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Israel Lobby Claims “Win” Over Labour Manifesto Changes

By: Asa Winstanley

A section about Palestine in the UK Labour Party’s new manifesto was significantly altered after intervention from the Israel lobby.

The main opposition party published a list of pledges this week ahead of a general election on 8 June.

A draft of the manifesto was leaked to the press last week.

Reference in the draft to “expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank” being “wrong and illegal” was removed from the final document.

A second line stating that Labour “cannot accept the continued humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories” was also removed.

According to London newspaper The Times, the changes were made after Jeremy Newmark, chair of pro-Israel group the Jewish Labour Movement, complained about the draft being an “unbalanced, partisan” text.

The final document demanded both “an end to the [Israeli] blockade” of Gaza, its “occupation and settlements” and an “end to [Palestinian] rocket and terror attacks.” By doing so, it created a false equation between the violence of Israel, a highly militarized state, and the resistance tactics used by some Palestinian groups in response to Israeli oppression.

Palestinian state

But Labour’s commitment to recognizing a Palestinian state was also made more explicit in the final version.

The draft had only said a Labour government would “support Palestinian recognition at the UN.” The final version commits the party to “immediately recognize the state of Palestine” if it wins the election.

Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group within the party, has described the changes as a “difficult win,” according to The Jewish Chronicle.

Jeremy Newmark did not reply to request for comment.

Newmark is a long-standing leader in the UK’s Israel lobby, and has a history of working closely with the Israeli government against the Palestine solidarity movement.

He is standing as Labour’s candidate for a north London seat in Parliament.

The final version of the manifesto’s section on Palestine seems to have been essentially reverted to the pledges Labour made before the 2015 general election. The two wordings are almost identical, apart from the references to Palestinian “terror attacks” and the “state of Palestine.”

The manifesto now says that “there can be no military solution to this conflict and all sides must avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve.”

Radical?

The 2017 Labour manifesto has been hailed as radical and is proving to be popular with voters.

Although Labour is still trailing the ruling Conservative Party in opinion polls, its ratings have been surging after unvealing a series of policy proposals.

Supposedly “radical” Labour policies such as building 100,000 social-rent homes a year and slightly increasing tax for those with an annual salary exceeding £80,000 ($104,000) were once polical consensus, carried out by Labour and Conservative governments alike.

It is only because politics in the UK swung so far right under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in the 1980s, and later under Tony Blair’s New Labour, that current leader Jeremy Corbyn’s modest social democratic program can be portrayed by a hostile media as a dangerous and “radical” document which would take the UK “back to the 1970s.”

But when it comes to Palestine, the manifesto seems to reflect long-failed conventional “wisdom.”

And it proposes no sanction that would hold Israel to account for its human rights violations against Palestinians. Even the draft version contained no such proposal.

When it comes to foreign policy, Corbyn’s “radicalism” remains very much constrained by the Labour Party’s right-wing, pro-Israel remnants.

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