Labour Party delegates voted to boycott Israeli goods and bind a future trade agreement with Israel to an ‘ethical policy’ at its annual conference in Brighton.
The resolution applies to all UK trade with Israel, specifically “by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians”.
The motion was passed overwhelmingly and followed a debate on foreign policy, dominated by Labour’s position on Brexit.
BICOM chief executive James Sorene slated the result.
“This attempt to introduce a boycott of Israeli goods and halt a post-Brexit trade agreement will result in thousands of lost jobs and livelihoods in Britain and Israel,” he said.
“British people do not support a boycott of Israel and find it hard to understand why other people do. Any policy that seeks to erode Britain-Israel relations will have a chilling effect not just on trade but also on vital defence and intelligence partnerships that protect our country.”
He added, “If the Labour party wants to try and help bring about a two-state solution it should develop some coherent policies, build strong relationships on both sides, deal with its anti-Semitism crisis and do the hard work on the ground to make a difference. Instead it opts for shallow and malicious rabble rousing because that plays well with the crowd.”
Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber said Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party was a home for anti-Jewish racists and Israel haters.
“It’s depressing but thoroughly unsurprising that Labour has today ended its decades old opposition to the extremist Israel boycott movement,” she commented. “Boycotts do nothing to bring about peace and are designed entirely to demonise Israel.
“With Corbyn now uniquely singling out the world’s only Jewish state for boycotts, it’s no wonder the Jewish community fears the prospect of him becoming Prime Minister.
“This is another dark day in the history of the Labour Party.”
Hove’s Ali Brumbie Bojang presented the motion, noting a two state solution was “meaningless” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election vow to annex part of the West Bank was “against international law”.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry in her keynote speech accused Netanyahu of “trying to turn Israel into an apartheid state”.
She also told a Labour Friends of Palestine and Middle East fringe meeting that a Labour government would recognise the State of Palestine and immediately review arms sales to Israel.
Labour’s leader brought forward his keynote speech after the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that parliament be prorogued for five weeks was unlawful.
During his address, Corbyn called for the Conservative leader to resign and a general election when a ‘No Deal’ Brexit was taken off the table.
In a wide-ranging speech, he criticised the British political and military establishment over the last two decades for making the wrong call on military intervention in the wider Middle East, spreading conflicts rather than settling them.
During conference it emerged suspended Labour activist Glyn Secker was behind an emergency motion against new disciplinary rules on anti-Semitism.
Though banned from the West Dulwich and Norwood Labour Party in May, the anti-Semitism denial group Jewish Voice of Labour secretary, who has previously stated that Jewish organisations are “in the gutter” and “part of the problem”, was able to attend conference and propose a motion as a member of the Lambeth and Southwark Unite Community union branch.
“It is extraordinary that a suspended Labour member is able to participate in proceedings, especially to propose a motion relating to anti-Semitism despite his record,” noted CAA. “This is yet another reminder of Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism and the total failure of its leadership to tackle the problem.
CAA reacted with contempt after Labour members gave a rapturous standing ovation to a speaker, Vanessa Stilwell, a JVL member and the wife of Secker, told the assembled plenary she had never witnessed anti-Semitism in the Party, denied it was a problem and insisted Corbyn is the “most anti-racist leader this Party has ever had”.
“The reaction of the audience reveals the depth of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis and illustrates why the Party has utterly failed to tackle Jew-hatred,” noted CAA. “It is yet more evidence of the institutional antisemitism of the Labour Party.”
Meanwhile, The Jewish Labour Movement vowed to continue the fight against anti-Semitism at a rally in Brighton’s Middle Street Synagogue.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan emphasised Labour’s inability to tackle anti-Jewish racism as it did other forms of discrimination.
JLM Parliamentary chair Ruth Smeeth expressed sadness former-JLM parliamentary chair Luciana Berger had been driven out of the party.
Dame Margaret Hodge said she would not give up until Corbyn ceased to be leader of the Party.
Two Labour members later confronted Mayor Khan questioning why he attended the JLM event, criticising him for mixing with “Zionists” and “Israeli Zionists” who sought to destabilise Labour and undermine its leader. They suggested he should have attended the JVL event.
London’s Khan conversed with the members, reportedly offering his viewpoint.
In other conference news, an anti-Semitic poster outside the venue was allowed to remain by police before officers changed removed it.
The poster, not officially connected to the Labour Party, depicted Netanyahu piloting a fighter jet labelled “the lobby” and yelling “antisemite! antisemite! antisemite!” at Labour leader Corbyn standing at a podium labelled “Palestinian rights”.
The fighter jet is shown having fired a missile labelled “defamation” at Corbyn.
Corbyn tweeted his disgust at the banner.
Joe Glasman, CAA Head of Political and Government Investigations dismissed Corbyn’s actions.
“It is not surprising that a poster claiming that Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis is an Israeli plot should appear outside Labour Party Conference, but it is disappointing that it took so long for it to be removed, despite complaints from passers-by.
“The reaction of the Labour Party is telling, it pays lip service to tackling antisemitism without asking why it attracts the purveyors of images such as these in the first place. Tweets from Jeremy Corbyn are not enough to reverse the institutional antisemitism that he has cultivated in his Party.
“More troubling still is that images such as these are standard fare on social media platforms and are used particularly by anonymous users. While they might be removed from the streets, on social media they are allowed to endure with no sanction.”
Meantime, a poll of Labour grassroots showed 66 percent of members believe the Party does not have a problem with anti-Semitism, only 23 percent acknowledged that it does and 10 percent said did not know.
As to causes of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis, 37 percent blame opponents of Labour leader Corbyn, 17 percent fault the media, 29 percent accused a minority of members with anti-Semitic views and only 13 percent implicated the Party leadership.
The poll found 56 percent of Labour members would oppose post-Brexit trade deals with Israel. And just 31 percent supported a trade deal with the Jewish State.
A CAA spokesperson said, “These poll results underscore just how severe Labour’s anti-Semitic crisis has become with the overwhelming majority of its members blind to the facts that the Party is institutionally anti-Semitic.”
Noting Labour’s leader had played a pivotal role in cultivating an environment for anti-Semitism to thrive,” they added, “Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis cannot be solved by those who created it.”
The Mainstream poll was founded by CAA honorary patron and Dudley North MP Ian Austin, who resigned from the Party over anti-Semitism.
Elsewhere, Waterstones in Brighton cancelled a fringe event to mark the launch of Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief scheduled for Monday.
The event was to feature the author of the book, conspiracy theorist Prof. David Miller of the University of Bristol.
Prof Miller has been the subject of complaints by students and Jewish communal bodies for deriding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as “mostly false”, condemning Ken Livingstone’s treatment by the Party as a “disgrace” and dismissing concerns about the safety of Jewish students on campus.
Controversial filmmaker, Ken Loach, was also expected to feature at the book launch.
The event was part of a schedule also featuring former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker and Chris Williamson MP.
“Antisemitism has become increasingly normalised in public life to the point where large numbers of British Jews are now seriously considering whether they have a future in this country,” commented Stephen Silerman, CAA Director of Investigations and Enforcement.
“We commend Waterstones for playing its part in reversing this trend by cancelling this event and refusing to legitimise the views of individuals who have contributed to it.”
Walker, repeatedly suspended by Labour, was expelled earlier this year.
Williamson was suspended, then readmitted, only to be resuspended following a public outcry after claiming Labour had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism.
Prior to conference, LFI announced unlike previous years it would not host a stand because of fears of anti-Semitic abuse.
In a statement, LFI cited the failure of Corbyn to do anything “to curb the ongoing abuse of Jewish party members.
They explained, “Our staff have faced incidents of anti-Semitism in previous years and, given that the situation appears to have further deteriorated, we do not feel it is responsible as an employer to put them in this environment.”
CAA commented, “Not only has Labour utterly failed to tackle anti-Semitism within the Party, but even those members and parliamentarians who are Jewish or associated in some way with Judaism or Israel do not feel assured of their own safety at the Party’s flagship event, the implication being that Labour has quite literally become an unsafe space for Jews.”