Socialist Worker

Labour Leadership continues to show that criticism of Israel will not be tolerated

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2728

Stephen Kinnock

Stephen Kinnock (Pic: Wikimedia/Rwendland)


The Labour Party leadership has told off MP Stephen Kinnock for making a speech criticising Israel, according to reports.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy is said to have given Kinnock a “dressing down” for his speech in parliament earlier this year.

It comes as the result of an investigation into Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations—likely to further stifle criticism of Israel—is set to be published.

In a debate in parliament in September, Kinnock criticised Israel for building settlements on Palestinian land. He also called for a ban on products made in Israeli settlements, which he said were “tantamount to profiting from the proceeds of crime”.

The speech infuriated supporters of Israel, who claimed Kinnock had unfairly singled it out for criticism.

Occupation

The Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Throughout the occupation Israel has built large town-like settlements for its citizens to live in.

Israel’s soldiers, checkpoints, closed military zones and Israeli-only roads surround the settlements and help to make life a misery for Palestinians.

Kinnock correctly pointed out that such settlements break international law and “cause violence on a daily basis.” He also described settlement building as “creeping annexation” of Palestinian land, and called for Britain to stop trading with settlement-based businesses.

He began his speech with a lengthy passage opposing violence on “both sides” and criticising other countries, in order to show “balance”.

If he’d made it at a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign—backed by many trade unions and Labour MPs—it would have stood out for being mild.

Yet Nandy and Labour leader Keir Starmer were said to have been “infuriated” with the “tone” of Kinnock’s speech.

Fight the claim that the left is antisemitic 
Fight the claim that the left is antisemitic 
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They see clamping down on criticism of Israel as central to proving Labour is dealing with alleged antisemitism among party members.

Supporters of Israel have long argued that it is antisemitic to “single out” Israel for criticism, or to call Israel racist for excluding Palestinians. Such accusations were used to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters during his leadership of the party.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into Labour’s handling of antisemitism accusations was rumoured to be set for publication this week.

Labour has had a copy of the report since June. Using a definition of antisemitism that severely limits criticism of Israel, it is expected to include an “action plan” for Labour to follow.

Labour has also banned party members from debating the definition.

As a right wing MP, Kinnock got off lightly. Starmer sacked left wing Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey from his shadow cabinet in June after she shared an article with a passing criticism of Israel.

The treatment of Kinnock shows that any criticism of Israel—and solidarity with Palestinians—won’t be tolerated in the Labour Party.


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