UK Labour Party calls for arms boycott of Israel

The UK Labour Party Conference voted on Tuesday afternoon to call for a boycott by the UK of to Israel and for an “independent international investigation” into IDF defensive measures on the Gaza border to prevent infiltration by terrorists and large numbers of demonstrators.

The vote came against the background of the still-simmering antisemitism crisis that has engulfed Labour this summer, following its initial refusal to adopt an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism and several allegations of antisemitism against party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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The motion was debated in front of a sea of Palestinian flags on the conference floor, with chants of “Free, free Palestine” and messages of political support for the Palestinians.

The motion noted what it called Israel’s “heavy repression” of protests on the Gaza border that it described as “overwhelmingly non-violent,” although it failed to mention numerous and others to breach the border fence as well as the widespread arson attacks against Israel in recent months.

“[The] conference urges an independent, international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators; a freeze of UK Government arms sales to Israel; and an immediate unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza,” the motion read.

The conference voted overwhelmingly for such a motion to be debated, and gained over 188,000 votes to be brought for a debate, more than for a debate on Brexit, the UK’s National Health Service, and the welfare system, all of which are key concerns for the Labour Party.

The conference motion is not, however, binding on the party leadership.

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Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Zionist Union MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, who is attending the conference, said there was a very troubling atmosphere at the event, and that Labour MPs and shadow cabinet members had made controversial comments, such as blaming the Labour Friends of Israel lobbying group for undermining Corbyn over the antisemitism allegations against him and the party.

NAHMIAS-VERBIN said, however, that there was “wonderful support” from other Labour MPs such as Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan, Ian Austin, Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger.

She also said there were Labour MPs who were saying they would do “everything in their power” to ensure Corbyn does not become prime minister.

But she was strongly critical of Corbyn, saying he has failed to apologize or express regret for his own actions such as sharing a platform with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and other Palestinian terrorists; opposing the removal of an antisemitic mural in London; and saying that some “Zionists” in the UK do not understand English irony.

“I think he is an antisemite, absolutely,” Nahmias-Verbin told the Post . “I have no sense of irony or sense of humor for the implication that British Jews are not really British,” she continued.

Asked if she felt that Corbyn was a fitting leader for the Labour Party, the MK said she would not interfere in the democracy of other countries, but that she and the Zionist Union would not want someone like Corbyn to lead the UK Labour Party.

The MK was also critical of Labour’s efforts to rid itself of antisemitism, in the wake of numerous incidents of antisemitic comments and activity by party members in recent months and years.

“When the leadership doesn’t enforce and police antisemitic incidents and doesn’t eject antisemitism from the party then the message is very clear that antisemitism is allowed,” she said.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think its getting better,” she said of the antisemitism crisis in Labour. “It’s going to take a while, and we’re going to need to hear dif- ferent things from Corbyn. He’s very belligerent against Labour MPs who support Israel.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry spoke out against antisemitism in the party, saying that supporters of the Palestinians have used their campaign as cover for antisemitism.

“We must all acknowledge that there are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people and their desire to see Israel destroyed,” said Thornberry, calling for them to be kicked out of the party.

In the same speech, she denounced the current “Netanyahu government” which she said has implemented “racist policies and its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.”

Speaking at a Labour Friends of Palestine event at the conference on Monday, Corbyn said “as soon as we take office” a Labour government would recognize a “state of Palestine.”

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