At the Labour Party’s annual conference on Monday night, in a landmark vote the party voted by a huge majority to support the Palestinian right to return. The right to return for Palestinians remains one of the strongest principles in Palestinian rights, which calls for the right for all Palestinians to have the full right to return to their homeland in both occupied Palestine as well as the areas under modern-Israeli rule.
Between 1947 and 1949, more than 800,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homeland by Zionist militias and the Israeli army, with the withdraw of British troops in 1948 giving full reign to the abuses that went on under control of the Zionist extremists. Those Palestinians, in addition to those who have fled since, have been denied the right to return to Palestine by the Israeli government since, which many have called a blatant violation of human rights.
The motion passed by the Labour Party opposes any solution that is not based on the internationally recognized right for Palestinians to return to their homes, with delegates also backing a boycott of Israeli settlement goods and trade deals with Israel. These landmark decisions were greeted with celebration at the party conference, with many erupting into cheers while waving Palestinian flags.
Labour also affirmed once more its commitment towards halting the sale of UK arms used by Israel against innocent civilians in Gaza as well as by Saudi Arabia in their unethical war in Yemen. The shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the conference:
[Labour] will conduct a root and branch reform of our arms export regime to ensure that never again can ministers turn a blind eye when British made weapons are being used to kill innocent children.”
The sales of UK weapons to Israel have increased despite Israel’s recent crackdown in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 250 innocent Palestinians since March of 2018. In addition to this, more than half of UK arms sales go straight to Saudi Arabia, whose war in Yemen is being called by human rights groups as one of the most horrifying humanitarian disasters of modern history.
Thornberry also critisized US President Trump’s support of Israeli Prime Minster Natanyahu, who according to Thornberry is moving “to turn Israel into an apartheid state”. Speaking to Trump, she asked: “How can you lead the free world when you are actively supporting the suppression and annexation of Palestine?” Going on to speak about the UK government’s lack of response to Saudi Arabia’s abuse of human rights, she stated in front of the conference members:
Next week as Boris Johnson makes his conference speech it will be exactly one year since Jamal Khashoggi was butchered inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Twelve [months] on and still they [the UK government] will not say who they think is responsible. I asked the question last year why on earth are they [the UK government] rolling out the red carpet for bin Salman. Well, now we know why. It was the only way to cover up the blood that is dripping from his hands from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen.”
Despite both the CIA and a UN investigation finding Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman personally responsible for the murder of journalist Khashoggi, the UK government is still turning a blind eye to abusive governments such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. While yesterday’s Labour Party conference showed immense support for the Palestinian cause, it still remains to be seen whether these encouraging words and votes will turn into action, as the Palestinians both at home and abroad continue to suffer under Israel’s apartheid regime.