Ed Miliband defends Labour stance on Gaza conflict


Anti-boycott campaigners have expressed their relief after delegates at the Labour Party conference failed to move any motions against Israel.

There had been fears that anti-Israel measures could be adopted by party supporters gathering in Manchester.

Local Labour branches and trades union activists had submitted Israel-related motions for consideration at a policy forum ahead of the conference. They included calls for the party to endorse a boycott.

But party leaders opposed activists’ use of emergency procedures to reject any motions being tabled.

Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber said: “Delegates have made clear that there’s no appetite for divisive debates on the Middle East. The party has consistently made clear its opposition to calls for boycotts of Israel.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke at a Friends of Palestine fringe meeting on Monday and said he was “absolutely clear” that his tough stance on Israel’s operation in Gaza had been correct. He had called it “wrong and unjustifiable” in August and attacked David Cameron for not criticising Israel.

“I hope you recognise this is the approach we will take to foreign policy going forward — speaking without fear or favour,” he said.

Mr Miliband praised Grahame Morris MP, the Friends chairman, who was forced to apologise earlier this year for seeming to compare Israel to the Nazis.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander used his conference speech on Monday to again attack Mr Cameron’s stance on Gaza. Mr Alexander said Labour had “condemned not only the Hamas rockets but the Israeli incursion into Gaza”.

Labour Friends of Palestine held a packed session on Monday afternoon. Palestinian lawyer and former PLO spokeswoman Diana Buttu said it was “time we called for a complete boycott and Israel’s complete international isolation”.

The Holocaust Educational Trust held a session on Monday evening with Shoah survivor Ziggy Shipper interviewed by Guardian correspondent Nicholas Watt.

Knesset member Omer Bar-Lev was the guest of honour at a gala dinner held by Labour Friends of Israel.

Mr Miliband is due to speak at Labour Friends of Israel’s main fringe event on Tuesday evening.

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