News and Views

Palestinians have been on lockdown since 1967

Hemmed in by walls, checkpoints and security fences, Palestinians have been on a permanent, militarily enforced, lockdown for over 50 years since the occupation by Israel in 1967, writes Hugh Lanning.

Unable to travel freely within their country or abroad, with regular curfews are now added the restrictions of isolation measures required because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any thoughts this might lead to a humanitarian relaxation of the occupation rules or the siege to enable the local authorities and services to deal with the situation were quickly dashed. In Gaza the supply of testing kits was limited to hundreds for a population approaching 2 million. In the West Bank – emergency treatment facilities being established in case they were needed, were bulldozed and demolished.

Most worrying is the situation in illegally annexed East Jerusalem – where nearly 400,000 Palestinians live, as ‘residents’, not citizens. Dr Rawan Al-Dajani, Deputy Director of the Community Action Center has reported that attempts by Palestinian doctors to establish a quarantine facility in an unused hotel were blocked because of the absence of testing. No testing kits were supplied, an offer from the Palestine Authority in the West Bank to supply kits was declined.

Ahmad Al-Budeiri, of the Jerusalem Alliance, trying to co-ordinate self-help services in East Jerusalem, described the attitude of the Israeli authorities as ‘racist’. Whilst barricading the Palestinians in severe lockdown with continuing armed raids in districts such as Issawiya, Israelis and, in particular Orthodox Jews, have been allowed much greater flexibility. Palestinian shops in Old Jerusalem have had to shut whilst similar Israeli shops have been allowed to stay open.

A breakdown of figures by race or status has been declined as this would be ‘racist’, so health organisations and NGOs in East Jerusalem are having to work blind, not knowing how many cases there are or where they are. The suspicion is that there are many more cases than publicly reported, because Palestinians can’t or are intimidated from coming forward for treatment or testing.

Already discriminated against in many ways, the more than 1.5 million Palestinians living within Israel are facing another tier of mistreatment. A catch 22 where the lockdown is weaponised to prevent them from developing their own ways of effectively combatting the pandemic, in the absence of humanitarian support from the Israeli authorities – who, as the occupier, should be providing health services to all of its civilian population. 

  • Originally published on Union News here.

Israel and Palestine – borders , barricades and, now, Coronavirus

By Hugh Lanning

Any thoughts or hopes that the Coronavirus pandemic might lead to a humanitarian relaxation of the continuous lockdown Israel imposes on Palestinians have been quickly shattered. The siege has been used to restrict medical supplies into Gaza, the military occupation to harass and raid the Issawiya neighbourhood in East Jerusalem during lockdown and emergency medical facilities in the West Bank have been bulldosed.
Israel’s multiple internal walls and barriers are being used barricade the Palestinians in dire conditions with grossly under-provided health facilities in order to ‘protect’ Israelis from the risk of infection. This is not withstanding the fact that there are currently far more cases amongst the globally mobile Israelis than there are amongst Palestinians.
As Israeli politicians form a coalition government to deal with the crisis, former Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to exclude the ‘Arab list’ from Government. Twenty percent of the Israeli population are Palestinian, but they – like the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – will not get the same treatment or access to health facilities as other Israeli citizens.
This tallies with Israel’s strategy, it wants the land, but not the people and the responsibilities that go with them. Whilst continuing with the building of multiple internal walls and barriers, it has never finally defined its own borders or recognised Palestine. This is because it still sees itself as expanding into more and more Palestinian land. It does not accept the internationally declared position of the ‘green line’ borders of 1967. Its mechanism for this land grab are the euphemistically called ‘settlements’.
Israel’s settlements aren’t a few people building houses on unoccupied land – a Middle Eastern version of ‘Little House on the Prairie’. These are towns with roads, infrastructure and now more and more houses. Even by official figures – well over 600,000 Israelis on land wholly or partially owned previously by Palestinians. Israel’s supreme court has recently ruled that this is legal – the ‘public use’ of the land for settlement is ‘justifiable and proportionate’.
The statistics have become boring with the international community’s response lacklustre to say the least. It is in this context that Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ must be seen. It represents not a proposal for peace but a demand for the Palestinian people to live under conditions of inequality, external control and occupation in perpetuity. They are not being offered a viable state, but instead a series of dis-connected, encircled parcels of land where the Palestinians are to be corralled like the Bantustans were used by apartheid South Africa to segregate the black population from the white.
It is alleged that calling Israel an apartheid state could be interpreted as anti-Semitic; but if we do as Israel asks and examine ‘the facts on the ground’ then it is systematically building an apartheid infrastructure – not abstractly, but physically – through construction, demolition and ethnic cleansing. All involved are participating In what the late Israeli activist – Uri Avnery – believed was a ‘suicidal project which will create an apartheid Israeli state’, because if a minority of Israeli Jewish settlers are to rule over a disenfranchised majority of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank – currently upwards of 2.75 million people – that will be the result.
The settlements are a ‘huge construction enterprise across the hilltops of the West Bank, with swimming pools, lawns and smart roadways, supermarkets and orchards – all encircled by acres of barbed wire and now also by the grotesque Wall’. This theft has been directly funded through banks and financial institutions. The UN Council of Human rights recently published a list of 112 companies currently operating within the illegal colonies, which now number over 140.
They are illegal, not because of the theft of land – wrong though that is – but because Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions specifies: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The UN security council and general assembly, the ICRC and the International Court of Justice have all agreed Article 49 applied to Israeli-occupied territories.
These were territories – East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank – occupied by Israel in 1967. Over 50 years later, Israel is not only still continuing its military occupation – it is deliberately encouraging and transferring hundreds of thousands of its citizens, many recent migrants from Russia and the USA, to take the ‘unilateral step’ of crossing the internationally recognised threshold in order to set up house on Palestinian land. Not just encouraged, but financially induced – with settlers receiving financial support three times that of other Israeli citizens.
Normally it is the ‘occupier’ who should fund the costs of the occupation – looking after and feeding the civilian population. However, these costs are borne, not by Israel, but by the international community – primarily the EU; with the military costs of the occupation being funded by the US. Despite this huge subsidisation of what was meant to be a transitional period to a ‘two state solution’ Israel consistently and regularly puts two fingers up to the international community – ignoring international law with seeming impunity.
Whilst joyously waving Palestinian flags, the last two Labour Party conferences have passed motions calling for Labour to support Palestinian rights. This will be an early challenge for human rights lawyer – Keir Starmer, and new shadow Foreign Secretary – Lisa Nandy. Lisa – a Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, has visited and spoken out on behalf of Palestine.
Within the Party there is rightly a determination to stamp out any vestiges of anti-semitism. The UK government has waiting in the wings – post-lockdown – legislation aimed at ‘banning boycotts of Israel’, which leadership candidates were asked to oppose. There are concerns that the departure of Jeremy Corbyn as leader will lead to renewed attempts aimed at silencing of Palestinian voices within the Party.
Labour Party policy passed by its conferences makes it clear that Labour’s ethical foreign policy should support ‘Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel.’
It goes on “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.”
Jeremy Corbyn – as a life-long supporter of Palestine – was seen as a potential threat by ardent supporters of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. His departure was not only welcomed, but worked for, and is now being perceived as an opportunity to push back the gains that have been made in recent years – notwithstanding the backdrop of the furore taking place over anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
Labour & Palestine was set up by seven affiliated trade unions, including the two biggest Unite and Unison, to galvanise grassroots support for Palestine within the party. The successful and overwhelming passing of motions at Party conference shows that that support exists. It is the natural instinct of new and old members of the trade union and labour movement to be internationalist and support the oppressed, not the oppressor – in this case the occupied, not the occupier.
In 1914 it was prophetically stated, for Palestinians, that “We are a nation threatened by disappearance”. If one looks at the maps of Palestine – it is shrinking and shrinking towards invisibility, not just physically but along with the political prospects of a viable Palestinian state. These are Israel’s dual objectives – to make the physical reality of Palestine impossible along with driving the issue off the international political agenda.
It has two problems – first the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere – they have nowhere to go. Imprisoning, isolating and intimidating them isn’t working. The second is that the practical acts of Israel – the occupation, the wall, the settlements – are in breach of international law. Without the existence of a Palestinian state, the more steps that are taken towards making Israel a Jewish state, the more it is discriminating against the Palestinians both within and without Israel – however defined.
For the reality is that there exists a ‘no-state’ solution where Israel controls all the land and people between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. The proposed annexation of the settlements and large tracts of the Jordan Valley into Israel – as proposed by the ‘Trump’ plan will only accentuate the racial basis of the two infrastructures that will exist.
If you look at law, land, waste, water, food, income or education – this is not separate and equal, but endemic, planned inequality based on the racial discrimination by one people of another.
In his recent book (The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine) Rashid Khalidi concludes: “While the fundamental colonial nature of the Palestinian-Israel encounter must be acknowledged, there are now two peoples in Palestine, irrespective of how they came into being, and the conflict between them cannot be resolved as long as the national existence of each is denied by the other. Their mutual acceptance can only be based on complete equality of rights, including national rights, notwithstanding the crucial historical differences between the two”.
The mutuality of respect and rights cannot be placed into the never-ending debacle of the peace process – now surely dead and buried under the weight of Israeli house demolition and settlement construction. It requires the international community to robustly call for and expect the observance of international law and that a failure to comply should have consequences. Fundamentally this must mean the end of the cruel and inhumane siege of Gaza – most recently witnessed by the denial of supplies to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. It must mean the end of the occupation and respecting the rights of refugees.
At the moment – with Trump’s aid and abetting – Israel is going in the opposite direction, seeing how far it can go, how far it can push its borders, before the world does anything. Israel’s ever-expanding occupation of Palestine is described by Robert Fisk as the last colonial struggle. Now, more than ever, the Labour Party needs to be speaking up for Palestine, saying ‘enough is enough’. Indeed, saying it is too much.

• Follow Labour and Palestine at www.twitter.com/LabourPalestine and www.facebook.com/labourandpalestine
• An edited version of this piece appeared on the Tribune website.

Speak Up for Palestinian Refugees

By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine

It was recently reported that a minimum of $1.4 billion of international funding is needed to fund the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA.

UNRWA’s temporary head Christian Saunders explained that “We are stretched to our limits under our shrinking budgets and the growing needs of Palestine refugees who are impacted by the same volatility and unpredictability that people face in the Middle East every day.”

A core reason this level of funding is needed is that in 2018, the Trump administration stopped US funding to UNRWA. The US had been UNRWA’s largest donor at that time, and this was a cut of nearly one-third of the agency’s budget.

These funds are vital for Palestinian refugees to survive and used for essential core services, including infrastructure, health and education, and with the spread of COVID-19 into the region – including in the besieged Gaza Strip – this support is going to become all the vital in the months ahead.

As the motion in solidarity with Palestine at the 2018 Labour Conference explained, UNRWA “provides emergency assistance and basic provisions to Palestinian victims of the Nakba of 1948, when the majority of Palestinian people were forcibly displaced from their homes.”

Indeed in 2019 UNRWA helped to provide education to over half a million children in some 700 schools across the region and enabled around 8.5 million patient visits in health facilities.

The cutting of this funding is just one of a number of measures took by Trump that have given a green light to the Israeli Government to continue and increase their aggression against the people of Palestine in recent years, which also included shifting the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Crucially, the cut to UNWRA funding was also part of undermining the right of return of Palestinians living outside of historic Palestine – saying they (the refugees UNWRA looks after) are not real refugees, and therefore don’t need to be part of any deal or solution.

This devastating and one-sided approach of Trump to the issue of Palestine recently culminated in the so-called “Deal of the Century” proposals, which were predictably welcomed by the Israeli Government and rejected by all major Palestinian groups.

As the aforementioned Christian Saunders said, “a lot of Palestinians are in a state of shock at this point in time, in a state of disbelief”.

Trump’s proposal would legalize illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, intensify the siege of Gaza, and allow Israel to annex around 30 per cent of the West Bank.

Rather than create a state of Palestine, the proposals would effectively mean there is no Palestine, merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders.

The proposing of the ‘deal’ has already lead to Israel threatening to steal ever more slices of Palestinian land, following recent election campaigns where Netanyahu has put promises of more annexations centre stage.

Now then is the time to speak up not only for Palestinian refugees but for the rights of all Palestinians. As the situation facing Palesintian refugees and UNRWA is one clear example of, this is definitely not the time to retreat on the issue, including in the Labour Party itself.

As Jeremy Corbyn rightly put it, “Donald Trump’s Middle East deal is not a peace plan. It is a plan to lock in illegal Israeli colonisation and deny Palestinian rights” and “is a threat to peace.”

And as TUC Congress said last year that the labour movement should “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.”

This means recognising (in the words of the Labour Party 2019 Conference motion) that “the proposals in Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.”

The Covid-19 outbreak will lead to untold misery & death in besieged Gaza

By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

Last weekend, the devastating news broke for the people of Palestine of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the densely populated Gaza strip.
It is important for everyone in the labour and solidarity movements to understand why this is truly a nightmare situation for the people of the besieged Gaza strip, and why these 1.8 million people are particularly vulnerable.
The UN has previously warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020, and now 13 years of an illegal blockade mean that Gaza’s fragile healthcare system is already stretched to a point that it is hard for us to imagine. Covid-19 means it will now be placed under a simply unbearable strain.
Alongside this, the situation in Gaza is one of malnutrition on the rise, poorly controlled non-communicable diseases, dense living and housing conditions.
There are deep levels of poverty, the power supply is sporadic and sources of drinking water are largely contaminated.
Older people are without access to proper nursing and healthcare.
At the current time, Israel has restricted testing kits to the strip, where there are only 60 working ventilators and 2,800 hospital beds. Stocks of essential drugs are already chronically low.
As health officials have warned this week, this now means that under the current illegal Israeli siege of Gaza, containment and treatment of Covid-19 will be simply impossible.
Like all other people around the world, Palestinians have a right to access health treatment, and at this dangerous time, the international community has a duty to help uphold this right, meaning that Israeli restrictions must end.
The UN, Medical Aid for Palestine and many others have reported the denial of this right in recent years, and said the situation urgently needs to change in this regard. This change is now more important than ever.
And as Michael Lynk, a UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Palestine, has said this week, Israel is legally responsible for providing health services to ensure the safety of Palestinians in the occupied territories during the fight against the coronavirus.
He clearly stated: “The legal duty, anchored in Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, requires that Israel, the occupying power, must ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilised to ‘combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’.”
He added that he was “particularly worried about the potential impact of Covid-19 on Gaza.”
For these reasons, all governments internationally, including Britain, must use all their diplomatic power to ensure that Palestinians have access to all the healthcare they need, and that the siege of Gaza ends immediately.
The international community must say clearly that the denial of medicines and other basic resources by the Israeli government to the people of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and illegal under international law.
Lynk has previously noted that Israel is already in “profound breach” of its international obligations with regards to the right to healthcare of Palestinians living under occupation.
If Israel does not fulfil its obligations, there can be no doubt that many innocent people will die unnecessarily, and awful harm done to countless others.
Labour members have expressed amazing support for Palestinian rights at our last two conferences.
Now we must be part of the growing and crucial international calls for an end to the siege of Gaza and in support of the Palestinian people’s right to access healthcare.
Our international solidarity at this vital time can lead to thousands of lives being saved.

  • Please take action by writing to the Foreign Office on this issue using the PSC online tool at mstar.link/GazaEndTheSiege
  • This article originally appeared in ‘The Morning Star’ here.

Under Trump’s plan, there will be no Palestine – Tony Burke

Trump says his ‘deal’ will create a “New Palestine”. It won’t, writes Tony Burke of Unite the Union and Labour & Palestine.

If you believe the increasingly erratic US President, the contents of his “Deal of the Century” proposals will allegedly ‘resolve’ the issue of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by the creation of a “New Palestine.”

In fact, they will do nothing of the sort. They can be summed up as 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 UK government’s response to the ‘deal’ was unsurprising but still deeply disturbing. Boris Johnson told Trump it was “a positive step forwards,” whilst Dominic Raab called it “a serious proposal” worthy of “genuine and fair consideration.”

In contrast, Labour’s current leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the ‘deal in this tweet:

Jeremy Corbyn

@jeremycorbyn

Donald Trump’s Middle East deal is not a peace plan. It is a plan to lock in illegal Israeli colonisation and deny Palestinian rights. It is a threat to peace.

The UK government should oppose this travesty and press for a real peace deal and a genuine two state solution.

In reality, under Trump’s plan there will be no Palestine — merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders.

In the plan, the land currently militarily occupied by Israel would be divided up. Israel could annex all the settlements and land it wants in the West Bank – including the Jordan valley – into a greater Israel.

Palestinians living in this area would be accorded the second-class citizenship currently accorded to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Jordan would impose guardianship over the remaining parts of the West Bank, and Egypt would govern Gaza.

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.

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.

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 perhaps more than any other President, the dishonest broker and enforcer.

There is then a very real risk of Palestine being forcibly carved up and atomised before our eyes and the ‘deal of the century’ must be firmly opposed.

As TUC Congress passed last year, the labour movement should “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.”

This means recognising (in the words of the Labour Party Conference motion) that “the proposals in Trump’s ‘deal of the century’are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.”

There will not be a just solution if the solution proposed is not based on the consent of the Palestinian people, including by recognising their international rights to self-determination and to return to their homes. It is not a solution if it doesn’t recognise equality for all.

We must therefore have a strong and determined show of solidarity to confront the Trump sponsored ‘Deal of the Century’, including from the Labour Party itself.

  • This piece was originally published on Left Foot Forward here.

Now is the time to Speak Up For Palestine – Hugh Lanning

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.

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.

____________________________________________________________

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