Labour backs motion calling for sanctions on 'apartheid' Israel

Labour backs motion calling for sanctions on 'apartheid' Israel
4 min read
27 September, 2021
The motion, which has drawn criticism from Lisa Nandy, slams Israel's 'ongoing Nakba', or ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land.
Lisa Nandy criticised the carrying of the motion at Labour's annual conference [JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty]

The British Labour Party's passed a motion on Monday that describe Israeli actions as tantamount to "apartheid" and called for sanctions against the country due to the oppression of Palestinians.

The motion was passed at an annual conference in Brighton, England, leading to applause from Palestinian activists and criticism from allies of Israel within the party.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) described it as a historic moment for the party, while chair of Labour Friends of Israel slammed the motion.

Senior party official Lisa Nandy, who is seen as representing the views of the leadership on the subject, criticised the motion.

The PSC's UK arm hailed the move in a statement on Facebook, thanking those that helped make it happen, which comes after criticism that Labour is failing to show solidarity with Palestine.

The motion slams a variety of Israeli violations in occupied Palestine, including efforts to expel Palestinians from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

It also noted findings by rights groups Human Rights Watch and Israeli NGO B'Tselem that Israel engages in apartheid.

Israel's "ongoing Nakba" - or ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land - was also criticised, as are its violations against the third-holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque.

"The Labour conference has spoken, its solidarity with the Palestinian people remains strong," the PSC message read.

"The Labour leadership must now respond."


The pro-Palestine group said it appreciated the backing given to the motion by each of the 14 trade unions affiliated with it "who rode strongly behind this motion".

It also thanked "the delegates who stood strong in the compositing meeting, resisting all pressure to dilute this significant motion".

In compositing meetings, arrangements such as who is to formally propose a composite motion - an integrated version of multiple similar motions - are decided.

The PSC specifically praised Young Labour, the party's youth wing, naming Jawad Khan, who, according to LabourList, was the resolution's formal proposer.

He asserted it would "bring us one step closer to finally ending the shameful century of British complicity and the denial of the right to self-determination, liberation and return".

The text of the motion urges Labour to stick to "an ethical policy on all UK trade with Israel", saying "any arms trade used to violate Palestinian human rights" must end, as should "trade with illegal Israeli settlements".

Since Keir Starmer assumed the party helm from Jeremy Corbyn last year, critics have slammed Labour for not standing up sufficiently for Palestinian rights.

Starmer himself came under fire for withdrawing from an iftar meal this Ramadan after he discovered an organiser backed boycotting dates grown on illegal Israeli settlements.

Many social media users also celebrated Monday's news.

Young Labour issued a Twitter statement of gratitude, noting: "As Nelson Mandela said, our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians."

The group did, however, caution that "[t]here is of course always more work to do. Young Labour will continue to organise to ensure that every corner of our movement stands in solidarity with Palestinians always."

Seán MacGobhann tweeted: "Fantastic news. To get the motion passed that uses the word apartheid is even better."

Others wondered what the reaction of the Labour leadership would be.

"We cannot support this motion," Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told Jewish News.

The Labour MP claimed: "It does not address the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comprehensive or balanced way."

Nandy did, nevertheless, acknowledge "[t]he deterioration in living conditions that many Palestinians have suffered in the last year is not due to a conflict of equals but as a result of the continuing military occupation".

The senior politician reiterated Labour's support for a "negotiated, diplomatic" agreement, with the two-state model its foundation.

According to Jewish News, Starmer backs Nandy's intervention.