A Labour government in the UK would recognize an independent Palestinian state as soon as it took office, Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday, during the annual Labour conference in Liverpool.
During his keynote speech, the Labour leader criticized Israel’s passing of the Nation-State law earlier this summer and the killing of over 170 of Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border since March.
He denounced “the ongoing denial of justice and rights to the Palestinian people,” and continued on to say “the continuing occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage.”
Despite growing criticisms of the two-state solution, which local and international activists say is effectively dead, Corbyn said the Labour party backs the two-state solution, saying “in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality we will recognize a Palestinian state as soon as we take office.”
The day before Corbyn’s speech, delegates at the conference waved hundreds of Palestinian flags during a rare debate on Palestine as they passed a motion to support the immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Israel pending an investigation of Israel’s killing of protesters in Gaza.
The motion also condemned the Trump administration’s decision to cut all funding for UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing essential aid to some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.
Amid the visible widespread support for Palestine at the conference, Corbyn and other officials addressed the ongoing criticisms of alleged anti-Semitism within the party.
“Ours is the party of equality for all — the party that has pioneered every progressive initiative to root out racism from our society,” Corbyn said, adding “being anti-racist means we must listen to those communities suffering discrimination and abuse.”
“The Jewish people have suffered a long and terrible history of persecution and genocide,” he said, as he described a visit he took two years ago to a former Nazi concentration camp.
“The row over anti-Semitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party,” Corbyn added, “But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry — who has repeatedly criticized Israel’s planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar– criticized in her speech what she said were anti-Semites in the party using the issue of Palestine to “promote hatred,” and called for them to be thrown out of the party.
“We all support the Palestinian cause, we are all committed to recognise the Palestinian state, and I stand here with no hesitation when I condemn the Netanyahu government for its racist policies and its criminal actions against the Palestinian people,” she said.
“But I know as well, and 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,” she continued.
Jeremy Corbyn and his personal and party’s support for the Palestinian cause has made him the target of the international pro-Israel lobby, who have accused him of participating in and tolerating what has been dubbed the “new anti-Semitism”: criticism of the Israeli state for its human rights abuses and war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory.
On Wednesday, reports surfaced of a bomb-threat being made to a pro-Palestine event in Liverpool as the Labour conference was being brought to a close.
Israel Lobby and Corbyn
In a six-month undercover investigation, Al Jazeera reporters revealed the extent to which Israeli officials — specifically from the Israeli Embassy in the UK — influence British politics, through working with political youth organizations and MPs.
Parts of the investigation exposed a senior officer at the embassy, Shai Masot, expressing his desire to “take down” British politicians who were sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. On several occasions, Masot referenced Jeremy Corbyn as one of the threats to the Israeli political agenda.
Last month, Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack filed a freedom of information request to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, in order “to verify that these play no part in the de-legitimization waged in recent years on the UK Labour Party and Mr. Corbyn.”
In an interview with Mondoweiss, Mack criticized Israel’s “hypocrisy” in it’s focus on allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, while at the same time, exporting arms with regimes across the world that commit crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“Israel is strengthening its relationship in eastern Europe, with countries like Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, where they have huge problems with anti-Semitism. On the other hand, you see the Israeli government making their political struggle with Jeremy Corbyn a main issue,” Mack said.