The coverage of the Priti Patel affair has been largely focused on the breach of the Ministerial code, but it goes deeper than that argues Shabbir Lakha
Shortly after becoming the Minister for International Development, Priti Patel ordered a review on funding to the Palestinian Authority and NGOs supporting Palestinians - resulted in some £17m of cuts to this funding. This review came after pressure from Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel based on the usual Israeli propaganda about Palestinians being terrorists.
There is a point to be made about Priti Patel swiftly cutting aid to Palestinians, whose economy is massively reliant on international aid thanks to the Israeli occupation, and then seeking to start funding the Israeli army to carry out "humanitarian" activities in internationally recognised illegally occupied territory (the Golan Heights).
It was obvious from the moment the revelations first came out that Priti Patel had not gone on a "holiday" as she claimed. But during her eight hour lfight back to London from Kenya, questions were raised about the extent of the knowledge Downing Street had of the visit prior to it becoming a news story. Lord Polak, head of Conservative Friends of Israel, didn't just organise some of the meetings she attended, her entire trip to Israel was planned and funded by the CFI. Which begs the question of how she was able to get away with calling it a holiday till now.
Among her meetings, she met with Gilad Erdan, Israel's public security and strategic affairs minister. He is the leading figure from the Israeli government in their anti-BDS efforts. Just a week ago, he personally denied a regional director of Amnesty International entry into Israel. This is significant because earlier this year, Sajid Javid tried to make it illegal for public bodies in the UK to engage in BDS, and although a judicial review stopped it, it shows you how important opposing BDS is to this government, and Patel meeting Erdan shows you a direct chain of influence.
This week Emily Thornberry is in Israel, along with Fabian Hamilton the Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, on a trip organised by Labour Friends of Israel. She's already openly opposed BDS and said: "The policy that the British government has towards Israel is entirely in line with Labour Party policy".
And yes this is the same Labour Friends of Israel that were exposed earlier this year for plotting to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party and who have led he antisemitism smear.
At a time when Labour should be maximising the crisis the Tories are in, Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary has decided to go on her own trip to Israel, meet with figures who are openly anti-Palestinian, such as those from Israel's Labour Party, and is even due to get a briefing from the Israeli army at the border of Gaza.
The key point from all this is that the main issue is not some breach of ministerial code, but Palestine. Penny Mordaunt (Patel's replacement) will continue to be a friend of Israel as will this government, and unfortunately as will even a Jeremy Corbyn-led government if the likes of Emily Thornberry are allowed to keep these ludicrous positions.
Acting unprofessionally is hardly a crisis that will bring the Tories down - blowing a big hole in their foreign policy and making a lot of noise about their role in allowing Israel to influence our politics will do damage (and will be of benefit to the Palestine solidarity movement and JC).
So don't stop talking about Palestine.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
More articles from this author
- The People's Assembly launch the Britain is Broken campaign
- End Foodbank Britain: General Election Now - Counterfire Freesheet December 2018
- Trump loses Congress, but the Democrats are not the winners
- Fast food workers fight back
- Uber strike: precarious workers fight back
- Cricklewood attack: it’s not terrorism if it’s Islamophobic
- Is Israel a racist endeavour?