The antisemitism claims paralysing the Labour party have hindered the Palestinian cause and must be confronted through a renewed political debate about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the former Middle East minister Peter Hain will argue.
In a 3,000-word statement written with Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Israeli Labour prime ministers, Lord Hain will say on Tuesday: “Somehow the party has managed to alienate the vast majority of Jewish members and the Jewish community while doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians.”
In what is designed to be a major intervention to persuade the party to address the roots of the problem, they add: “Labour’s debilitating antisemitism crisis has so far focused upon process – are those charged with antisemitic behaviour being properly disciplined by the party’s leadership or not? When actually the problem is political, and therefore requires a political not simply a procedural solution.”
They also insist that those sounding alarm at antisemitism in the party are not trying to crush a debate about Israel’s behaviour or echo Israeli government propaganda.
The irony, they claim, is that the effect of Labour’s stance on antisemitism has been “to empower apologists for totally unacceptable Israeli government attacks on Palestinians and the steady throttling of their rights – allowing those apologists to scale new heights in their dishonest attempts to label criticism of such Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic’.
“Given how much actual antisemitism is around on the left, and how weak the official Labour response to it has been, those keen to label even legitimate criticism as antisemitic have been handed useful cover.
“A new way is needed to both respect the Jewish community including the wellbeing of the world’s largest Jewish community (Israel), while at the same time supporting critical debate about both the abhorrent treatment of Palestinians by successive Israeli governments and future possible solutions for Israel/Palestine,” they write.
“We must eradicate the curse of antisemitism paralysing the Labour party whilst allowing space for genuine argument about all legitimate options.”
After nearly two years of allegations about antisemitism, the two men hope the statement might be adopted as a basis for debate by the parliamentary Labour party and then given as an educational tool to all Labour candidates.
Hain, a Labour peer and advocate of the Palestinian cause, and Levy, a former Israeli negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians under the prime ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, hope they have the credentials to open a wider political debate about Israel and Palestine without being accused of undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
They argue that four things first have to be acknowledged:
There has been a “real and troubling rise in incidents of antisemitism in the Labour party”.
There is “a specific form of poisonous leftwing antisemitism that highlights global conspiratorial capitalist cabals and class enemies”.
The critical debate needed on what is happening in Israel/Palestine is crucial to any party committed to internationalism, international law, and universal rights.
The recent Labour debate “has done absolutely nothing to advance justice for Palestinians or the attainment of the legitimate rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people”.
The pair argue it is legitimate to challenge Zionism, and question whether a two-state solution still remains the best route to peace, or is still the least worst option.
They suggest Labour’s policy debate may need to move beyond “a rather stale re-rehearsal of support for the peace process, condemnation of terror and acts of violence and opposition to settlements, central though each of those can sometimes be. For the truth is that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tragically looks further away than ever.
“Israeli impunity versus accountability, Palestinian Authority clampdowns on their own civil society, the appalling treatment of Gazans – sometimes by all parties – and structural discrimination inside Israel itself are all issues that can and should be addressed by UK policy but are often ignored by seeing everything through a ‘peace process’ lens which increasingly seems a ritualistic mantra rather than a genuine negotiating route.”
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