News and Views

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.

A Voice for Palestine in Every Constituency

By Hugh Lanning.

If you are a Palestinian two things are very clear. There is no peace, there is no plan.

For Palestinians living in Israel, in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem or in the many refugee camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, there is no peace. The UN’s fortnightly reports document deaths, injuries, displacements and settler attacks.

We have become immune to the statistics, but if you are a Palestinian the day-to-day reality is one of a constant risk and threat that you will become the next person to become a number in those statistics.

Second, it is patently obvious that the world has no plan and no commitment to bringing about a peace that is going to change the status quo.

Donald Trump’s alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu does not have peace as an objective — its intention is to legitimise and rebrand the militarily enforced subjugation of the Palestinians as normal and permanent. Trump is in the process of abetting the implementation of Israel’s wish list.

It matters little if Netanyahu survives the forthcoming Israeli elections or not — all the major parties are competing to see which can be crueller to Palestinians in what they say and do.

They all believe that the world is going to continue to let them behave as they wish — exempt from punishment, free from any consequences of their actions.

The latest UN Report on Gaza details the potential war crimes committed by Israel in shooting and maiming protesters taking part in the Great March of Return.

It makes no difference to Israel’s behaviour. Just last week, according to the United Nations office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs, one Palestinian boy was killed, during the Friday demonstrations at the perimeter fence in Gaza, and 449 Palestinians were injured.

This brings the number of children killed to 40 out of 260 fatalities and the injuries to 27,094 between March last year until January 31.

An ethical policy for Labour

In the context of Trump’s hostile foreign policy on Palestine, Labour’s policy needs to develop to give meaning and substance to Jeremy Corbyn’s long held commitment to “give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people.”

The newly established Labour and Palestine — in its launch statement — calls for Palestine to be a priority issue for Labour’s ethical foreign policy, which Emily Thornberry has said would place “peace, universal rights and international law” at its heart.

This means going further than the step forward made in the last manifesto in 2017 — committing to the immediate recognition of the state of Palestine.

This was acknowledged by the delegates at last year’s party conference who voted for a freeze of British government arms sales to Israel.

A policy on Palestine governed by the ethics and values of support for human rights and international law will mean applying these principles to all British trade with Israel.

This should include applying international law fully to the goods produced by illegal settlements and any new post-Brexit trade agreements with Israel.

Palestine is the litmus test for any ethical policy. An ethical policy means ensuring that no British funds are supplied and no arms are bought or sold that are used to violate the human rights of Palestinians.

It will be Palestinians that will hold Labour’s policy to account. To have substance, rather than just rhetoric, there must be consequences for Israel’s actions that breach international law.

No-one expects Labour to be able, single-handedly, to resolve the many injustices that are daily committed against the Palestinian people, but it needs to demonstrate not just good intentions but meaningful and transparent action, and a positive change in policy attitude towards Palestine and Israel.

The starting point must be for Labour to recognise that there is a basic asymmetry in this conflict: Israel is an occupying power, failing to meet many of its obligations as the military occupier under international law, and Palestinians are an occupied people.

There is no point pretending there is a balance while Israel continues to subjugate Palestinians by force of arms.
Labour will not be able to address the issues of peace, universal rights and international law unless it recognises this core fact, this asymmetry.

Its moral compass will not work otherwise. The requirement to uphold the rights of all Palestinians and Israelis, needs recognition of the fact that there exists an organised and systematic discrimination against Palestinians within both Israel and occupied Palestine.

In practice an ethical policy means that Labour needs to be an active supporter of equal rights and of the people and organisations that seek to defend them.

The violations include the unlawful detention and abuse of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system, the demolition of entire villages, the “lawful” discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, including the recently passed “nation-state law” which creates two levels of citizenship.

An ethical Labour needs to be on the front line in challenging these grave human rights abuses by the Israeli state.

Labour should also be a proud defender of the human rights defenders, such as Temporary International Presence in Hebron, the international observers recently excluded from Hebron.

If Israel wants to be treated as a democracy, it needs to behave like one.

  • This article originally appeared in the Morning Star here.

Labour For Palestine: A World Transformed – Karma Nabulsi*

By Karma Nabulsi*

Witnessing the composite motion on Palestine being moved and then seconded in the large hall at Labour Party Conference last September was an incredibly moving experience for a Palestinian, and a great privilege to be there. It had begun with a  handful of (mostly young) British progressives, quickly becoming dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands joining in the careful mobilisation to advance the voice of Palestine through two motions, following the lengthy complex process to get them combined and to the conference floor. It was a sustained and valiant gesture of universalism, common values, and commitment towards the dispossessed. It was also a demonstration of how to stand on firm ground alongside the Palestinian people, how to fight for them in a way that unites, mobilises and strengthens those engaged in it, as well as those it serves: the Palestinian people in their long struggle for liberation and return.

By explaining the core of the conflict and the heart of the Palestinian cause, Conference also restored the Palestinian people to their own history, showing what injustices we have faced in the past and still face today. The humanity and the dignity of the Palestinian people, our long struggle for collective and inalienable rights were made visible once again, with clear demands for action and for increased engagement; unanimously passed.

The effects and the impact of this lovely gesture were immediate and extensive – right across the Palestinian homeland and refugee camps across the region, video clips of the motion  on Palestine and the debate that afternoon were quickly subtitled into Arabic, and disseminated by mainstream news channels, and carried by social media to everyone’s home and direct to their heart, as true old-fashioned internationalism does.

Palestinians everywhere could see, feel and hear that our fierce daily struggles were  understood, and know that in Britain there are those who will always stand alongside us and not be silenced, who understand how to speak up for the Palestinian people and their rights. The ebulliant, inclusive and emancipatory language used, the touching manner the motions were introduced – with beauty, passion and principle – also restored and returned to the broad Labour movement its deep connection of international solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is a connection that carries a lengthy and distinguished tradition here in the UK.

Indeed the fate of Palestine and her people has always been deeply intertwined with British history, both colonial and contemporary. Our dispossession and forced displacement from Palestine in 1948 with the terrible loss of our national sovereignty came as a direct result of British colonial policies, and the actions of British colonial troops in Palestine from 1917 to 1948. The British army’s suppression of our united demands for national self-determination in our land is the reason we now face a continuing settler colonialism today: the lack of protections the lack of sovereignty always confers, with the constant and accelerating expropriation of our land, the imprisonment and collective punishment of our entire people: these dis-enfranchisements have their origins in Britain’s fateful decisions towards the Palestinian people not so long ago.

Today the Palestinians need Labour’s strong, intelligent and aware voice more than ever. The level of international solidarity so beautifully demonstrated in September is what will give us the support we need to withstand a truly existential  moment of crisis in Palestinian collective history. We face an unprecedented attack from a coalition of extreme right-wing governments that are aiming to implement the complete destruction of our collective national rights this coming year. Only an aware and determined solidarity can constrain this plan – and they count on your silence, and being silenced, in order to implement it.

In a lifetime spent serving a people’s struggle for justice, I learnt that the only way a Palestinian can truly convey her people’s voice, or properly explain the simple unity with which we hold to our inalienable rights, is by giving the platform to them.

Towards the end of last year, a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations from inside Palestine and the refugee camps (made up of associations, campaigns, trade unions, human rights organisations, refugee and community organisations) published a united call to international solidarity, in order to alert everyone to the dangers of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, and expose its dangerous features.

So this public call comes from us to all of you: stand with us! We count on British solidarity – since September 2018 we know that we can, and are honoured by your steadfast commitment to justice, in our joint struggle for a world transformed.

An Urgent Call to the Peoples of the World:

Join us to confront the new Nakba against the Palestinian people

Unite and Mobilise to Defeat the Deal of the Century

  1. Throughout a century of anti-colonial struggle for liberation and the great revolutions against imperialism, the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America gifted the world with the lessons of liberation: its meaning and value, the need for unity on common principles, and the essential role of international solidarity in these struggles.
  2. Today, Dec 11th 2018, on the 70th anniversary of UN General Assembly resolution 194 affirming the right of return, we issue this call, in the name of Palestinian popular and national coalitions, unions, and organisations, from the Palestinian refugee camps, from across the Palestinian shatat, and from all parts of historic Palestine. We call on all peoples of the world represented at the General Assembly to resist the new settler-colonial plan that is set to destroy the Palestinians. We call on the generations descended from these heroic 20th century struggles to raise the alarm, to mobilise awareness, and to stand alongside the Palestinian people as they face this lethal 21st century colonial and imperial scheme. Only international solidarity can provide us with the force to withstand this unprecedented regional collusion to liquidate the Palestinian people and their cause.
  3. It is now clear there is no single Palestinian institution remaining, nor principle of human dignity and international law existing, that the current US administration and extremist government of Israel are not prepared to destroy in order to execute their strategy. With Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia playing a key role, along with some Gulf states, the Israeli-US-Saudi scheme aims to complete the settler colonial project that began in historic Palestine just over a century ago. Its goals are to liquidate the Palestinian cause entirely, to destroy the collective character of Palestinians as a people with collective rights to self-determination, and expropriate the remainder of our land in historic Palestine, including Jerusalem. It will do this by dismantling international consensus, the international laws protecting Palestinian refugee status and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), UN agency established to provide humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees until a just solution was achieved.
  4. Known as the ‘Deal of the Century’, this project intends to a) erase the Palestinian refugees and their right of return; b) radically diminish or expel the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, along with Palestinians’ claim to their capital c) entrench and expand illegal settlements to complete the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank; d) perpetuate and even intensify the siege of Gaza, envisioning its future as a zone of indentured labour known as the ‘Sinai Plan’; e) remove the already limited civic and political rights of 1948 Palestinians, and initiate discussions on their potential expulsion in the future, and f) crush all and any regional or international resistance to these steps.
  5. A central element of this massive assault on the Palestinian people and their national cause is the quiet dismantling of UNRWA, created by the General Assembly after the Nakba of 1948 in order to serve the urgent needs of our dispossessed people. By extinguishing UNRWA they seek to erase the international community’s direct responsibility for Palestine’s destruction, and its continuing responsibility to ensure Palestinians achieve their inalienable rights of self-determination and return. The Israeli-US-Saudi plan also seeks to erase the reality UNRWA was founded upon: the origins of the conflict, the core injustice of the Nakba, along with the fateful role UN member states and colonial powers played in 1947 and 1948 to dispossess us from our land.  This attack on UNRWA is an attack on our entire people, in the attempt to dismantle our very history, our existence, our people’s just cause, a century of struggle.
  6. This assault on institutions is combined with the acceleration of brutal policies against Palestinians across the region, imposing a state of economic desperation to force our submission to their political diktat, and to alienate us from our rights. Gaza is suffering the worst siege in modern history, with vital services – including major hospitals – having to close down. Trump’s vicious withdrawal of assistance to hospitals in Jerusalem is followed by the US-Israeli assault on the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, its largest employer and responsible for the life-supporting wages of entire sectors of our people: our nurses, teachers, and doctors. All this is intended to bring us to our knees in order to accept our collective annihilation.
  7. Half a million Palestinians have now faced the wholescale obliteration of their presence in Syria: most refugee camps demolished after long and violent sieges, our people cast even further from their homes in Palestine and from each other. The resulting influx of our people into Lebanon increases the hardship and pressures in the already intolerable conditions our people face in the refugee camps there.
  8. Once this violent and extremist agenda to erase the Palestinian people is understood, the purpose of current silencing on Palestine becomes clear: to suppress international solidarity to prevent serious organised resistance to the plan’s realisation in the coming months. Recent events in the UK showed that any institution espousing support and solidarity for the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice becomes subject to intense pressure, in order to shield Israel from criticism of its illegal actions, both past and present, but especially any protest against the steps planned for 2019.
  9. The Palestinian people view the current juncture as one of emergency and grave threat, requiring action by all peoples, organisations, and institutions supporting justice, equality, and the Palestinian cause. This moment calls for collective lines, a renewed commitment to a unified approach, ensuring that the Palestinian people, their history, rights, and national cause, can never slip from global consciousness: this plan can be defeated.
  10. To our brothers and sisters across the world, united in the cause of justice, we ask you to stand alongside us as we confront this new Nakba. We call on you to:
  • Launch a global day of action against the ‘Deal of the Century’, marking the month the Organisation of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL) was founded; 50 years from when the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into force.
  • Educate, organise, and mobilise against the ‘Deal of the Century’ and the attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
  • Focus resources and energies to build alliances in order to successfully confront this ominous threat against the very being of the Palestinian people, and their cause.

For more than a century of struggle Palestinians have joined other colonised peoples in their quest for freedom. Likewise, those struggling for justice across the world hold the cause of Palestine close to their hearts: from Bangladesh to Yemen, from Vietnam to Cuba, from South Africa to Algeria, from Ferguson to Southall – wherever tyranny, colonialism, and imperialism is fought, Palestine can be found: part of our common humanity and international solidarity. For liberation and self-determination;  for equality and for return, we call on you – join us!

*Professor Karma Nabulsi writes and teaches at Oxford University. She is a member of and patron to a number of campaigns for justice for the Palestinian people.

Speaking up for Palestine

Hugh Lanning writes about the launch of a new initiative, Labour & Palestine

In response to the great level of interest there is in Palestine in the Labour Party, and the need for accurate information on developments, we have recently launched the Labour & Palestine platform. As its first initiative, L&P has today – with the support of Unite, UNISON, ASLEF and TSSA – circulated this Speaking Up for Palestine statement for Labour members and affiliates to sign here.

Labour & Palestine will be a resource for Labour members and activists, supported and sponsored by organisations affiliated to the Labour Party. The purpose is to have a voice for the rights of the Palestinian people in every constituency part across the country.

Labour Party Conference 2018 overwhelmingly showed its support for the Palestinian people, including through passing a motion that concluded with a call 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.”

L&P’s focus will be on how Labour party members should harness the support this showed there is for Palestine within the Party so it becomes a proud advocate of Palestinian rights as part of Labour’s ethical foreign policy.

The obligation for supporters of Palestine in the Labour movement is not to be silenced, but to ensure Palestinian voices are heard, exposing Britain’s past role in Palestine, along with its present responsibilities towards the Palestinian people. L&P is designed to provide the information, news and arguments for supporters of Palestine within the Party to do just that – speak up for Palestine.

  • The launch of Labour & Palestine to campaign for Palestine within the membership of the Labour Party is supported by Aslef, CWU, TSSA, Unison and Unite. You can sign the statement here, plus follow us on Twitter here and Facebook here.

APPENDIX – The statement in fall reads as follows:

“As an internationalist and democratic socialist party, I believe it is the responsibility of the Labour Party to “give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people”.

An ethical foreign policy for Labour must have securing freedom, justice and equality for the people of Palestine as a priority issue. This must be done within an anti-racist framework based on the principles of equality, human rights and international law.

Labour & Palestine will stress that supporting Palestine is about supporting human rights and opposing all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, whilst maintaining the freedom of expression for political debate and criticism.

I support Labour’s commitment to immediate recognition of the state of Palestine and an end to the blockade, occupation and settlements.

Further, 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.

I believe a policy on Palestine governed by the ethics and values of support for human rights and international law will mean applying these principles to UK trade with Israel. This should include applying international law fully to the settlements and any trade agreements.

I believe an ethical policy means ensuring that no UK funds are supplied and no arms are bought or sold that are used to violate the human rights of Palestinians.

I will campaign for Labour to recognise that its duty is to support the oppressed challenging the discrimination they face and that any solution for the people of Palestine must be based on self-determination for Palestine and equality and human rights for all.”

  • This article was originally published on Labour Hub here.