Labour votes for Palestinian right to return

Delegates wave Palestinian flags at Labour’s annual conference in 2018.

Asa Winstanley

Labour delegates voted overwhelmingly to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland at the UK opposition party’s annual conference on Monday.

The historic motion opposes any proposed “solution” for Palestinians not based on international law, including their right “to return to their homes.”

It also reaffirms the party’s relatively new commitment to end all arms sales to Israel.

A motion passed last year calls for a Labour government to “freeze” arms sales to Israel. The motion passed on Monday calls for the party to end “any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign stated that the motion commits the party to ending the UK’s financial and military complicity with Israel’s oppression.

“Labour Party members have said in one voice to the Palestinian people – we stand with you in your fight for justice,” PSC director Ben Jamal stated.

“What is required now is for this crucial motion, passed overwhelmingly by members, to be translated into official party policy as we move towards the next general election.”

An election is expected within months.

A Labour government must “adhere to an ethical foreign policy” on trade with Israel, including ending any trade in arms used to violate Palestinians’ human rights, the motion passed on Monday states.

It also states that Labour “has a special responsibility to redress … ongoing injustices” due to colonial Britain’s role in the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.

Some 800,000 Palestinians were expelled by Zionist militias and later the Israeli army between 1947 and 1949. Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their right to return ever since.

British troops withdrew in 1948, giving the militias free rein, in some cases even aiding them first.

“Raise the pressure”

Britain’s trade union federation voted two weeks ago to recognize Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

The Trade Union Congress motion also calls for unions to “raise the pressure” on corporations complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinians, the Morning Star reported.

The Labour motion passed on Monday is a reversal of the position taken by the party in 1948, when it was in government in Britain.

The party went into the 1945 election with policy in place arguing for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. It stated that there was a necessity in Palestine “for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in.”

The party at the time even advocated “the possibility” of expanding the borders of the future Jewish state by annexing parts of Jordan, Egypt or Syria.

The biographer of Labour chancellor Hugh Dalton, who authored this policy, described his vision as “Zionism plus plus.”

An earlier draft later toned down in subcommittee advocated “throwing open Libya or Eritrea to Jewish settlement, as satellites or colonies to [Jewish] Palestine.”




Well, well, well! High bloody time. If you need support from Canadian non- or anti-Zionist Jews, you'll get it.
And I wonder: Asa Winstanley bears a historic surname. Any relation to Gerrard?


It’s regrettable that Labour members are still so straightjacketed by legalistic formulations about two nations and self-determination. How come they want to endorse a Jewish ‘right to self-determination’ on someone else’s land? Time to open a debate on support for Zionism and to start listening to the argument for a democratic state alongside progressive Jews and Palestinians


Erica, I agree with the sentiment in the second part of your post, but what part of the Labour Conference resolution are you referring to when you mention the "Jewish 'right to self-determination' on someone else's land"? There is nothing in the excerpt in Asa's article saying that.


Marvellous to see Asa reporting on this given the withdrawal by Labour of his press credentials. There needs to be an anti-pusillanimity campaign in the Labour Party. A little courage. A little steel. Face down the Zionists. They are wrong about everything.
Labour's sordid record must never be forgotten. There were some 100,000 British troops in Palestine when ethnic cleansing began. Labour's 1945 manifesto was racist. That has to be said. Yesterday's vote gives the Party the chance to redeem its historic mistake.
And what are those apparatchiks overseeing the suspension and expulsion of members for saying exactly what the conference has just voted for going to do? Is the Labour Party going to suspend the Labour Party? Is the Labour Party going to expel the Labour Party? That is the mad logic of the current witch hunt, and it is a witch hunt: by definition a witch hunt is a pursuit of witches who don't exist. The antisemites don't exist in the way the actions of the apparatchiks suggest. Chris Williamson is not an antisemite. He is someone who has been accused by Zionists. This is the context: accusation is guilt. The corollary is that the accusers are innocent. The accusers are victims. Jews were victims of the Nazis. Jews are victims of the far-right. Jews are victims of racism and religious bigotry. But the Zionists who established and who control the State of Israel aren't victims. Ben Gurion wasn't a victim. Jabotinsky wasn't a victim, he was a fascist. Moshe Dayan wasn't a victim, he was a brute. The Irgun weren't victims. The Hagana weren't victims. The Palmach weren't victims. Lehi weren't victims. Rabin wasn't a victim. Netanyahu isn't a victim. Where there is racism, there we will be, fighting for equality for all people, fighting against bigotry and hatred. That's why we fight the racism of the Israeli State, the racism of Zionism which has targeted not only Arabs but Jews who refuse to comply. That's why we support the right of return.


"And what are those apparatchiks overseeing the suspension and expulsion of members for saying exactly what the conference has just voted for going to do? Is the Labour Party going to suspend the Labour Party? Is the Labour Party going to expel the Labour Party?"

I'm reminded of Bertolt Brecht's brisk analysis- "“Some party hack decreed that the people had lost the government's confidence and could only regain it with redoubled effort. If that is the case, would it not be be simpler, if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?”

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).