Labour's Peter Hain: Party's antisemitism crisis hinders Palestinian cause

The leftwing peer said the party had alienated Jewish members while 'doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians'


Labour’s antisemitism row hinders the Palestinian cause, and should be resolved by switching the focus from procedure to politics, the former Middle East minister Peter Hain has argued.

Lord Hain, who served in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, described the issue as a “debilitating antisemitism crisis” with “political roots”.

In a statement written with Daniel Levy, a former advisor to Israeli Labour governments, he accused UK Labour of both alienating Jewish members and “doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians”.

The 3,000-word statement was published on Tuesday. Lord Hain is on the left of the party and an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights.

The statement said: “Denying the painful Jewish history that led to Israel’s establishment, or the attachment most Jews feel to the largest Jewish community in the world – Israel – does not advance the legitimate struggle of the Palestinians to achieve their full rights and freedoms in the face of Israel’s occupation and discriminatory policies.

“Labour must and can lead two struggles simultaneously – against antisemitism and for Middle East peace and justice.

“Labour’s debilitating antisemitism crisis has so far focused upon process – are those charged with antisemitic behaviour being properly disciplined by the Party’s leadership or not? But a procedural solution cannot resolve what is primarily a political problem.

“Unless the political roots of the problem – which have become a crisis – are honestly confronted, the party will neither be able to regain nor will it be deserving of the broad support necessary to win general elections.

“We must eradicate the curse of antisemitism paralysing the Labour Party whilst allowing space for genuine argument about all legitimate options for the future of Israelis and Palestinians.”

The pair claim that a by-product of Labour’s stance on antisemitism, “sadly and ironically”, is that it has empowered apologists for “totally unacceptable Israeli Government attacks on Palestinians and the steady throttling of their rights”.

They argue four “basic truths” must be acknowledged before the antisemitism “quagmire” is ended.

These are that "there has been a real and troubling rise in incidents of antisemitism" in the party, that "parts of the left historically have not been immune to antisemitism", that "a debate on Israel/Palestine, the history of that conflict and the way forward, is 'legitimate, necessary and crucial'" and that "what has happened in recent years" within the party has "done absolutely nothing to advance peace, justice for Palestinians or the attainment of the legitimate rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people".

Their statement added: “The Labour Party has to be capable of being thoughtful and mature enough to incorporate all of the above, and in doing so we will ultimately not only be doing the best by all of our members, Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, and everyone else.

"But we will also be doing what is best for the future of Palestinians and Israelis – whose lives are most impacted by this conflict and who have not been helped – indeed have been hindered – by what has tragically happened in our party in recent years.”

Labour has been approached for comment.

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