Of all the groups that undermined the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, none were so openly hostile and blatant in their attacks as Labour Friends of Israel. Regularly attacking Corbyn, a lifelong defender of the Palestinian people, the group were one of the chief architects of the fake-news “antisemitism crisis”. Despite their actions against their own party, the LFI remains in place as an influential force within Labour. Why?
In October of 2001, the Conservative Party suspended links with the far-right Monday Club, the controversial group being backed by around 3000 Tories. Famed for its views on “voluntary repatriation” of immigrants and support for the apartheid regime in South Africa, by 2001 the Monday Club had become an embarrassment to the Tories as they unsuccessfully sought to move away from their image as “the nasty party”.
Iain Duncan Smith demanded that Andrew Rosindell, Andrew Hunter and Angela Watkinson all left the Monday Club and that the group amend its constitution and membership to erase its views on immigration. The Club failed to comply and has not been associated with the Conservative Party since. While Duncan Smith’s actions were largely a PR exercise taken against a group whose views still echo through the ranks of the Tories even today, the fact remains that the Conservative Party were willing to move against a group with significant influence and backing within their own party.
So why, as yet, has Labour not had the intestinal fortitude to place a similar ban on Labour Friends of Israel?
Like the Monday Club, the LFI supports an apartheid and racist state. This stated support for the state of Israel cannot be seen as anything less than an endorsement of the state of Israel and the policies that the state espouses.
Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu has agreed that Israel is enacting a policy of apartheid upon Palestine, saying that Israel “has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation.” Likewise, many other prominent South African activists have also made the comparison including Farid Esack, Ronnie Kasrils, Denis Goldberg, Winnie Mandela and, of course, Nelson Mandela himself.
“I was deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what has happened to us black people in South Africa.”Desmond Tutu
Such is the concern over Israel’s racist policies that the United Nations anti-racism panel is to probe claims of Israeli apartheid in West Bank. Despite the overwhelming consensus amongst anti-racist activists and human rights campaigners, Labour has refused to acknowledge that Labour Friends of Israel stands in support of apartheid, a stance that is in contravention of the Party’s own rules and regulations.
Labour’s 2019 rule book states quite clearly that the party will “not tolerate racism in any form inside or outside the party”
“The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Labour will not tolerate racism in any form inside or outside the party.”Labour’s 2019 rule book
“Any behaviour or use of language which targets or intimidates members of ethnic or religious communities, or incites racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, or undermines Labour’s ability to campaign against any form of racism, is unacceptable conduct within the Labour Party.”Labour’s 2019 rule book
Labour would in no way tolerate members or MPs openly supporting the likes of the EDL or Britain First, yet takes no issue with those supporting the racist and genocidal state of Israel.
A mere snippet of the anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and Islamophobic rhetoric that is a regular feature of life in Israel is shown below.
Beyond the open racism of the Israeli state, it is worth reminding Labour that Israel has recently been referred to the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Palestine. The continuous contempt shown by Israel for the rule of law has led to Benjamin Netanyahu to call for sanctions against the ICC and people who work for it.
Clearly, these are far from the actions of “the only democracy in the middle east” and more akin to the statements of a despot than somebody Labour members should be calling a “friend”.
Millions of Palestinian civilians have either been killed, maimed or displaced by Israeli action since 1948 though genocidal policies designed to erase not only the Palestinian people but every trace of their heritage and culture. There is no difference in supporting the state that carries out this piecemeal genocide than supporting any other state carrying out crimes against humanity such as Myanmar or Saudi Arabia. Any member of the Labour Party who stated they supported those who carried out the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Irish genocide, or any other mass killing or system of oppression would rightly be out of the Party in seconds and seen as an abomination and a crank. Yet those who support Israel not only thrive but are in contention to lead the Party.
The state of Israel is under investigation for war crimes against the people of Palestine, violently racist rhetoric is the norm across Israel and the state carries out a policy of apartheid, dividing their society along line of religious and racial supremacy. The nation is in continual violation of dozens of United Nations resolutions, including the Geneva Convention. The existence of the Labour Friends of Israel is an open violation of Labour’s own rule book and, considering the growing pariah status of Israel, is an embarrassment to any party who would consider itself either progressive or socialist. Labour must shed this pro-racist and pro-oppression albatross and sever all ties to a group that is completely incompatible not only with Labour’s stated values but the values of widespread common decency.