Over the past decade the situation for the Palestinians has gone from bad to worse.
Continued occupation, continued settlement expansion in the West Bank, no end to the conflict, the US moving their embassy to Jerusalem (undermining the widely held view that Jerusalem should be shared as a city after a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians) and now Trump has pledged to withdraw all US funding for the UN’s refugee agency for Palestinians UNWRA, while also closing down the PLO’s offices in Washington DC.
But the election of a Labour government in Britain could be some small boost for the Palestinians but only if Labour are serious about being allies to both the Palestinians and the Israeli left and working class.
Corbyn has made many mistakes on the Israel-Palestine conflict during his political career (who can forget warm attitudes to leaders Hamas and Hezbollah?) However his long-term support for the rights of the Palestinian people and support for a two-state settlement should be recognised.
And it is good that Corbyn has stated that a Labour government would officially recognise the State of Palestine, joining countries like Sweden and Colombia who have done the same over the past few years. Given how the Palestinians see themselves as having fewer and fewer allies in their continued struggle for freedom and independence, to see the former colonial power in the region recognise their statehood would surely be a powerful symbolic move.
The Israeli right have gained political prestige from symbolic moves from their allies. Netanyahu, who increasingly sees groups like the EU as his geo-political opponents, has worked hard to foster alliances with far-right and nationalist politicians from Viktor Orban in Hungary to Donald Trump in America. That is just another reason why a left-wing Labour government must work hard to ally with progressive forces in Israel, as well as in Palestine, given how increasingly beleaguered and marginalised those forces are.
This means going beyond a traditional Labour alliance with the increasingly left-wing-in-name-only Israeli Labour Party. Better to work with parties like Meretz (a fellow member of the Socialist International), whose MKs are far more outspoken about talking to the Palestinians and achieving a two-state settlement, and the Joint List, most of whose MKs are Arabs and increasingly spend much of their time fighting against the racist and undemocratic policies of the Netanyahu government.
From social movements like “Standing Together” to working-class organisations like Wac-Ma’an, Labour could easily make closer links with organisations fighting not just against the occupation but for more workers’ rights and democratic rights in the state of Israel.
But a British government under Corbyn’s Labour could do even more to put an end to the conflict and to further the rights of the Palestinians.
They could push for aid to replace the aid lost by Trump’s cruel and vindictive withdrawal of funding.
They could push for more talks between Israeli left-wing MKs and Palestinian representatives.
They could insist on an arms embargo until Israel made minimal moves to end the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.
A generalised boycott of Israel would be unlikely to achieve much to end the conflict. It may even play into the hands of the Israeli right-wing and the siege mentality they sell to the Israeli population. However an end to arm sales to Israel as long as Israel spends so much of its military capability on continuing a wholly unjust occupation of land inhabited by people with no real self-determination, would surely be just.
The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be ended except by Israeli and Palestinian workers themselves, when united under a programme of ending the occupation and mutual recognition of national rights. But a Labour government in Britain should be there as a radical ally to progressive forces advocating, unity, an end to the occupation and two states for the two peoples.