British Labor Party Under Arab Pressure to Recognize the PLO

The British Labor Party, traditionally friendly towards Israel, is being pressed by pro-Arab supporters to issue a statement recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people. The proposals were made recently at a meeting of the special Middle East subcommittee of the Party’s International Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Eric Heffer, a former minister.

The meeting, held on Rosh Hashanah, was not attended by two members who represent the British Poale Zion, an affiliate of the Labor Party. They are expected to oppose the draft statement at the next meeting of the subcommittee in October. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that the meeting had been asked to press for an early British statement agreeing with the recent American State Department call for Palestinian representation at the Geneva conference.

Heffer, who is prominent in the Labor Friends of Israel, argued that such a statement would further harm the prestige and morale of the Israeli Labor Party in the wake of its electoral defeat. However, he felt that Israel will eventually have to deal with the PLO and he may put this view to Yigal Allon when the former Israeli Foreign Minister visits Britain for the forthcoming Labor Party conference.

The Middle East subcommittee, which comprises MPs, trade unionists, party activists, academicians and journalist, was formed earlier this year to strengthen the work of the Party’s International Affairs Committee.

The Committee’s secretary is Steve Vines, a former member of Hashomer Hatzair, who was active in student politics in the early 1970s campaigning for Jewish recognition of the Palestinian claim to self-determination. He is now an employee of the Labor Party’s International Affairs Department.

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