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Israel cannot trample on human rights and expect “business as usual”

GazaThe shocking events of this summer, with the civilian population of Gaza once again finding themselves attacked with no chance of finding a place of safety, shows how tragically little 20 years of peace process have achieved. There has been much process, but precious little peace.

The tragedies that have affected all of Jerusalem’s communities in recent weeks underline just how unsustainable it is to suggest the status quo can be allowed to continue.

Achieving justice for the Palestinian people is incredibly important to me and a goal to which I’ve been committed for many years.

More recently, much progress has been made within the Labour Party on this issue with many more of our leaders recognising the urgent need for action.

In part, this is due to organisations such as Labour2Palestine taking our MPs, councillors and activists to Palestine to see the reality for themselves.

The growth of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East is also a welcome outcome from this shift in politics, but in itself is not enough.

Achieving a just peace requires action both from Palestinians and Israelis, but as the occupying power and the immeasurably stronger actor, the Israeli government cannot be allowed to trample on human rights and expect “business as usual”.

Politicians can no longer dismiss this as a “they’re all as bad as each other” matter.

In addition, we cannot ignore the fact that the European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner, bringing with it significant leverage over the Israeli economy.

Many of our new MEPs elected last May are clear on this, and I am pleased to see the North West Labour MEPs, Julie Ward and Afzal Khan, leading the way.

The EU-Israel Trade Association Agreement is predicated on upholding human rights – one that the present Israeli government seems to have little respect for.

We should therefore be starting to look at what peaceful economic pressure can be brought to bear to help secure our long-standing policy goals of the cessation of illegal settlement activity, the end of the occupation and the establishment of a free and contiguous Palestinian state that is not just “viable” but that can thrive.

We need a solution that can go some way to righting the wrongs not just of 1967 but also of 1948, giving a home to the refugees scattered across the Middle East and the wider world.

From my own time travelling in Palestine, meeting everyone from shopkeepers and students to trade unionists and political leaders, from Hebron to Qalqilya, I am clear it is a society that demonstrates great samud – “steadfastness”.

Every one of us can strengthen that through acts of solidarity – including telling the Palestinian story.

While the situation on the ground seems worse than ever, we can take heart from the fact that people, and increasingly governments, across the world seem to be accepting the need for serious measures to support the just demands of the Palestinian people.

I’m proud of the fact that Labour Party under Ed Miliband has been part of this change, with Labour saying we’d have supported recognition of a Palestinian state in the vote at the United Nations and supporting the recognition vote in the British Parliament.

Labour’s National Policy Forum also committed the party to supporting an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza and to moves against the financing of illegal settlements.

I believe these are excellent foundations, but we now need a full ban on trade with settlements and for a suspension of the sale of any military technology that may be used against Palestinian civilians.

We know this is likely to be a long struggle until we see freedom, justice and equality for all the people of the region, but it is a struggle I continue with.

Cat Smith is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood. This article previously appeared at Tribune


  1. swatantra says:

    The more you think about it the more you see the parallels between Israel/Palestine and South africa.
    You have the arrogant Israelis on one side ie the Afrikaners and subservient Palestinians ie the Arab population subject to colonial rule. And you see the tribal areas set aside for them ie the resevations or bantustans, where they are given the semblance of self rule, but always at the mercy of the Israelis, that watch their activities very closely. You also see the physical Barrier like the Wall and passport controls even to move around their own domain.
    Apartheid was obscene, and a civil rights movement manged to overturn it in S Africa, with the help of international condemnation. And in the end black and white were able to live together side by side in reasonable harmony. Lets hope the same happens in The Palestine.

  2. David Ellis says:

    Israel’s very existence is a trampling on human rights. Yesterday they should have voted to disolve Israel not the government.

    Unfortunately the hypocritical Labour politicians support the bogus two-state peace lie of the Zionists and Fatah. They think an Israeli-approved Ghetto and a Bantustan constitutes a nation.

  3. John reid says:

    David, Israel had a right to exist, and yes in the past even defend itself, th must stop this apartied, even if the are votes for all,the current change of laws for citizens, it’s just one step too South africa Apartheid,

    Good article, twaddle from Swatantra as usual

    1. Robert says:

      Yes John but he’s not the only one who writes Twaddle is he.

      Israel was formed out of force it will live or die using force, not an ideal way of forming a new country or living with others.

      1. swatantra says:

        In fact you could say that modern day terrorism began with the formation off the State of Israel, and Begin and his Stern Gang bombing the St Davids Hotel. From there, we get the violent reaction of Palestinians and sympathsisers like Carlos the Jackel and hostage taking and OPEC; from there you get the Badder-Meinhoff Gang that were pure criminals with an ideology, From there you get the IRA and the Brighton bombers; which leads neatly into Muslim Fundamentalism and the Arab Spring and the Islamofacists ISIS.
        Thanks a million Stern Gang for setting off a train of events which will eventually lead to WWIII.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          Extraordinary antisemitsim!

          1. John reid says:

            From WHAT I know of Swatantra by other Essex Labour members he’s not anti semetic, just talks B@@@@@ks

          2. Ric Euteneuer says:

            I don’t agree with swatantra’s analysis – we’re talking about the Irgun here, not the State of Israel – but it’s not anti-semitism.

          3. Jon Lansman says:

            Though I’m not in the slightest persuaded by Swatantra’s potted history of “terrorism” (particularly with its gross error placing the King David Hotel bombing after the estalishment of the state of Israel when it was in fact under the British mandate in 1946) I don’t understand how it contitutes “extraordinary antisemitism” – perhaps Jim could elaborate?

  4. Zenobia van Dongen says:

    Most Israeli Jews (the Mizrahi) are descended from Jews who have either always lived in Palestine or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel became independent in 1948. Thus, what — in the fashionably tight framing — appears to be a unilateral land grab, when viewed in a regional frame of reference, was merely an exchange of territory. Accordingly the dispossessed Palestinians should seek indemnity for their Nakbah from the governments of Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc., which stripped their respective Jews of their possessions before sending them to Israel.

    1. Robert says:

      Well that is what many say, but in the end Israel will either live or die at the end of a gun.

      1. swatantra says:

        ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword’. Hope you’re listening ISIS.

        1. Robert says:

          You say ISIS, me I would say the persons to speak to are of course Bush and Blair myself, since we have the wars we have have no peace anywhere in the world.

  5. Jim Denham says:

    How, in practice, do we distinguish between produce from the illegal settlements, and from Israel “proper” (ie pre-1967 Israel)?

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      A little Google research usually turns up whether the firm concerned has a presence in the Occupied Territories.

  6. Shirley Knott says:

    Settlements and the occupation are supported, encouraged, funded and defended by the Israeli government so I think BDS logically applies to the whole country! The intention is nothing less than the total erasure of Palestine, Palestinians and all the history of the land between 70ad and the beginning of the zionist movement.

    1. Robert says:

      Yes and the question is simple Israel is the power base in that area it’s known to have Nukes, and I would have no doubt they’d use them.

      And Israel will carry on doing what it does and who will stop it, as Iran tried to get it’s own nukes Israel told the world no it cannot.

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