Boycott Israel?

Israel-Palestine at Labour conference

The conference agenda has several motions on Israel-Palestine, mostly elaborations on Labour and Palestine’s model motion. No likely composite will deserve support as improving Labour’s existing policy. Nor would the model motion circulated by the Labour right (Labour To Win), but no CLP has submitted that. • No motion adds to Labour’s “two states” policy what it mostly lacks — solidarity with forces on the ground fighting for that, such as the Jewish-Arab Standing Together movement in Israel, trade unions, or campaigns against checkpoints and house demolitions. Probably all the CLPs...

BDS policy blocks strike solidarity

At the National Executive Committee of the public services union Unison on 14 July, a full time official blocked a message of support to striking hospital workers in Israel on grounds of the union’s “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) policy. The official declared the motion invalid because the workers are organised by the Histadrut (the Israeli TUC), and Unison takes its BDS policy to rule out links with it. The Socialist Party, whose members moved the motion, points out that the lack of formal links should not have prevented a message. But the official got away with it, showing how BDS...

Speech at the UCU Congress

We will report on the Congress and Higher Education Sector Conference of the University and College Union (UCU) in next week’s Solidarity. Here we re-publish in full a speech made by Cambridge UCU delegate, Josh Lovell, who spoke in the late motion debate on Israel/Palestine. “Congress, as this is a motion passed in my branch, I will be voting in favour as per my mandate but want to share some views in a personal capacity. "In previous motions, where delegates (myself included) have called on the union to speak up and campaign for sanctions, or boycotts, these have always been tied to...

Students mobilise on Palestine

The student union at SOAS university in London joined the Palestinian call for a strike on 18 May, and finished the week with a campus vigil for lives lost to colonial violence. London students went on to join the internationalist bloc at the Palestine demo in London on Saturday, connecting struggles from Colombia, Ethiopia and Palestine as a common struggle against oppression and state violence. Apartheid off Campus, a student campaign group, has called a day of action for Friday 28 May: “a call for students to unite for BDS”. The student union at SOAS university in London voted to reaffirm...

Make solidarity without antisemitism

Many students at UK universities have rightly responded to the escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine by mobilising in support of the Palestinians. In some places there are campaigns to get universities to stop investing in companies that financially back Israeli military industries. We hope Palestinian solidarity campaigning continues beyond the ceasefire, and that university divestment campaigns succeed. At the same time we continue to criticise the blanket boycott policies which dominate on campuses (including academic boycotts), with their implicit backing for a “one state” outcome in...

Tories plan new curbs on local councils

Johnson is likely to be the enemy of a democratic settlement in Israel-Palestine, shifting the UK further towards the Trump government’s anti-Palestinian position. Although Johnson himself displayed little interest in the conflict as foreign secretary, his ideological lieutenant Priti Patel was forced to resign her international development post in 2017 after breaking diplomatic protocol in efforts to channel aid money towards the Israeli military. She defended herself by insisting that Johnson had been told about her activities. The Tories’ proposals, apparently another bit of inspiration...

Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism

Robert Fine, who died on 9 June 2018, was a socialist writer unafraid to stand up to much of the left’s received wisdom on the questions of Israel, Palestine, and antisemitism. He opposed the “absolute anti-Zionist” standpoint that one should unreservedly object to (a) Israel’s very existence, rather than the oppressive practices of the Israeli state, and (b) any feelings of Jewish communal or national identification with Israel, even when such feelings are accompanied with harsh condemnation of the Israeli government or genuine horror at the Palestinians’ suffering. Fine opposed the blanket...

Israelophobia is Stalinist regression

Barry Finger reviews Paul Kelemen’s book The British Left and Zionism: History of a Divorce (Manchester University Press, 2012) This volume, which joins the herd of independent minds in churning the same old depleted groupthink, purports to challenge the claim that changes over the decades in the left’s appraisal of Zionism and the Palestinian cause stem from antisemitism. Whose claim? Even the people Kelemen whom has a go at would most probably argue the opposite: pro-Palestinian sympathies do not stem from antisemitism. However, antisemitism often finds a greenhouse atmosphere in pro...

Revisiting Uri Avnery

More debate on the right of return here. There is a real dispute in our camp over how socialists orient to the “right of return". It derives from comrades who view that purported right through the lens of the Israeli peace movement and those who peer through the other end of the telescope, that of the BDS anti-peace movement. Those, such as myself – and perhaps Daniel Randall, though I wouldn’t presume to speak for him – have been educated and informed on this subject by the literature of Gush Shalom, for many decades the most militant wing of the Israeli anti-occupation movement. Its...

The return of old formulas

More debate on the right of return here. There are about 13 million Palestinians across the world. They do not have a state of their own. They are disadvantaged in all the countries where they are mainly concentrated, though in different ways from country to country. About 2.9 million live in the West Bank, mostly in over 160 patches of land where the Palestinian Authority has limited autonomous powers of administration (mostly to hand out foreign aid money and jobs), but which are hemmed in and dominated by a surrounding Israeli military presence. About 2 million are in Gaza, which is...

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