This is highly interesting in the context of the debate being had in the UK Labour Party about Israel, Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The article points out that the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) organisation is launching a new campaign, “For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace”; the rebranding was launched at Labour’s annual conference last month.
Apparently it’s about persuading the UK government to support the creation of an international fund for peace between Israel and Palestine, that would back projects to promote coexistence, peace and reconciliation.
But the article states that this ignores the occupation of Palestinian lands and other abuses by the Israeli army, and suggests that the strategy is intended to distract people away from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that is currently popular.
It is also attractive because it seems more positive than simply denying Israeli crimes and provides a useful substitute for anything approximating external pressure on Israel to end its systematic and worsening human rights violations.
In other words, the campaign advocated by Mr Austin – the man who told Jeremy Corbyn to “sit down and shut up” while the Labour leader was castigating former prime minister Tony Blair in the light of the Chilcot Report on the Iraq War – is an attempt to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.
Instead, author Ben White suggests the following as key elements of any discussion on Israel and Palestine.
Keep them handy, and check them against what advocates – on either side – say.
If a group, or MP, is not talking about the following, then you should ask why.
First, asymmetry. Is the framework one of occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised? If the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is being presented as one of two equal partners with shared responsibilities, then you’ve got a problem. The Palestinians are stateless, dispossessed, displaced, and occupied. Failing to reflect that is either a product of ignorance, or disingenuousness.
Second, international law. Is international law, or global human rights treaties, a benchmark or reference point? West Bank settlements, for example, are a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a key part of an apartheid regime. If you’re not hearing about that at all, or if settlements are waved away as an issue to be resolved in negotiations, that’s another red flag.
Third, and perhaps most crucially, accountability. It is possible to acknowledge the occupation, criticise Israeli violations of international law, but still oppose any efforts designed to end Israeli impunity. So what about an arms embargo? What about a boycott of Israeli and international institutions and companies complicit in the colonisation of Palestinian land?
Asymmetry, international law, and accountability. It’s not perfect or comprehensive. But if an MP or lobby group is skipping one or more of these key elements, then there is good reason to doubt their intentions, even if they profess support for “peace” and Palestinian statehood.
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