The last shreds of friendship between the British Labor Party and Israel have been destroyed by public revulsion over the Beirut massacres.
At its national conference in Blackpool yesterday, the party was not satisfied with an official resolution demanding a Palestinian state and PLO participation in negotiations in exchange for recognition of Israel.
Against the leadership’s advice it went even further by recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and calling for a democratic secular state of Palestine. In accepting this wording, it ignored those who pointed out that this was the PLO’s euphemism for the dismantling of the State of Israel.
The Party also ignored those who said that this was a slap in the face to the opposition Labor Party in Israel and a death blow to the traditional comradeship between the two parties.
The only consolation for Labor’s dwindling pro-Israeli remnant is that Labor Party conferences have a history of adopting maverick resolutions on foreign affairs which are safely consigned to the dustbin once the party has to assume the responsibility of government policy.
On the Middle East, the most outstanding case was perhaps that in 1944 when the party called for an all-Jewish Palestine and advised the country’s Arabs to leave while Jewish refugees from Europe flooded in. Within a year a Labor Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, brought Britain into armed conflict with the Jews of Palestine.
The party yesterday adopted separate resolutions giving unconditional recognition to the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and calling for the establishment of a “democratic secular state of Palestine.”
ACTIONS REFLECT ANTI-ISRAEL MOOD
Although yesterday’s decisions were hastened by horror over the Beirut massacre, they also reflect the anti-Israeli mood which dominates leftwing parties throughout Western Europe.
The Labor Party National Executive, in what was regarded as a less extreme resolution, earlier won overwhelming backing for a call accepting the rights of Palestinians to an independent sovereign state and inviting the PLO to participate in negotiations, provided it recognized Israel’s right to exist.
CITES DEMOCRACY IN ISRAEL
Denis Healy, chairman of the Labor Party, said the Beirut massacre had forced many of Israel’s friends to realize that “the Palestinians have exactly the same right to a state of their own as the people of Israel.”
He drew the analogy of the Palestinians who, like the Jewish people, has escaped from bondage under alien rule, had been scattered far and wide and been subjected to persecution and pogroms such as the latest pogrom in Shatila and Sabra camps.
But warning against total identification with the PLO, he said the massacres had aroused the conscience of the Labor opposition in Israel, which had forced the Begin government to submit to an independent inquiry, and there were few countries in the Middle East which allowed opposition to be expressed openly and democratically, even within the armed forces. “That democracy deserves to be preserved,” he said.
Ted Knight, one of Labor’s most prominent militants who is at adds with the leadership on a wide range of issues, accused the Israelis of waging “genocide” against the Palestinian people and called for an international inquiry into the Beirut massacre. He accused Zionists of attempting to silence any critics of Israel by accusing them of anti-Semitism. It was the Zionists who fed anti-Semitism hand in glove with the “Nazi Phalangists,” he said.
(In Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben Meir today denounced the decisions by the British Labor Party as a sign of “the moral, ideological and political bankruptcy of its participants.” Israel’s Labor Party said its relations with the British party would be influenced by yesterday’s actions. The Shinui Party also denounced the British party for its “shameful libel” of Israel.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.