UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign urges Labour Party to confront reality of Israeli apartheid

Middle East Monitor  /  October 4, 2023

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has today called on the UK Labour Party to confront the reality of Israel’s practice of the crime of apartheid rather than avoid using the term. The move follows the decision by Labour administrators not to allow the PSC to use the word apartheid to describe its annual conference stall or fringe meeting in party-printed or online brochures. When asked for a justification of its decision, party leader Keir Starmer’s office said Labour would not publish content that “… we believe to be detrimental to the party”.

The PSC will have a stall each day at the Labour conference and on Tuesday 10 October will host a fringe meeting entitled “Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid”, although this title will not appear in Labour Party listings.

The keynote speaker will be Saleh Hijazi, Apartheid Free policy coordinator at the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National committee. Hijazi was also co-author of the seminal Amnesty International report, one of several in recent years by leading human rights agencies, confirming the reality that Palestinians have attested to for years: Israel is practicing apartheid. This is defined under the Rome Statute 1998 as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Apartheid is a crime against humanity.

Israel has the most extreme far-right government in its history, with a minister who is a self-proclaimed and proud fascist. It has an overt commitment to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, with policies which legal analysts are describing as a clear plan to annex the illegally-occupied Palestinian territories. All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem are illegal under international law, as are the settlers who live in them.

Instead of responding to these developments in adherence to international law and with concern for human rights, which would demand measures to hold Israel to account for its serial violations, the Labour leadership is seeking to avoid engaging with the reality lived by Palestinians for decades. The party’s recent National Policy Forum document watered down a clear commitment to recognize a Palestinian state if elected.

A number of leading human rights organizations have concluded that Israel has crossed the legal threshold for definition as an apartheid state, including B’TselemHuman Rights Watch and Amnesty International. According to former Israeli general and Mossad agent Amiram Levin, the situation in the occupied West Bank is “total apartheid”.

“It’s hard for us to say it, but it’s the truth,” said Levin. Walk around Hebron, look at the streets. Streets where Arabs are no longer allowed to go on, only Jews.”

“You cannot tackle an injustice unless you are prepared to name it,” insisted PSC Director Ben Jamal. “As B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights monitoring body, said in its report affirming Israel’s practice of apartheid, ‘As painful as it may be to look reality in the eye, it is more painful to live under a boot.’”

The British government should be fully committed to the upholding of international law and the principle that respect for human rights should be central to all relations with foreign states, including trade relations. Such a commitment would clearly mean holding Israel to account for its violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, said Dr Martin Luther King.

The PSC is determined that its fringe meeting next week will go ahead regardless of how it is advertised in Labour’s conference brochure. All Labour members are welcome to attend, as are members of the PSC’s nationally affiliated Trade Unions, who hold firm to Martin Luther King’s injunction that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Solidarity with Palestinians means addressing the reality of the system of apartheid under which they are forced to live,” said Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF and a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, who is due to speak at the PSC meeting next week.

Yasmine Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch, pointed out that the organization’s findings were clear. “Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. Unless and until governments and political parties acknowledge the systematic and severe discrimination that Palestinians face, then claims of promoting peace will ring hollow. There can never be peace without human rights.”