As of Sunday morning, more than 170 Palestinians had been killed since Israel started bombing Gaza last Monday, including nearly 50 children.
The massive escalation in violence began with Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and its raids on the al-Aqsa mosque.
Nandy’s statements this week did not specify that Israel itself – and not merely settler extremists – is violently expelling Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem – solely and exclusively because they are not Jewish.As usual from British politicians, even Nandy’s timid, qualified and artificially balanced condemnation of some Israeli actions was toothless.
Nandy urged Israel to take unspecified “steps” to “defuse the growing tensions” in Jerusalem – as if the state were some sort of neutral arbiter between extremists on “both sides” instead of the violent oppressor that it is.
But the letter only called for the government to “assess” the use of “exported arms and equipment in this conflict” and for a report to Parliament to examine arms licenses. There was no concrete demand to end the arms trade with Israel.
In 2010, a review by the then Labour foreign minister David Miliband found that UK-made arms had “almost certainly” been used in Israel’s 2008-2009 “Cast Lead” bombing campaign against Gaza.
But British military ties to Israel have only increased since then.
Nandy may also be feeling pressure as more than 275,000 people have in recent days signed a petition at the UK Parliament website calling for sanctions against Israel.
In fact what has been happening in Jerusalem is nothing less than state-led ethnic cleansing to remove one community, Palestinians, while replacing them with another – Jewish Israelis.
While it is true that the Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian homes in this manner can accurately be described as Jewish extremists, the more salient point is that their actions are supported by the Israeli government, courts, police and military.
Neither Nandy nor her Wigan constituency office responded to The Electronic Intifada’s requests for comment.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada on Friday, Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal responded to Nandy’s comments. “You cannot be an honest broker between those practicing apartheid and their victims,” he said.
Last month in an interview with anti-Palestinian newspaper the Jewish News, Nandy claimed that “a future Labour government” could play an “honest broker role in the Middle East.”
Serving Israeli apartheid
Jamal countered that “the moral responsibility is not to be complicit with apartheid. The Labour Party needs to commit itself clearly to ending the two-way arms trade” with Israel.
Huda Ammori of Palestine Action told The Electronic Intifada that Nandy’s statement was “extremely misleading and it only serves to support Israel’s apartheid regime and not to support the Palestinian people.”
“There has to be an immediate arms embargo,” Ammori added. “Israel has to be sanctioned.”
Unlike when Lisa Nandy has condemned other states, her statements this week about Israeli crimes made no concrete demands on Israel and called for no consequences.
The UK already sanctions the Palestinian “side.”
It is already illegal for British citizens to arm or fund Palestinian or Lebanese resistance organizations.
British law is so draconian that even to “express an opinion or belief that is supportive of a proscribed organization” can be a criminal offense.
Even waving the Hizballah flag – the political party which is also the leader of Lebanon’s armed resistance to Israel – is now illegal in Britain.Since becoming Labour’s shadow foreign minister under right-wing leader Keir Starmer last year, Nandy has vocally attacked countries considered official enemies by British and American political elites – especially China and Russia.
She has echoed hardline anti-China positions promoted by US-backed propaganda organizations that are pushing for a new Cold War, including dubious and debunked claims regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province
She has promoted widely disseminated but unproven allegations that one million Uyghurs are incarcerated in re-education camps, or that many are subjected to forced sterilization.
Nandy also spread disinformation about supposed Russian interference in British elections while she was trying to suppress criticism of the well-documented interference by Israel and its proxies in the British democratic process.
Israel and its lobby groups have played a leading role in the “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign which successfully targeted former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.She has called for sanctions on China over both Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Yet the Labour “opposition” still cannot bring itself to demand even the mildest sanctions against Israel. Nandy’s posturing about alleged crimes on “both sides” is just the latest example of that.
Nandy’s position represents a step backwards from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, under which the Labour Party’s 2019 election manifesto – despite incessant smears about “anti-Semitism” – finally promised to suspend arms sales to Israel.
Most of the responses on Twitter to Nandy’s embarrassingly equivocal posts were highly critical.
They called her out for suggesting an equivalence between the oppressed and the oppressor, between the Palestinians resisting expulsion and destruction on one hand, and on the other, the Israeli state demanding the “right” to expel people for being the “wrong” religion or ethnicity.And several commentators also accused her of hypocrisy, re-posting a clip of her talking to a BBC news program early last year when she was running in the contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader. In the clip she stated that it is “anti-Semitic” to call on Israel lobby group the Board of Deputies of British Jews to “condemn all Israeli military atrocities in the West Bank.”
By her own standards, her critics say, she is therefore guilty of “anti-Semitism” – even for her equivocal condemnation of “both sides.”
Nandy’s BBC questioner in the clip was attacking Rachel Cousins, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn activist behind the popular @Rachel_Swindon Twitter account.Cousins told The Electronic Intifada that Nandy’s smear targeting her on national television had led to a sustained harassment campaign against her online last year, forcing her to mute her Twitter mentions for two days.
“Nandy has proven to be an utter hypocrite,” Cousins said. “She went on television and declared it was anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli atrocities, yet did exactly the same thing herself, although let’s be honest, it was hardly a blistering criticism.”
Nandy did not reply to requests for comment.
Nandy is the former leader of a seemingly moribund group called Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, or LFPME.
Yet she was one of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent critics, and enthusiastically took part in the “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign targeting him.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada soon after the group appointed Nandy as chair, LFPME spokesperson Shazia Arshad defended the Labour lawmaker, claiming she was “a long standing champion of Palestinian rights and campaigns.”
This is despite how Nandy has vocally opposed BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
“We want to focus on the Palestinian conversation and voices and that’s what we will continue to do,” said Arshad. Nandy is not Palestinian.
Enemy of BDS
BDS is a minimal ask, which demands that governments and institutions end their involvement with Israeli occupation, apartheid and war crimes.
Yet speaking at an event organized last year by Israel lobby group the Jewish Labour Movement, Nandy said she had “never” been a supporter of BDS as it “pushes people away instead of bringing people together.”
During the leadership election campaign to replace Corbyn last year, Nandy told an event jointly organized by Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement that Corbyn had made an “anti-Semitic” statement by defending Palestinians.
In 2018, Corbyn had stated that it should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact” on Palestinians.
All four leadership candidates at the February 2020 Israel lobby event agreed that the blandly factual statement was anti-Semitic – but Nandy had appeared most eager to smear Corbyn.
After she was appointed shadow foreign secretary under Keir Starmer’s new right-wing Labour leadership, Labour Friends of Palestine quietly dropped her as its chair, replacing her with Julie Elliott, an obscure Labour MP.
During Nandy’s tenure, the group withered.
Aside from the announcement of Elliott’s appointment and a single blog post arguing for the recognition of the Israeli-backed Palestinian Authority as the “state of Palestine,” its website appears not to have been updated since 2018, when Nandy was first appointed.
Arshad defended the group’s record, claiming, “We continue to work with MPs” to “raise awareness of the situation on the ground in Palestine. We’re run entirely by volunteers.”
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn – now exiled from the Labour benches in Parliament by Starmer – returned to the role he had before he became Labour leader: spearheading protests against Israeli war crimes.