Palestinian flags waved at Labour conference

Corbynite group Jewish Voice for Labour takes covert pictures of kippah wearing delegates


Labour activists unfurled Palestinian flags and chanted with nationalistic fervour at the start of a conference debate on the region - with leader Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly applauding a succession of speakers who launched one-side attacks on the state of Israel.

One speaker in Tuesday's debate on the main floor of the party's annual conference in Liverpool had to be reprimanded by Rhea Wolfson, the Jewish left-wing activist who chaired the session, after she made false allegations that a "campaign of slurs and accusations of antisemitism" against the leader had been "orchestrated" by Israel.

Peter Mason, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, who was in the arena immediately wrote on Twitter: "The only people you’re showing solidarity for, when you take to the stage in the middle of a debate on Israel/Palestine, to accuse Jews of making up antisemitism, are antisemites."

The pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice For Labour group also sparked anger after photographing two delegates in the arena wearing kippahs without their permission and then posting on their Twitter site: "This is exactly how frightened kippah wearing Jews are in the middle of #LabConf18 during the Palestine debate. That's right, not at all."

Mr Mason again responded writing: "I suggest you delete this immediately. Deliberately taking pictures of Jews on conference floor to make a political point? Disgusting. How on earth do you know what I’m feeling right now?"

Jewish Labour MP Alex Sobel also expressed his outrage on Twitter: "I have never responded to your twitter before but to take pictures of 2 prominent members of @JewishLabour and to basically mark them out at Conference to make a factional point against them is low. You should delete it and apologise."

Labour's leadership also faced claims that party stewards had stopped delegates at conference from flying the EU flag - while allowing Palestinian flags to be openly flown.

At the entrance to the Liverpool arena, the JC saw scores of Palestinian flags being handed out to delegates ahead of the afternoon debate from a stall set up by the Labour Against The Witchhunt group - which has defended expelled far-left antisemites such as Tony Greenstein.

The JLV and Palestine Solidarity Campaign organisation were also behind the flag waving stunt - which was given approval to go ahead by Labour's leadership.

Paul Wilkinson, of Gedling Labour Party, briefly took to the stage to say he had been prevented by the stewards from waving an EU flag in the conference hall earlier, accusing organisers of "double standards".

The JC spoke to other Labour members who were also warned not to fly the EU flag on Tuesday.

As passions threatened to boil over at the start of the three hour session - which also saw Brexit and Windrush discussed - the Labour member who moved the motion to condemn Israel and support the Palestinians refused to leave the stage when his allotted time was up. "My time is not up, I'm speaking for the Palestinian people," claimed Harlow Labour branch member Colin Monehen to loud applause. "If you want me off, you better send an army because East Enders, like Palestinians, don't go down easy."

With screams of 'Free, free Palestine' echoing around the arena, Mr Monehen claimed the "majority" of Palestinians had been forced out of their homeland in 1948 as a result of Israel's creation.

Mr Monehen's motion was then seconded by Zahid Ali, whose speech calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza and arms sales to Israel, was again greeted with chants of: "Free! Free! Palestine," as leader Jeremy Corbyn looked on from a seat on the platform.

Notorious anti-Zionist campaign Hilary Wise, from Ealing Labour branch, took things one step further with her claim that "If you want to know how that orchestration (of alleged antisemitism smears) works you need to watch that Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby".

With applause ringing out in the auditorium, chair Ms Wolfson warned the speaker she was straying into "dangerous territory."

Ms Wise responded that she would "be very careful" before adding: "Just watch that programme so we can see what we are against."

The Lobby was an attempt by the documentary makers to prove that the Israeli Embassy was behind plots interfere with UK democracy.

In the only intervention that questioned why Labour conference was debating Palestine but not other regions of conflict on the main floor of this year's conference, JLM member Steve Lapsley took to the stage wearing a large kippah.

He initially drew wild cheers from the members as he suggested he backed the motions being debated. But Mr Lapsley then said: "There are many in the Jewish community asking why only Israel? And why had it taken so long to recognise the fears of the British Jewish community? The motions give a one-sided narrative. This isn't helped by members of our PLP who are actively supporting suspended antisemites."

A small section of the crowd rose to applaud Mr Lapsley at this point.

Pointedly, Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow foreign secretary, made reference to a "fringe" element of antisemites within Labour who had attached themselves to the Palestinian cause during a carefully delivered speech.

She told delegates: "If we want to root out fascism and racism and hatred from our world, and from our country, then we must start, we must start with rooting it out of our own party.

"There are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people and their desire to see Israel destroyed.

"Those people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive