THE LABOUR Party Conference in Brighton overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Israel for perpetrating an ‘ongoing Nakba’ in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The motion, brought by Young Labour, was approved on Monday with about twice as many votes for as against.
‘Conference condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, Israel’s militarised violence attacking the al-Aqsa Mosque, the forced displacements from Sheikh Jarrah (neighbourhood in East al-Quds) and the deadly assault on Gaza,’ the motion read.
‘Together with the de facto annexation of Palestinian land by accelerated settlement building and statements of Israel’s intention to proceed with annexation, it is ever clearer that Israel is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination,’ it added.
The motion also noted a Trades Union Congress in 2020 that described Israel’s West Bank policies, including settlement building and annexation, as ‘another significant step towards the UN Crime of Apartheid.’
Young Labour cited ‘unequivocal’ reports by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and the New York-based Human Rights Watch that branded Israel as an ‘apartheid’ regime.
Earlier this year, B’Tselem said in a report that Israel is not a democracy but an ‘apartheid regime’ that systematically oppresses the Palestinians via military occupation and racist laws.
It said: ‘Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, was not born in one day or of a single speech.
‘It is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalised and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy.
‘These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labelling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.’
Israel occupied the West Bank and East al-Quds (East Jerusalem) during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East al-Quds in a move not recognised by the international community.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East al-Quds as its capital.
But Israel’s aggressive settlement expansion and annexation plans have dealt a serious blow to any prospects of peace.
The Gaza Strip has also been under an inhumane Israeli land, air and sea siege since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.
The full resolution from Young Labour read: ‘Conference condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine, Israel’s militarised violence attacking the Al Aqsa mosque, the forced displacements from Sheikh Jarrah and the deadly assault on Gaza.
‘Together with the de facto annexation of Palestinian land by accelerated settlement building and statements of Israel’s intention to proceed with annexation, it is ever clearer that Israel is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination.
‘Conference notes the TUC 2020 Congress motion describing such settlement building and annexation as “another significant step” towards the UN Crime of Apartheid, and calling on the European and international trade union movement to join the international campaign to stop annexation and end apartheid.
‘Conference also notes the unequivocal 2021 reports by B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that conclude Israel is practising the crime of apartheid as defined by the UN.
‘Conference welcomes the International Criminal Court decision to hold an inquiry into abuses committed in the occupied Palestinian Territory since 2014.
‘Conference resolves that action is needed now due to Israel’s continuing illegal actions and that Labour should adhere to an ethical policy on all UK trade with Israel, including stopping any arms trade used to violate Palestinian human rights and trade with illegal Israeli settlements.
‘Conference resolves to support “effective measures” including sanctions, as called for by Palestinian civil society, against actions by the Israeli government that are illegal according to international law; in particular to ensure that Israel stops the building of settlements, reverses any annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, brings down the Wall and respects the right of the Palestinian people, as enshrined in international law, to return to their homes.
‘Conference resolves that the Labour Party must stand on the right side of history and abide by these resolutions in its policy, communications and political strategy.’
Labour leader Starmer’s right wing Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy opposed the motion, saying: ‘There can only be a lasting peace through a safe and secure Israel existing alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.
‘Therefore we cannot support this motion. It does not address the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comprehensive or balanced way.’
She added: ‘There will not be a just, lasting peace until the occupation is brought to a permanent end, and both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy security, dignity and human rights. We condemn all actions that are making that goal more difficult.’
However, moving the motion, Jawad Khan, of Young Labour, said: ‘The motion before you today will not only send our uncompromising solidarity with the Palestinian people by calling for sanctions against the state that is practising war crimes, it will bring us one step closer to finally ending the shameful century of British complicity and the denial of the right to self-determination, liberation and return.’
The motion was backed by a host of trade unions, including the GMB, whose national president Barbara Plant urged those in the conference hall to vote in favour.
Reacting to the vote, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) chair Kamel Hawwash said: ‘We welcome this important and historic motion, which represents a significant step for Labour in acknowledging the reality of the system of apartheid imposed by Israel on Palestinians.
‘Despite huge pressure imposed on Labour to reverse policy commitments made at conference in 2018 and 2019, this demonstrates the strength of solidarity with the Palestinian people among Labour’s grassroots members and within the trade union movement.
‘It is time impunity ended and accountability started.’
Young Labour chair Jess Barnard condemned the party for allegedly describing the fight for Palestinians’ right to self-determination as ‘too controversial’ a topic for Labour’s annual conference.
The party’s bureaucracy was forced to backtrack and apologise for a ‘mistake’ after initially telling the PSC it would be banned from speaking at its events during conference.
Speaking at a Palestinian rights meeting on Monday night, Jess Barnard said: ‘We stand with Palestinians in their right to freedom, their right to justice, their right to their lands.
‘And if it is controversial for us to call on our party, our government, to stop arming Israel, then let’s be controversial.’
She said the party’s actions are a ‘shame on anyone who calls themselves a socialist, anyone who claims to represent workers, anyone who claims to be anti-imperialist.
‘The actions of the Labour leadership did not represent Labour. They represent the behaviour of people who flee cowardly away from issues of justice. It’s the actions of people who are afraid to stand up for what is right.’
At the same meeting, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon reiterated his support for the Palestinian cause, urging the crowd to put pressure on parliamentarians to back his Bill to outlaw arms sales to Israel when it goes to the House of Commons in December.
• As well as the pro-Palestine motion, Labour delegates also backed an emergency motion condemning the Aukus pact with the US and Australia against China, saying it is ‘a dangerous move that undermines world peace.’ Sir Keir Starmer has publicly welcomed the pact.