As unhinged Labour conference motions go, the party’s anti-Aukus resolution will likely capture the headlines. The text describes the new defence pact between Australia, the UK and the US as a ‘dangerous move that will undermine world peace’. Sir Keir Starmer is on record backing the alliance but the Labour leader can at least take comfort in how close the card vote was: a mere 70.35 per cent of delegates voted for the motion.
For a classic Labour conference motion, though, the prize has to go to the composite on… the NHS? Covid? Fuel shortages? No, silly: Palestine. A motion was passed which ‘condemns the ongoing Nakba in Palestine’, using the Arabic term for ‘catastrophe’, which is how the establishment of the state of Israel is generally referred to in the West Bank, Gaza and constituency Labour party meetings. The motion calls the policing of a Palestinian riot on the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem ‘Israel’s militarised violence attacking the Al Aqsa mosque’. The text says it is ‘ever clearer that Israel is intent on eliminating any prospects of Palestinian self-determination’. (Israel has repeatedly offered peace and statehood and been rebuffed by the Palestinian side.) It also ‘notes’ claims by NGOs’ ‘that conclude unequivocally that Israel is practising the crime of apartheid’, calls for sanctions, and backs a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel.
The motion, which passed by a show of hands, is no less embarrassing for Sir Keir, who did not want Labour to be foaming at the mouth about the Jewish state on the same day that former MP Louise Ellman, who quit the party in 2019 over anti-Semitism, announced that she was rejoining the party. Ellman says the motion is ‘disgraceful’, singles out ‘the world’s only Jewish state for pernicious and morally perverse boycotts’ and ‘shows there are still too many in the party who are more obsessed with demonising Israel than reaching a solution to this tragic conflict’. She adds that ‘Labour will not win back the trust of the Jewish community whilst the Jewish state is continually demonised and smeared’.
At first glance, it seems like another bad day for the Labour leadership but they are not the real victims here. The Palestine motion was proposed by Young Labour, that section of the party which struggles to overcome years of private education so that it can talk to working-class voters without asking them where the self-service checkouts are. Young Labour celebrated its triumph by tweeting:
In our millions, in our billions, we are all Palestinians ✊🏽❤️🇵🇸 https://t.co/EkGhMYj1wb
— Young Labour (@YoungLabourUK) September 27, 2021
Well, they certainly meet the UN definition of a Palestinian. Still, spare a thought for the Palestinians learning about their new brothers and cis-ters in the Labour party. The right of return sounds dandy until one day you’re tending your olive trees in Hebron, minding your own business, and up rocks Bertie, who’s reading art history at Durham but could have gone to Oxford if he’d wanted. Within a month, the neighbourhood watch has added micro-aggressions to its remit, the community council discusses nothing but planning permission objections, and you’re seriously weighing up an anonymous tip-off to the Shin Bet about the guy next door with the strange accent and stockpile of fertiliser.
The Palestinians have suffered enough. Do they really deserve the ‘solidarity’ of the Labour party on top of it?
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