Former Israeli negotiator Daniel Levy tells Expo event antisemitism 'weaponised' to silence Palestinian struggle

Labour peer Lord Levy's son joined speakers including Jeremy Corbyn at the Palestine Expo conference last weekend


Former Israeli negotiator Daniel Levy has told the annual Palestine Expo conference that “the accusation of antisemitism is being weaponised and abused and used illegitimately to try to silence Palestinian political consciousness and a Palestinian struggle for justice”.

Mr Levy - son of the Labour peer Lord Levy and an ex-Haberdashers’ Aske's Boys’ School pupil - told last weekend's two-day long virtual event, organised by the anti-Zionist Friends of Al Aqsa (FoA) group, that false allegations of antisemitism were “doing ill to Jews” and the “Israeli Jewish public”.

Another keynote speaker at the Palestinian cultural festival - which has previously come under scrutiny from the British government over allegations of support for Hamas - attempted to connect the death of George Floyd in America and the Black Lives Matter movement to the fight against “Zionism.. a worldwide system of settler colonialism”.

Sanyika Bryant, from the American Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, falsely told the conference that a ship from Israel, which was prevented from docking at a port in Oakland, California in 2014, had been “carrying weapons which would have been used by local law enforcement agencies across the country to contribute to the genocide of my people here”.

Meanwhile in a low-key speech at the virtual event, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu's West Bank annexation plans and said refugees currently residing in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere had a “fundamental right of return” to “go back” to live in Israel.

Mr Levy, a former special adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the current president of the Middle East Project organisation, took part in a panel discussion on Sunday led by Kamel Hawwash, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, entitled 'Resisting Annexation'.

He suggested worldwide concern over possible annexation was misplaced with some believing that “somehow it would all be OK if annexation didn't happen”.  

Mr Levy said annexation was the “symptom not the cause of something bigger - the ongoing disaster and tragedy for the Palestinians which does a great disservice to Jews around the world”.

The former World Union of Jewish Students chair then spoke of the “particular importance and potency to building alliances with progressive Jewish communities”.

He said that “given how the accusation of antisemitism - which does exist - but it is being weaponised and abused and used illegitimately to try to silence Palestinian political consciousness and a Palestinian struggle for justice - that is something doing ill to Jews and to even the Israeli Jewish public”.

Refusing to rule out supporting a one-state solution, Mr Levy said: “If it is one state in which both communities have their aspirations and needs catered for I don't see how I can be against bilateral or multi-ethnic democracies.''

Insisting it was up to the Palestinians to end their internal divisions as a people and lead the way forwards, he added: “This is also in the best interests of the Jewish and Jewish Israeli future.”

Mr Levy added: “I'm not even going to say so that Israel can be a Jewish democracy - that's not where I'm going.”

Earlier, in another discussion group on the “connection” between the Palestinian cause and the Black Lives Matter movement, Mr Bryant, speaking from the US, told the conference “we are both struggling against Zionism”.

He said: “This is a worldwide system we are fighting. Zionism has a worldwide system of settler colonialism. It engages in destabilising governments around the world, supporting coups of right-wing paramilitary organisations.”

Mr Bryant then discussed what he said was “a clear example of the impact of Israel arms manufacturers and the impact it has on the loss of black lives here in the United States.”

He mentioned the 2014 incident in which an Israeli ship was prevented from docking in an Oakland port following what he described as a “massive protest”.

The black rights activists added: “This ship turns out to have been carrying weapons which would have been used by local law enforcement agencies across the country to contribute to the genocide of my people here.”

Reports from 2014 confirm that the ship did not dock in the Bay Area port due to protests against Israeli military activity in Gaza. But there is no evidence that the ship was carrying Israeli weapons.

Although he did not name George Floyd, the black American killed by an ex-police officer in Minneapolis, Mr Bryant spoke of the “police organisations in the US who often to go Israel for training and best practices of repression”.

He claimed that police SWAT teams used against America's black population “are being trained in Israel in the same tactics, the same use of advanced weaponry against civilian populations that the Zionist Israel security forces use against the Palestinian people”.

Addressing the same discussion group, South African Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela spoke of a “500-year long fight against slavery”.

The grandson of Nelson Mandela then said: “In 1948 they came for the Palestinians and the world was silent (as they) split the bellies of pregnant women, raped, plundered and maimed village after village. Then they came for the Kashmiris and the world was silent, staged coups in Latin America and the world was silent they are wanting to wipe out the history of Palestine from the map.”

Ilan Pappe, a professor at the University of Exeter and  anti-Zionist writer on the history of Israel, Britain and the Arab-Israeli conflict, discussed the historical background of Palestinian communities in Israel.

“The Zionist movement is no different from the movement which genocided the Native Americans in North America and the aboriginals in Australia, and the apartheid [system] in South Africa,” he said.

"As a settler-colonial movement that wanted to eliminate the Palestinians from their land, the Zionist movement had the opportunity to do that in 1948 during the Nakba.

"In many ways, it both succeeded and failed in doing this, and this explains a lot of the Israeli policies.” 

Gideon Levy, the Israeli journalist said: “The best way to resist annexation is to use it as a tool to change the discourse … for me declaring annexation is declaring Israel as an apartheid state, and this must ring a bell to anyone with a conscience in the world.”

Mr Corbyn used his speech to highlight what he said was Britain’s role in the international community and its historical obligations in stopping the annexation of Palestinian land.

“Britain has a special responsibility in all of this, because after the Treaty of Versailles, Britain was given the mandate on Palestine. And also as a member of the UN Security Council, Britain has a special role to play in this,” he said.

In 2017, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid had threatened to ban Palestine Expo from taking place in London over concerns that the organisation and those connected with it had “expressed public support for a proscribed organisation, namely Hamas”, and that those groups had “supported events at which Hamas and Hezbollah – also proscribed – have been praised”.

But after carrying out “checks” the government allowed the event to go ahead. Ismail Patel, founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, has expressed support for Hamas in the past, calling the group “no terrorist organisation”.



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