by Yvonne Ridley, Days of Palestine
This has not been a good week for Israel, especially in Britain, where the Zionist lobbyists have spent millions in recent years oiling the cogs in Westminster to persuade politicians of all stripes to give their unconditional support to their favourite state. It has worked rather well for them, with Labour Party leaders like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband joining their counterparts in the Tory Party as â€śFriends of Israelâ€ť along with the majority of their ministers and shadow ministers.
However, after this weekâ€™s triumphant Labour Party conference in Brighton it looks as if the pro-Israel lobby has lost its grip on the party led by Jeremy Corbyn. If anyone had any doubt that the Zionist influence has all but gone, it was dispelled by the Labour leaderâ€™s speech.
â€śAnd letâ€™s give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion and move to a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict,â€ť Corbyn roared. â€śBritainâ€™s voice needs to be heard independently in the world,â€ť he added to cheers from around the conference hall. As if to reinforce that this was not some sentence thrown in at random, Corbyn fired a warning shot to Israelâ€™s greatest friends in Washington for good measure: â€śWe must be a candid friend to the United States, now more than ever.â€ť
There was also a Corbyn broadside aimed at the President of the United States: â€śThe values we share are not served by building walls, banning immigrants on the basis of religion, polluting the planet, or pandering to racism. And let me say frankly, the speech made by the US President to the United Nations last week was deeply disturbing. It threatened war and talked of tearing up international agreements. Devoid of concern for human rights or universal values, it was not the speech of a world leader.â€ť
Clearly relishing his time in the spotlight, Corbyn rubbed salt into the wound. â€śOur government has a responsibility,â€ť he pointed out. â€śIt cannot meekly go along with this dangerous course. If the special relationship means anything, it must mean that we can say to Washington: that way is the wrong way. Thatâ€™s clearly whatâ€™s needed in the case of Bombardier where thousands of jobs are now at stake. A Prime Minister betting our economic future on a deregulated trade deal with the US might want to explain how 220 per cent tariffs are going to boost our exports. So let Britainâ€™s voice be heard loud and clear for peace, justice and cooperation.â€ť
Corbynâ€™s message will be especially well-received in Northern Ireland, where 4,500 jobs are under threat after it emerged that a ruling on punitive tariffs by the US plunged the Canadian-owned Bombardier Inc. into crisis after threatening to make its key C Series jet all but unsellable.
It was sensational stuff. A shot in the arm for Palestine, a slap in the face to the US and lots of talk of peace and justice from a political leader who is no longer the butt of jokes or political satire. Like it or not, Labour is a party ready to take office; in a climate where Britainâ€™s current Prime Minister is hanging on to her job by a thread, some political observers are already talking about â€śwhenâ€ť Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, and not â€śifâ€ť.
One can only guess what Australian-born Mark Regev makes of it all. He might even tear down his anti-BDS war room charts in Israelâ€™s London Embassy now and focus instead on how to stop Labour from forming the next British government. The Israeli Ambassador was left reeling after being snubbed publicly by Corbyn this week, so his aides could well have been reaching for the smelling salts when the Labour leader pledged to give â€śreal supportâ€ť to Palestine. To add to the ambassadorâ€™s misery, that particular comment brought the loudest cheers and applause from the audience.
Regev, clinging to the comfort blanket of victimhood that he keeps to hand in case of emergency, condemned what he alleged was â€śanti-Jewish bigotryâ€ť at the Labour conference after Jeremy Corbyn didnâ€™t show up at a pro-Israel reception. He made his claim at a Labour Friends of Israel event, where those present shouted â€śwhere is he?â€ť and â€śwhy isnâ€™t he here?â€ť when it was revealed that Mr Corbyn would not be appearing alongside the former spin-doctor who sought to justify the killing of children, women and men when he was Benjamin Netanyahuâ€™s mouthpiece during successive Israeli military offensives against civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry told the pro-Israel gathering that the Labour leader was â€śnot attending any of these receptionsâ€ť on Tuesday night in order to prepare for his keynote conference speech on Wednesday. However, photographs later emerged showing that Corbyn had turned up at aÂ Daily MirrorÂ party, where shadow ministers were in karaoke mood.
â€śThe Labour movement has a proud history of supporting Zionism,â€ť said Regev. â€śSo to those who called for the expulsion of Zionists from the Labour Party on Monday, I ask, would you have expelled some of Labourâ€™s greatest luminaries too?â€ť The ambassador was clearly rattled by the humiliating snub.
Thornberry insisted that Labour is â€ścompletely committedâ€ť to a two-state solution in the Middle East. She added, pointedly, that it is â€ścompletely inappropriate for those on the fringes of the Labour Party, on the fringes of this conference, to try to strangle that debate.â€ť In a written statement to the pro-Israel reception, Corbyn said, â€śLabour will continue to campaign for peace through a two-state solution, a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable Palestinian state. I look forward to working with you all to achieve that together.â€ť
The powerful leader of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, is a close ally of Corbyn. He claimed later that allegations of anti-Jewish sentiment within the party are â€śmood musicâ€ť created by those wanting to â€śundermineâ€ť the Labour leader.
To add to the misery of Regev and his lobbyists, it was announced on Wednesday that Interpol is to admit Palestine as a member of the International Police Organisation, despite Israelâ€™s strong opposition to the Palestinian Authority joining any international body, arguing that it is not a state. The last time that the PA applied to join Interpol was last year, in Indonesia, where Israelâ€™s lobbying paid off when the application was rejected.
This time, though, the Zionist state hasnâ€™t been so lucky, and the PA may well use its membership of Interpol to have â€śred noticesâ€ť issued against senior Israeli officials, something that Israel dreads. Interpol itself doesnâ€™t issue arrest warrants â€” its members do that â€” but a red notice is a trigger which would make overseas travel very difficult for those Israelis suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Benjamin Netanyahu cheered last year and gloated that his countryâ€™s diplomats had secured a major victory in denying the PA Interpol membership. What will he make of the announcement today? And, indeed, the news from the Labour Party conference? Alarm bells must be ringing.
Nevertheless, Regev and Netanyahu can at least reassure themselves that the pro-Israel lobby is alive and well within the ranks of Tory MPs, and no doubt Prime Minister Theresa May will reassure Tel Aviv of this during the Conservative Party conference next week. Such reassurances from a lame duck PM and a government declining in popularity, though, will be cold comfort to the wounded Israelis. Not only are they losing their friends in one party, but those in the other are losing their influence. Dark days ahead, then, which means a ray of hope for the beleaguered people of Palestine as the pro-Israel lobby loses its grip on Westminster.
Yvonne Ridley is an author, famous journalist and film-maker Yvonne is a committed peace activist, champion of civil liberties and advocate for womenâ€™s rights. She was on the first international flotilla to sail to Gaza in 2008.
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