FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The British Labour / Israel Dinner Date

by JAMES ELLIOTT

As the British Labour party leadership desperately tried to contain the fallout from the Falkirk fixing scandals last week, with allegations flying around that both candidates had broken party rules, every politician, journalist and Labour activist was offering their views on who was at fault and what should be done. Next, allegations were made first by Labour Uncut, then by The Sun, that Unite activists had tried to deselect Blairite shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. It was in the shrill noise and raucous denunciations of ‘uber-Blairites’  trying to wreck the party and ‘militant lefties’ trying to make it unelectable that Douglas Alexander’s alarming speech to the Labour Friends of Israel’s annual lunch went completely unnoticed.

The annual meeting of the Labourite branch of the UK’s Israel lobby was well-attended as ever. Senior shadow cabinet members present included Ed Balls, Stephen Twigg, Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander himself, who was delivering the keynote address, a role that Ed Miliband has performed in previous years, when he addressed a room that also included Alan Johnson, Yvette Cooper and Tessa Jowell.

Whilst Miliband had been hesitant in the past on announcing full-throttle support for all Israel is and does, Douglas Alexander wooed supporters in Labour’s latest desperate scramble with the Tories to impress the Israel lobby. In his speech Alexander said, ‘I do not want Israel’s existence to be tolerated or simply accepted, but recognised and celebrated.’ He made no mention of the illegal occupation, nor the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are presumably supposed to celebrate the fact that, according to Human Rights Watch, Israel has reserved over 90% of its land for Jewish use only, and pursues ‘discriminatory policies’ that include forced evictions and home demolitions of indigenous Bedouin.

Douglas Alexander made no mention in his ‘celebrations’ of a state which has detained 40% of Palestinian men in its jails since the military occupation began in 1967 and regularly tortures and abuses prisoners, whilst reserving 40% of the occupied West Bank for its illegal settlements, which now contain over half a million Israeli Jews. No mention of Israel’s crimes was made.

Not only was Douglas Alexander prepared to sing the praises of the only state in the Middle East in possession of illegal nuclear weapons, but then proceeded to threaten Iran if it were to consider doing the same. Alexander’s comments that, ‘all options remain on the table’ were meant to soothe the tempers of Israel’s supporters, who demand a constant fortress mentality regarding any external threat, real or perceived, as a mask against their own gross violations of international law against the Palestinians.

Alexander has attempted to present himself as a foreign policy progressive in the past, writing in The Guardian to call for tighter regulations for British arms exports, hilariously claiming that elements of the US arms export criteria should be adopted by the UK, and not mentioning Israel once in the article. This is unusual, given that the US funnels $3bn a year in military aid to Israel, although Alexander is right that Britain needs some tightening in its regulations. His Labour predecessor David Miliband had to admit that British weapons were used in the slaughter of 1,400 Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, an attack Amnesty International and the UN condemned for war crimes.

There is in fact a very long history of collusion between Zionists and the Labour party, and one that shames the working-class origins and socialist sentiments of the latter, whilst making a mockery of the humane pretensions and ‘Jewish democracy’ of the former.  For many years Zionist mythology held that Britain, and foreign secretary Ernie Bevin in particular had conspired to destroy Israel during its war of independence. Oxford-based Israeli professor of international relations, Avi Shlaim has demonstrated otherwise, writing, ‘Bevin indirectly helped to ensure that the Palestinian state envisaged in the U.N. partition plan would be stillborn.’ Bevin and Labour actually achieved this by allowing the Arab Legion to consume the Palestinian portion of the West Bank, but discouraged it from attacking Israel. Shlaim continues, ‘Bevin felt that if Palestine had to be partitioned, the Arab area could not be left to stand on its own but should be united with Transjordan.’ Thus, Labour’s imperial policy was instrumental in forming Israel and obliterating the newly-formed Arab Palestine in 1948.

In his highly-acclaimed The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, the Israeli professor Ilan Pappe has documented how Hugh Stockwell, a British army officer, actually allowed the ethnic cleansing of Haifa by removing the buffer zone of British troops between the Jewish paramilitaries and the 75,000 Palestinians in the city, who Stockwell then encouraged to leave.

The complicity of Labour governments in that initial injustice is a damning mark against Clement Attlee’s halo that makes him the most mythologised of all Labour prime ministers. The actions of men like Bevin and Stockwell helped Jewish paramilitaries ethnically cleanse 700,000 Palestinians from the country between 1947-9, a cruel and barbaric operation well-documented in David Ben-Gurion’s diaries as a deliberate attempt to create an ethnically pure Jewish state. The conspiracy by a Labour foreign secretary to prevent a Palestinian state coming into being was completely lost on Douglas Alexander. His speech noted how, ‘as a student of 20th century history, I recognise the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 as a moral necessity.’

As Alexander said in his own speech, ‘It is customary for politicians at events like this to affirm their belief in Israel’s right to exist.’ He went on to do so, ‘unequivocally’, but made no mention of Labour’s complicity in Israel’s brutal crimes in the past. Prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were both members of the Labour Friends of Israel, and as journalist David Cronin notes, “With Tony Blair at the helm, Britain’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became virtually indistinguishable from that of the United States.” Labour actually allowed arms exports to increase during the brutal repression of the Second Intifada, whilst failing to criticise Israel’s wars in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-9.

This unscrupulousness amongst Blairites like Alexander, Murphy, both Milibands and the many Progress-aligned MPs such as Twigg, Flint and Byrne is what has helped drive so many trade unionists and political activists away from Labour recently, in a time when the Trade Union Congress has endorsed the boycott of Israeli settlements. There is a sense that change may be coming, with reports that as many as 80 Labour MPs are now members of Labour Friends of Palestine, who endorse some limited sanctions.

My father often tells me about his days campaigning against apartheid in South Africa, and how he was successful in pressuring Lancaster University to award Nelson Mandela an honorary degree in the 1980s, enduring the taunts of the Federation of Conservative Students and their ‘Hang Mandela’ badges. Today, the regressive supporters of apartheid policies are not only to be found in the Conservative party, with 80% of its MPs ‘Friends of Israel’, but also in Labour.

In spite of the UN Human Rights Council accusing Israel of apartheid and even ethnic cleansing, much of the Labour movement are resistant to the kind of direct action, in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, that were used to such great effect in South Africa. It is not for the soul or the moral cleanliness of the Labour party that we should seek justice for the Palestinians by opposing Israeli oppression. It is for the dignity of the Palestinians themselves that we should press forward on the great moral issue of our time. This is the injustice they have suffered under for half a century, and it’s time we recognised it, as Douglas Alexander might say, ‘unequivocally.’

James Elliott is a British journalist.

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail