News and Views

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.

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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

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

‘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!