‘Stand with the Palestinian people’

The recent outbreak of violence in Gaza is the most significant attack on the Palestinian territory since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Airstrikes have already killed at least 14 including an 11 month old baby. Numerous other casualties have been inflicted on Palestinian civilians, with an estimated 250 maimed or wounded, despite Israeli assurances these bombings are “surgical” and “targeted”.

Reports across the media claim that, before his extra-judicial assassination by an IDF airstrike, Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’ military leader, was considering a permanent truce. Israel’s act of pre-emptive aggression now appears to have ended any chance of a peace deal in the immediate future and has only served to escalate violence and inflict more suffering onto innocent civilians.

Despite calls from Palestine’s envoy to the UN for the “Security Council to act in accordance with its responsibilities to stop this aggression against our people”, the international community has failed to stand up for Palestinians and hold the Israeli government responsible for this new attack.

Instead Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander laid the blame firmly upon Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade for over five years without access to medical supplies, restricted freedom of movement and no ability to trade with others.

Alexander’s statement completely disregards the severe power disparity between Gaza, one of the most densely populated territories in the world forced into poverty by sustained embargoes, and Israel, a military superpower with a nuclear arsenal and full Western backing.

In a week when Israel has threatened to topple the democratically-elected President of the Palestinian West Bank territory Mahmoud Abbas, it is difficult to believe that their intransigence is any thing other than an indication of the contempt with which they hold the Palestinian people. Israel’s already questionable commitment to a meaningful peace plan and an equitable solution to the almost 70 year conflict has been cast even further into doubt.

As a principled and progressive government-in-waiting, Labour should reassert its commitment to an ethical foreign policy grounded in peace, solidarity and justice. The Tories have made clear they are unwilling to pursue a more balanced approach and deviate from the path set by Bush and Blair, who were the only two Western world leaders who failed to condemn Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2008.

Ed Miliband said in his Conference Q&A in 2011 that “you are no friend of Israel if you defend the status quo”. It is time that Labour’s foreign policy reflected this truth and embraced a commitment to standing together with the Palestinian people and rejecting Israeli apartheid. Labour must ensure it unites with global majority on the right side of history.

By Calum Sherwood and Tom King

  • Protests in solidarity with the people of Gaza will take place on Saturday 17th November outside the Israeli Embassy in London and in other cities across the country – see Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Three to Read: today’s top blog selection (04/11/11)

Could a renewed activism translate into serious pressure on the Government?
Mark Donne, The Independent

Could a renewed activism translate into serious pressure on the Government to consider a “Robin Hood” tax; re-visit and improve “Project Merlin” on reform of banking, or invoke a Plan B, C or D? Smaller, related actions against bank branches and high street tax-avoiders by the grass-roots UK Uncut movement extract similar, broad based public support and even stronger emotions.


These bailouts are for the banks, not Greece
Seumas Milne, The Guardian

You might think that giving people a say in the most crucial decisions affecting their country would be second nature for a union of states that claims democracy as its most sacred founding principle. But George Papandreou’s announcement that Greece would hold a referendum on the EU’s latest shock therapy “rescue” plan was greeted with outrage across the chancelleries of Europe.


An attack on Iran would be disastrous
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

Britain must resist US pressure for military action. Even if Iran had nuclear weapons, engagement is the only course to take.



Recognition of Palestinian statehood: Labour should show its support

The UN Security Council is due to meet in the coming days to discuss plans to recognise Palestinian statehood and admit Palestine to the UN as an observer state. Should the Palestinians get the support of the UN Security Council it is expected to go to a vote at the General Assembly in September – that is if none of the 5 permanent members use their veto to vote against the application. The crucial step now is to ensure that campaign gets the full support of the British government.

Currently Palestine is only a participant at the UN as a liberation movement with observer status, should this campaign win support for the Palestinians it will also win recognition for their sovereign rights over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And herein lies the key issue. Recognition of Palestinian sovereignty would strengthen its international position, particularly affecting the violations of international law perpetrated against the occupied Palestinian territories. Although it is currently accepted that Israel occupies the Palestinian territories and though they are often condemned for this, should Palestine win its own sovereignty it would turn Israeli violations of occupation into full invasion into a sovereign state. Although Israel has been recognised and accepted into the UN as a full member state, the same opportunity has never been afforded to the Palestinian representatives.

As Labour Party members that fully support the two state solution it is crucial that we support initiatives which will strengthen the Palestinian position, not only in relation to Israel but also within the international community. Whilst everyone calls for a return to negotiations between the two parties this campaign could be the key to unlocking the stumbling blocks that constantly frustrate any negotiations – Israel’s continued violations in the territories. Palestinian sovereignty would give the Palestinians the strength to challenge Israel’s continued violations – the illegal settlement expansion, the siege on Gaza or the expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem to the West Bank to name just a few.

Douglas Alexander has asked the Government what plans it has to support the campaign, but so far William Hague has continued to stress a return to negotiations and has not yet taken a position on whether or not Britain will support the campaign. A number of Labour MPs, as well as Douglas Alexander and Stephen Twigg have held meetings with senior figures from Fatah, our sister party in the Palestinian Authority. Though the Labour Party has not yet taken an official line, an increasing number of MPs from Margaret Curran to Richard Burden have voiced their support for the campaign. As Israel lobbies a vast number of countries to vote against supporting Palestinian recognition, in favour of bilateral negotiations this ignores the fact that there are currently no negotiations active between the two very unequal players.

British support for Palestinian sovereignty would help to add leverage to the Palestinian hope of achieving independence, equality and viability. As petition site Avaaz launches its online campaign, now is the opportunity for Labour party members to lobby MPs to support what would be a momentous step in the campaign to achieve justice for the Palestinians.

Find out more about Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

A number of Labour MPs are currently visiting Gaza, follow their twitter accounts for more info: Alex Cunningham, Cathy Jamieson, Ian Murray.