The British Labour Party held its annual conference this week in the southern coastal city of Brighton, where tens of thousands of party members assemble. This past year has seen several Labour members, including elected local councillors and Parliament members, suspended or expelled for anti-Semitism. As such, they were barred from entering the main conference hall, and instead set up their own fringe events in surrounding hotels and venues.
The cesspool of hate, intimidation and abuse greeted Jewish delegates outside the official conference entrance with leaflets and banners about “the racist apartheid Zionist state” and “Free Palestine.”
There was even a Labour group distributing material requesting help in ousting the pro-Israel, Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) from the party.
The incident could be dismissed as the work of individual troublemakers and small minority groups, but 18 separate anti-Israel Labour fringe groups, including Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), booked speakers known for their offensive views against the Jewish community.
Professor Ilan Pappe of Exeter University told a large JVL audience that “Zionism is more dangerous to the safety of the Middle East than the religion of Islam,” and insisted that “institutional racism within the Labour Party were false allegations.”
He added “the Israeli flag symbolizes oppression, colonization and racism, but the flag of Palestine is the flag of justice.”
Pappe, who is Israeli-born, made claims that the Jews ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Palestinians and that “Israel uses settlers as vigilantes to terrorize Palestinians.”
He also called former Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, “a war criminal,” and that the Gaza policy was “genocidal” and a “crime against humanity.”
Of course, Pappe never once mentioned Palestinian rockets, suicide-bombers, the denial of Israel to exist or payments to convicted killers.
Sitting next to Pappe was former Israeli Arab Knesset member, Haneen Zoabi from the Balad Party. She told the fringe Labour group that “Israel is not a democracy for Israeli Arabs,” despite being democratically elected three times from 2009 to 2019, and that Israel “has shifted from a racist state to a semi-fascist state.”
The chairwoman of JVL signalled to Zoabi that she should bring her talk to a close after 20 minutes of rabbling, for time reasons, but Zoabi thought she was back in the Knesset and ignored the polite hint three times. “The far-left Meretz party has 12 percent of members who believe in annexation, and 34 percent of the center support annexation, so there are not two camps,” she said.
Earlier the co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, who was refused a visa to enter Britain, spoke by video link. He was clearly the right speaker for a Labour fringe group.
Meanwhile in the main Labour Conference Hall, another motion was being debated on “Palestine” with hundreds of delegates waving Palestinian flags. A future Labour government would immediately recognize a Palestinian state and ban all arm sells to Israel.
Other Labour fringe groups featured speakers including known Holocaust denier, Miko Peled, Jackie Walker, who believes Jews were responsible for the African slave trade, and Kerry-Ann Mendoza who photoshops Nazi watch towers from the war era onto pictures where Gaza meets Israel.
Aminur Rahman, who writes about “Zionists” controlling the financial sectors and banks, and is a huge supporter of Jeremy Corbyn was another speaker at the venue next door.
All of these fringe groups have the same agenda, and there is absolutely no other discussion or debate that takes place on subjects such as Syria, Libya, Yemen, China, North Korea or any country.
Far-left Socialist, Marxist and Communist supporters joined Labour when Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015 for one purpose: to demonize Israel and every person, including Labour Party MPs, who support Israel.
The atmosphere not just at these fringe meetings, but also in parts of the official Labour conference hall, was toxic and vile, which is why the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been affiliated with the Labour Party since 1919, chose not to set up a stand. They said they could not guarantee the safety of those working there.
Labour Friends of Israel also decided not to set up a stand after several of their people were bullied and intimated at last year’s conference.
James Marlow is a British and Israeli broadcast journalist of more than 30 years. He is also a communications and media trainer, working with politicians, businesspeople, rabbis and teachers.