Labour would suspend arms to Israel

Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow cabinet launched Labour’s new manifesto on Thursday.

Empics PA Wire

The UK’s main opposition party has committed to suspending arms sales to Israel should it win 12 December’s general election.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his new manifesto on Thursday, saying it was “the most radical and ambitious plan to transform our country for decades.”

In its section on internationalism and diplomacy, it commits a Labour government to “immediately” suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The ban will apply to Saudi arms “for use in Yemen and to Israel for arms used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians.”

This will be part of a “root-and-branch reform of our arms exports regime so ministers can never again turn a blind eye to British-made weapons being used to target innocent civilians.”

You can read the manifesto in full below.

This new policy’s inclusion comes after long years of grassroots pressure from activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which culminated with resolutions at the last two Labour Party conferences.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director Ben Jamal told The Electronic Intifada that they welcomed the move as an important step.

But he said that “we need the Labour Party and all UK political parties to go further.” He said that Israel should be held “accountable for its violation of Palestinian rights, including by recognizing the illegality of Israeli settlements by implementing a ban on the import of settlement goods.”

Grassroots pressure

Resolutions were overwhelmingly passed by grassroots Labour delegates in 2018, and again earlier this year, calling for an end to British arms sales to Israel.

The new manifesto pledge incorporates elements of this year’s conference resolution.

However, unlike that resolution, it does not commit a Labour government to recognising the crimes of the 1948 Nakba, when some 800,000 Palestinians were expelled by the new Israeli army and its militia predecessors.

That resolution opposed any “solution” for Palestinians not based on international law, including their right “to return to their homes.”

No similar commitment is contained in the election manifesto.

Without specifically mentioning the British occupation of Palestine, the new manifesto does commit to “an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy,” including the violence of colonial rule.

It does not, much like 2017’s manifesto, make any explicit mention of the Palestinian right to return.

Instead it prevaricates between the alleged misdeeds of “all sides” and makes an equivalence between Palestinian armed resistance and the Israeli war crimes that triggered it in the first place – such as the violent Israeli colonization of the occupied West Bank.

However, unlike in 2017, this part of the new manifesto mentions the need for “justice and international law” to resolve the “conflict.”

Ever since he first ran for party leadership in 2015, Corbyn has been subjected to a torrent of manufacturted claims about an “anti-Semitism crisis” in Labour.

This has led him to watering down many of his previous positions, including explicit support for the BDS movement.

Historian and journalist Mark Curtis said that while the manifesto contained positive elements, much would depend on the detail of implementation.

He warned that Corbyn’s proposed reforms of British foreign policy, moderate as they are, were being challenged by vested party interests in order to “preserve Labour’s traditional imperialism.”

Updated to add Ben Jamal’s comments.

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The manifesto only proposes to ban arms sales to Israel where they would be used against Palestinians, similarly S/A and Yemen. The only way to ensure this is to ban ALL arms sales to Israel and S/A.

The manifesto also proposes a tough arms export control regime whilst giving full support to Britain's world-leading arms industry. Anyone smell a contradiction here?

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.