Protest in Parliament Square against false claims of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn, March 2018. Photo: Jewish Voice for Labour Protest in Parliament Square against false claims of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn, March 2018. Photo: Jewish Voice for Labour

The Labour Party must not endorse Israeli violence, racism and apartheid policies as MPs have voted to do, argues Alex Snowdon

It is being reported that Labour MPs gave approval to changing the Labour Party NEC’s definition of antisemitism, so that it includes treating opposition to Israeli apartheid (as a racist endeavour) as an expression of antisemitism. Every speech in the PLP meeting was reportedly supportive of that position. However, an actual vote by Labour MPs on this will wait until 5 September.

If a majority of the PLP vote for changing the definition it will represent a ringing endorsement by the Labour Party of Israeli violence, racism and apartheid policies. The entire basis of the disagreements over the definition is whether to include examples concerning criticism of Israel. The attitude adopted towards Israeli apartheid – not anything to do with genuine antisemitism – is the whole substance of what is being disputed here.

The timing of today’s indicative decision is that it comes two months after the Israeli massacre of dozens of peaceful protesters in Gaza and two months after Trump‘s hugely destructive move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It comes just days after three things: fresh military attacks on Gaza, Netanyahu’s meetings with racist Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán and the massively controversial passing of apartheid legislation inside Israel.

Never has the racist apartheid nature of Israel been more nakedly exposed. Never has there been more widespread revulsion at murderous Israeli violence. Never has there been greater global support – including in the UK – for the Palestinian call to boycott, in support of Palestinians’ human rights and justice.

Now is the time Labour MPs choose to cut themselves off from the wider labour movement – and the direction of travel in society at large – in a sordid bid to throw the apologists for apartheid a lifeline. It is both an attempt to turn back the clock on the growing support for Palestine and an opportunistic effort to destabilise a principled left wing party leader.

There are 6 weeks for activists to get resolutions passed in branches and constituencies, rejecting these moves and reasserting the right to oppose Israeli racism and discrimination. This is essential for the genuine anti-racist struggle, for solidarity with Palestine, and for the prospects of a left-led Labour Party.

Alex Snowdon

Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union.​ He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).