Labour bans Israel sanctions debate

Asa Winstanley

The Electronic Intifada /  June 25, 2021

UK Labour officials have prevented a party debate on sanctions against Israel, which had been planned for Thursday night.

The officials claimed that the discussion could lead to “anti-Semitic behavior.”

A motion, passed by a local Labour branch, calls for Israel to “end its violation of the human rights of Palestinians” and for the UK government to “impose legal sanctions on Israel,” specifically an end to arms sales and “trade with illegal settlements.”

The motion also called for “an end to the illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” You can read it in full below.

But Kim Bolton – chair of the Hove and Portslade Constituency Labour Party (CLP), near Brighton in the south of England – ruled that members would not be allowed to even discuss the motion.

The discussion “would undermine the party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular Jewish members,” a regional party officer had advised her, Bolton stated.

That officer was Scott Horner, Labour’s South East regional officer.

“I support that view,” stated Bolton of Horner’s advice.

“The motion from Goldsmid and Hove Park branch requesting sanctions against Israel risks opening a debate that will stir up internal conflict in our CLP and may lead to further anti-Semitic behavior,” she claimed, without explaining what the alleged “anti-Semitic behavior” had been.

Neither Horner nor Labour Party headquarters replied to requests for comment.

Labour’s Hove MP Peter Kyle (left) is an officer in lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. Regional official Scott Horner (center and right) said sanctions on Israel would make Jewish members feel unwelcome.

Ironically, Bolton and Horner’s statements in themselves demonstrate anti-Jewish sentiment.

They assume all Jewish members of Labour will be pro-Israel and opposed to sanctions against the violent, racist state of Israel.

Local sources told The Electronic Intifada that Bolton was renowned as a right-winger.

But one source said it was likely she was doing the bidding of the local right-wing Labour lawmaker, Peter Kyle.

Kyle is one of the vice-chairs of Labour Friends of Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group with close ties to the Israeli embassy in London.

It was Hove CLP that in 2019 proposed a landmark motion on Palestine to Labour Party conference, which passed almost unanimously.

“How things have changed”

That motion called for sanctions on Israel, to recognize the Nakba of 1948 in which 800,000 Palestinians were expelled by Zionist forces and called for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

“How things have changed since 2019,” one local Labour Party member lamented.

“Now we can’t even discuss it,” the member said.

Local members are “really pissed off,” the member explained.

Becky Massey, a second Brighton area source, told The Electronic Intifada that it was exactly because of the Hove CLP’s leading role on Palestine solidarity that officials were purging the local branch.

“No wonder Labour have had to have such a big clear out in Hove,” Massey said.

Last year The Electronic Intifada revealed that Massey – a leading Brighton-area Palestine solidarity activist – was expelled from Labour after the Board of Deputies of British Jews – a pro-Israel lobby group – sent the party a hit list of activists. The Board demanded that the activists be kicked out of Labour.

Since Keir Starmer – a right-winger and self-declared supporter of Zionism – became Labour leader last year, he and his allies have relentlessly purged the party of the left and the Palestine solidarity movement.

Starmer has handed more and more powers in the party over to Israel’s lobby – even hiring a former Israeli spy to work in his office.

But a recent poll found that 61 percent of Labour Party members still support BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, while only 8 percent oppose it.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London