It is Monday night, 23rd September. It has been a long day. Today was my second day at the 2019 Labour Party conference in Brighton.
On the first day I had spent my time looking at what was taking place outside of the secure conference area. Today I went inside.
The weather outside was cold and wet, so by the time I arrived the rain-free conference area was already crowded. I wandered around to get a feel for the place. There are numerous stalls set up on several floors but the ones that interested me were in the main areas on the ground floor.
As I walked past the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stand early on, the PSC Director Ben Jamal didn’t look happy to see me. It wouldn’t be the last time he would get to see me through the course of the day.
The issue of ‘Palestine’ was ever present. A perfect example was the Palestinian flag proudly displayed on the Momentum stand.
Out of interest I walked over. I didn’t say a word. As I approached the man held up a PSC lanyard.
‘do you want a Palestinian lanyard’
‘- no thanks’
‘there is a vote today on Palestine’
And that was it. The entire purpose of this Momentum stand appears to be to display the Palestinian flag, offer people a PSC lanyard and then tell people about a vote at conference on the issue of ‘Palestine’.
Do Momentum not have any other reason to be there?
I moved on. There are stands completely unrelated to peace, war or human rights, with piles of PSC lanyards that are left for people to take from their tables.
I came across ‘Labour Action for Peace‘. The person manning the stand was in deep conversation with another delegate. Someone from the Western Sahara Solidarity campaign had just given her a flyer. She placed it on her table. Apparently WSSC didn’t have a stand this year. There isn’t enough support. Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal.
The single Sahara flyer aside, there were about seven piles of flyers in total on the Action for Peace stand. Only one cause was explicitly addressed. ‘Palestine’. Not one, not two, but three of the flyers were about Israel, including one outrageously that appeared to support the academic boycott.
I was asked if I ‘would sign up’ to receive information from the group. I couldn’t resist – ‘no’ I responded. I’ll be honest I said, ‘I think this issue of Palestine has suffocated real anti-war activism’. ‘Tens of thousands are dying in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.’
I had gone off script so was simply rewarded with a blank stare.
‘Palestine has been forgotten’ she said. If I was sitting on a chair I would have fallen off it. I simply looked at her. In response to my silence she simply held up the Sahara leaflet she had been given. ‘There is this’ she said.
It is as if the lights were on – but nobody was at home.
I walked away. In a secluded dark place, I came across a sad stand-alone’ table. A selection of a few flyers that people had left that had no home elsewhere. On that table was the flyer in the image on the left, from ‘Labour Friends of Yemen’.
There was no room for solidarity with Yemen on the stand of ‘Labour Action for Peace’. Tens of thousands of dead Yemenites, hundreds of thousands starving – wasn’t enough to get them to give up the precious space allotted to three separate Palestine fliers. This shouldn’t surprise anybody though – I did not come across a single stand anywhere in the conference that had information about Yemen. Or anywhere else for that matter. Oh no, sorry – there was one stall about Colombia.
Stop the War had a similar obsession. A rack of t-shirts. Only four mentioned a specific location. All were about Palestine. As an example, there is the ‘Free Palestine’ t-shirt in the image on the left.
I walked around some more, looking for some sign that Labour had an interest in international conflict beyond Israel –
There were none.
I made my way up into the balcony in preparation for the conference debate on international issues. It was already known that Brexit would take centre stage, but a motion had also been tabled for ‘Palestine’. I sat and waited. People begin to fill the floor below.
I spotted people getting their ‘Palestinian flags’ ready. I saw at least two runners, handing them out to people on the conference floor. Palestine, Palestine, Palestine. It was enough to drive anyone insane.
The obsession of the conference floor
The first thing I noticed when the floor filled up was how ‘white’ it was:
Whatever diversity there may be in the Labour Party, didn’t make it on the train to Brighton. This is just a bunch of privileged white people telling natives who live thousands of miles away, where to draw borders and how they should live. There is a word for that.
The speeches start. Emily Thornberry speaks. She talks about the big nasty nations, the hard-men leaders and all the troubles they are causing across the globe. Israel of course was on the list. Over and over again it was mentioned.
The floor opens up to delegates. Israel was lucky there is Brexit, but still – there is more than a few opportunities to hear some whoppers. 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled the audience is told. Anti-Israel propaganda poppycock. It is met with a response of loud cheers and flag waving. The ‘free, free Palestine’ chant begins to fill the hall.
Another councillor speaks. I am a Palestinian he says. I am so proud he says. My father fled a village in October 1948 he said. 500 were killed in one night he said
I mean what? Even If we accept the rantings of www.letsmakeupnumbers.com/nakba/delusion – nowhere in either the civil or regional conflict did anywhere near this number die in October 1948. Luckily his father managed to flee. Sorry, I meant to say lucky he was expelled.
One delegate went off script. She mentioned the Uyghurs. There is near silence in the hall. When she had finished talking there was polite applause. A million plus in concentration camps? These people don’t care. There is surely someone in detention in Israel for attacking civilians with a knife that they’d rather be talking about. They doze off for the Uyghurs – but every mention of the word Palestine is met with loud applause and flag waving.
Events and bodyguards
After a while, even I got bored. The speeches were predictable, the upcoming vote a foregone conclusion. It was time to go to another event. It isn’t as if there was a shortage. three events on ‘Palestine’ had been held the evening before, I’d missed a ‘Palestinian breakfast’ even in the morning and others were taking place throughout the day.
The one I chose was an event run by a group called ‘Labour & Palestine’ – which is not the same as ‘Labour Friends of Palestine’ – who were holding a separate event later on that day. The one I attended was organised by ‘Unite the Union’ and had MPs such as Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon speaking.
Not long after arrived I was provided with shadows by the event hosts. Even PSC Director Ben Jamal came to stand next to me, probably to make sure I was enjoying myself. Which I thought was considerate.
Events such as this are truly a journey into the surreal.
The horrors of Palestine
Speaker after speaker spoke of the horrors of Palestine. It really is an amazing thing to hear. I am standing inside an event deeply connected with a mainstream political party in the UK, but I may as well be at a Hamas propaganda rally.
The speakers have all been to ‘Palestine’. They’ve been because it is safe to go. They get met by delightful hosts who are all too willing to take them everywhere they have been told they want to go. These delegations get showered with love and talk of justice. When they return – they are activated.
The crowd is white. Just as the audience in the hall was. A mix of nasties. The toxic Miko Peled, the ex -Irish Republicans, the ageing Marxists and the antisemites. Mixed in with them are a few yet to be fully converted. Hanging around the back of the room were the Arabs. They weren’t participants – but just there to make sure all these naive puppets play their roles as expected.
The nation state law becomes something it is not. The Gaza blockade ‘doesn’t let anything in or out’. Lie after lie. This isn’t political opinion, but rather a twisted bubble of hate-filled balderdash. The audience get told that Israel demolished 10 – yes, that is 10 – houses. Excuse me for interrupting but have you seen the 500,000 people who have just been slaughtered in Syria? 10 houses. I am willing to wager that there is barely a council in the UK that hasn’t forcibly purchased and destroyed more than 10 houses recently.
Hostility and exit
As the vote on ‘Palestine’ in the conference hall ended, the event that I was at went from ‘full’ to ‘overcrowded’. I was surrounded by those who really do not like me very much. There were three other Jewish Zionists at the event, so when they event came to a close, we all made a speedy exit, but not before one of us was verbally attacked for the crime of ‘taking photos’.
I skipped the final event and left the conference to write this piece. It is difficult to describe what I make of it all. The obsession is beyond parody. In a truly perverse twist Labour have obsessed over the one ‘oppressed people’ who are actually in control of their own destiny.
Truth be told, if the Arabs wanted, the conflict could end overnight. They would receive the state they could have had so many times before – and if they chose could provide their own people with the freedom they crave. The problem is – that this is not enough for them. The Arab dispute is not about the ‘rights’ the Arabs don’t have, but rather an issue with the rights the Jews enjoy.
I can imagine that the truly persecuted people of the world, from the Rohingya to some of the Christians in Africa would jump at the chance of having just some, just some of the options for peace that the Arabs of Ramallah have received. Unfortunately, they have as much chance of that as they have of the Labour Party delegates even caring about their existence.
The obsession is beyond logic and beyond understanding. It is based on little but a pile of fictions and yet these people simply cannot get enough, whilst all the truly oppressed people in the world are ignored. And this goes way beyond ‘international issues’ – austerity, the NHS, housing – real problems that would need the full attention of the party – are not as important as ‘Palestine’. The delegates are even reminded – recognising Palestine will be *THE FIRST* thing on their agenda if they form a government.
So yes, the obsession is parody. But the hostility and hate against Jewish people that this obsession generates? There is nothing funny about that at all.
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