What Britain’s election means for Palestine

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn both want to become prime minister.


Britain faces a fateful choice on Thursday.

Vote Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party into government or return the Conservative Party’s Boris Johnson as prime minister.

The fate of the Palestinians, always shoved to the end of the line, has not been an issue with any kind of national profile in the course of this wretched election campaign.

In part, this is simply because as voters in Britain, we naturally have our own pressing domestic concerns – especially the gradual sell-off of the National Health Service.

But in large part it is also down to a four-year long witch hunt over a non-existent “Labour anti-Semitism crisis.”

This has made many sympathetic Labour politicians fearful to even discuss Palestine. They know the Israel lobby will immediately jump down their throats.

Jeremy Corbyn, a decades-long veteran of the Palestine solidarity movement, has cowered before this relentless smear campaign.


But the Israel lobby has not had things all its own way.

Grassroots activists have fought back and the Labour Party has been dragged – kicking and screaming – into the movement for justice in Palestine.

The contrast between Corbyn’s Labour and Johnson’s Tories on the issue is stark.

Corbyn, after all, is the man who told me in a 2015 interview that Palestinian refugees “deserve their right to return home.”

Despite the fact that this is a simple expression of international law as embodied in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, it is unprecedented for any major British party leader to support the Palestinian right of return.

Corbyn’s recognition of the Nakba – the central crime of Zionism in 1948, when the majority of Palestinians were expelled at the barrel of a gun from their homeland – was finally cemented in Labour Party policy earlier this year.

After a long grassroots struggle, delegates at the party’s conference voted almost unanimously to recognize this crime done under the auspices of British imperialism – and to support the right of return.

Only five years ago, that would have been impossible to even imagine.

The same delegates also voted for Labour to impose an arms embargo on Israel. This was the second year running the conference had endorsed this key demand of the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

While the call to recognize the Palestinian right of return has not yet been translated into policy, this year’s election manifesto does contain a commitment to end British arms sales to Israel and to Saudi Arabia.


The Conservative manifesto is the polar opposite.

It contains a threat to ban local authorities from boycotting foreign countries – a move clearly aimed at protecting Israel.

In contrast to Labour’s call for the right of return, Conservative leader Boris Johnson has called Israel’s foundation – and by implication the Nakba – “one of the most stunning political achievements” of the 20th century.

When Johnson was foreign minister in 2017, an undercover Al Jazeera investigation exposed the depths of Israeli interference in both main British political parties.

But although Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot had been caught on camera mocking him as an “idiot,” Johnson rushed to help the Israelis cover-up the affair. He swiftly accepted an insincere apology by the Israeli embassy and declared the matter closed.

Should Johnson win this election his home affairs minister will almost certainly be the incumbent, Priti Patel.

In 2017, Patel was forced to resign as a government minister, after a national scandal broke out over secret meetings she had held with Israelis.

Currying favor with Israel

Supposedly part of a “holiday” in Israel, she had actually discussed British policy towards the country during those meetings with ministers, business leaders and lobbyists.

Since they were not properly arranged by her governmental department, or attended by civil servants, the meetings were deemed to be in violation of ministerial rules. This led to her forced resignation.

But Johnson brushed all this under the carpet earlier this year when he took over the party, rehabilitating her as his new home secretary.

It is worth remembering what Patel was actually up to in Israel.

Her meetings were arranged by Stuart Polak, a member of Britain’s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords. He is a leading figure in Conservative Friends of Israel, a pressure group within the ruling party.

Government ministers at the time “accused Ms. Patel of trying to win favor with wealthy pro-Israeli Conservative donors,” according to the BBC.

One of her meetings was with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister in charge of Israel’s semi-covert global war against the BDS movement.

The choice is clear

There’s no guarantee that if Labour wins on Thursday it will actually enact the arms embargo against Israel.

But at least there is party policy in place that can be used by activists to keep demanding the ban.

With the Conservatives back in government, there would instead be a guarantee that British ties with Israel and persecution of the Palestine solidarity movement will ramp up.

The choice for British voters who care about human rights in Palestine is clear.




It's impossible to exaggerate how central the issue of Israel/Palestine is. As Noam Chomsky has said, he was abused over Vietnam and race, but Israel is unique. Why? Because the essential justification for the State of Israel is that god gave the land to Abraham 3,500 years ago. In other words, messianic entitlement, genetic entitlement. This is the deeply reactionary view which assists the power of the wealthy across the globe. It is racist and it proposes that some people are simply genetically superior and therefore entitled. The obvious incompatibility with democracy doesn't prevent ostensible defenders of democracy from implicitly or explicitly upholding this position. Johnson loves Israel because it is an example of raw injustice. It is the international equivalent of his smashing up of restaurants. It is a justification of the superior having the right to land, property, wealth and the lives of the rest. If the Palestinians are allowed to exercise their right of return it will be a message to the world that the rule of law must prevail, that might cannot be permitted to be right, that international law is essential to world justice. That would be very bad news for the rich. There has been a fierce defence of billionaires in the British media, all 150 of them in the UK. Wanting to be a billionaire is said to be "aspirational". Adam Smith called the pursuit of personal wealth "a delusion". The ambition to be a billionaire is demented. The ambition to be a nurse or a policeman is rational. The world's billionaires have more power than billions of voters. What is at stake is democracy. That is why ensuring Johnson is scuppered is so important. He is a racist, a snob, a liar, a plutocrat, a sexist. His opposition to BDS is support for oppression and Zionist racism.


I totally agree with your analysis. What you say about B.J. is spot on. He is a chancer who jumped on the Brexit bus because he saw it as his chance to come to power. It seems to me we are in for closer trade and diplomatic ties with the zionist state. Perhaps one goal of Brexit was to overcome the BDS movement.


So, horrifying, appalling and depressing as it is, the Trump of Britain has won in a landslide. What now? I expect that supporting BDS or anything pro-Palestinian will now be demonised even more than it already is. It seems likely that the regressive Tory govt will now recognise Jeruslaem and other annexed parts of Palestine as irrevocably Israeli and that the Labour party will feel compelled to follow suit and drop any pro-Palestine actions, policies and rhetoric. Would you agree and what advice do you have that we can do to push back against this? Is there now any hope? Did anything good for Palestine come from this British election? What can and should we - supporters of Palestinian rights - do?

PS. Should we now argue simply that the Palestinians demand full equality inside Israel as citizens of that country including voting rights? Should we give up on the two state solution as it seems virtually impossible to now institute in anything other than some sort of bantustan or "8 state solution/ Palestinian emirates" type scenario?


This reminded me so much of Mr. Johnson during the election:
"They answered questions with meaningless noises or enigmatic gestures. Or they gave the same answer to different questions or mutually contradictory answers to the same questions, or no answer at all."( Truth: A Guide For The Perplexed by F. Fernandez-Armesto).
BoJo and his minions ducked, dived, ran and hid from answering questions that might have forced them to come out with the truth. Instead they lied and spread prejudices to put fear into people. The man of principles, who had the courage of his convictions, was smeared by the zionist lobby. The man with no convictions, and certainly no courage, was held out to be the saviour of Brexit and trade deals with the zionist state.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).