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Labour Party Conference ’19 An opportunity for the Labour Party to lead the way — to fly the flag for Palestine

Now is the time to speak up for Palestinians, writes HUGH LANNING

PALESTINIANS know that it matters little who the next prime minister of Israel is going to be following Israel’s inconclusive elections, as all the major parties share the same agenda — only vying for votes on the basis of how “nasty” they can be to the Palestinians. 

There are no proponents of peace, no-one calling for ending the military occupation, no real advocates of a two-state solution.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to annex the Jordan valley and the land on which the settlements are built is not a new or controversial proposition within Israel — it was pandering to the right-wing view that all Palestinian land is really their land, notwithstanding that Palestinians have lived there for thousands of years.

Annexation sounds like a mild piece of administrative action, but in international law it is a state forcibly taking control of territory outside its borders and integrating it unilaterally into its own jurisdiction. 

The principle agreed after two world wars upholds the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory through war. 

It was on this basis that, back in 2014, when Russian forces entered Crimea and the peninsula was annexed, the reaction of Britain and other EU states was clear and immediate — sanctions were imposed on Russia. 

Why did Netanyahu not propose annexing all the territory it occupies? 

Because it wants the land, water, natural resources, the arable land — but not the people. 

There are three reasons why Israel does not want to annex all the land. 

First, it would be very expensive. Under international law it should be the occupying power that is responsible for the civilian population. 

Israel has evaded this cost for 50 years, with the international community, mainly the EU, picking up the bill for the occupation. 

Second, there are too many Palestinians. The Arab bloc is already the third biggest in the Knesset, adding millions more Palestinian voters is inconceivable to most Israeli citizens — democracy can only be extended so far. 

To do so would risk losing control in a single democratic state — there would be in excess of five million Palestinians.  

Finally, to take the land and not give a vote to the people who live there would make transparent the current racist and apartheid nature of Israel’s rule — different rights and laws based on race.

The demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus in July was not just another “nasty act” by Israel as part of its ongoing 50-year-old military occupation. 

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.

It was part of setting the scene for the announcement of Trump’s plan for the Middle East — which was delayed for and is now due “days” after the Israeli elections. 

Given the failure of Netanyahu to secure a majority US agreement to the annexation of large chunks of the West Bank, as proposed during the election campaign, it may be delayed a bit longer. 

However, Trump’s plan — drawn up by his nephew Jared Kushner — makes no attempt at neutrality, it is a one-sided attempt to try to force Palestinians to surrender and accept they will never obtain their right to self-determination. 

Israel wants to make irreversible progress on its “Trump-agreed” agenda while he remains in power.

Israel has already sought to use annexation to acquire Palestinian land with East Jerusalem, annexed after its occupation in 1967 — hence the significance of Trump’s announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

Wadi Hummus is part of Palestinian land that — under the internationally brokered agreement reached in Oslo in 1993-5 — is meant to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority. 

It is demonstrating that — as far as Israel is concerned — it has no borders and all occupied Palestinian land is up for grabs. 

Israel has never recognised the right of Palestine to exist or set any limits on its own borders.

Coming just after Israel’s elections, this year’s Labour Party conference comes at an important time. 

Delegates will have the opportunity to vote for Palestine to be discussed for the second year in succession. 

Campaign group Labour & Palestine’s motion that has been circulated to, discussed and passed by local CLPs calls for Labour to unequivocally oppose Trump’s proposed solution.  

It goes further, it calls on Labour in government and opposition to ensure all British trade with Israel is ethical and not in breach of international law — as it is, for example, to trade with Israel’s illegal settlements. 

The same principles should be applied to any arms trade with Israel. Why should Israel have privileged trade agreements if it proceeds with annexation?

Israel’s banning of a visit by two Muslim US Democrat congresswomen, at Trump’s behest, is a further demonstration of their joint determination to silence criticism and democratic action aimed at holding Israel to account for its violations of Palestinian rights. 

In passing the motion Labour would be making clear that its ethical foreign policy should always mean that Labour will side with the oppressed, not the oppressor.

It is unrealistic to expect the EU or a Johnson-led government to impose sanctions on Israel. 

It is an opportunity for the Labour to lead the way — to fly the flag for Palestine. 

If annexation becomes a reality, Labour’s policy must show that there will be real consequences — not just words of condemnation — for Israeli actions in breach of international law and Palestinian rights.

Sign up to Labour and Palestine’s statement at www.labourandpalestine.org.uk.

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