Labour conference votes for freeze of arms sales to Israel

Delegates at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool today voted to support a freeze on arms sales to Israel after debating a motion on Palestine for the first time in….

Delegates at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool today voted to support a freeze on arms sales to Israel after debating a motion on Palestine for the first time in living memory.

During the moving of the motion in the afternoon the conference floor became a sea of flags as delegates showed their support for Palestinians.

The unprecedented motion noted that that “the majority of Palestinian people were forcibly displaced from their homes” during the Nakba and condemned the “aggressive attempt to rewrite history and erase the victims of the 1948 war” [1].

It called for an “independent international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators”, an “immediate and unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza” and “a freeze of UK Government arms sales to Israel” [2].

Israel has killed over 170 Palestinians in Gaza since weekly ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations began on 30 March [3].

The motion noted that amongst those killed during the Palestinian protests of recent months are paramedics, journalists, women and children, while than half of the injured were hit with live fire by snipers as they approached the border with Israel.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Chair Hugh Lanning said: “We have witnessed extraordinary scenes of solidarity today and the Labour Party has done the right thing by recognising the longstanding injustice of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.

This is an important step forward in building solidarity with Palestinians within Labour and we hope the leadership will listen to the will of the party on this issue.”

PSC handed out more than a thousand Palestinian flags at conference on Tuesday morning. In remarkable scenes, many hundreds of delegates stood and waved their flags inside the conference hall when the motion was debated and chants of “Free Palestine!” were clearly heard.

PSC director Ben Jamal said: “This incredible show of support and this historic motion demonstrate the strength of feeling at the grassroots of the party. Labour members want to show real solidarity with Palestinians.

Given Israel’s continuing use of live fire to kill unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, it is no surprise that there’s clear support for an immediate freeze of arms sales to Israel.”

The motion – moved by Harlow Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and seconded by Wolverhampton South West CLP – is the first to be heard at conference on Palestine in many years.

Palestine was put forward as the fourth most important issue by CLPs in the priorities ballot, after housing, the schools’ system and “justice for the Windrush generation” and above Brexit, the NHS, climate change and social care.

On Twitter, delegates posted pictures of conference hall calling the sea of Palestinian flags “emotional”, “historic” and “moving”.


Notes for Editors
[1] The Nakba – meaning ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic – is the Palestinian name for the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 following the creation of the state of Israel. Palestinians today constitute the largest refugee population in the world and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was created specifically to provide them humanitarian assistance. At the end of August, Donald Trump announced that the US government would stop funding UNRWA in a move slammed by critics as an attack on refugees and their right of return.

[2] Since 2014, the UK government has approved licences for exports to Israel of arms and other military technology worth more than £500 million, including components for aircraft missiles, drones and sniper rifles. According to the UK government’s own criteria, licences should not be granted where there is a risk the arms will be used for repression and human rights abuses but the Conservative government has refused to suspend arms sales to Israel. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said a Labour government would review arms sales to Israel.

[3] The Gaza Strip – where approximately 1.8 million Palestinians, mostly refugees, live – has been held under an illegal siege by Israel since 2006. The Great March of Return demonstrations which have taken place weekly on Fridays since 30 March has seen many thousands of Palestinians in Gaza march towards the border with Israel protesting Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and calling for the right to return to their homes.