the issue.

The group’s launch statement calls for “an ethical foreign policy for Labour [which] must have securing freedom, justice and equality for the people of Palestine as a priority issue.” It goes on to say that “an ethical policy must recognise that there can be no end to the oppression of Palestinian people whilst there is a continuation of the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, the denial of full equality to all Palestinians – including those who are citizens of Israel and a failure to recognise the rights of Palestinian refugees.”

The Labour and Palestine group will provide reliable information, resources and model motions for use in local Labour Parties. Moving towards a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government, with a genuine ethical foreign policy at its heart, the focus will be on how Labour Party members can harness the support there is for Palestine within the party.

  • This was originally published on Left Foot Forward.