Tony Greenstein | 15 April 2018 | Post Views:

It is long overdue that Labour
severed its links with Israel’s (Labour) party of ethnic cleansing

Last week the new leader
of the Israeli Labour Party, Avi Gabbay issued a letter cutting
his links
with Jeremy Corbyn.  It is
doubtful that this racist twerp had any links in the first place.  His actions were designed to aid those
seeking to overthrow Corbyn. The last person Jeremy Corbyn needs to take
lessons from, when it comes to racism, is Avi Gabbay of the Israeli Labour
Party, a party that openly supports segregation and Apartheid.
Gabbay’s actions provide
an ideal opportunity however to sever our links with the Israeli Labour Party.  For that we should be grateful to him.  It is a complete disgrace that Labour has
maintained, for nearly a century, its links with a party of ethnic cleansing,
segregation and apartheid.  A party that
openly campaigned for employers to sack Arab workers, which barred Arabs from
its kibbutzim, which destroyed produce that Jews bought from Arabs and which
barred Arabs from its trade union Histadrut, which was the General Federation
of Hebrew Labour, until 1959.
Gabbay’s letter to Corbyn cutting non-existent links

The Labour Party in its
War Aims Memorandum of August 1917 gave support to the creation of a Jewish settler
state in the Middle East, alongside the Suez Canal.  It was seen as an essential guarantee of Britain’s
strategic interests which lay in protecting the route to India, the jewel in
the crown of the Empire.

Since 1920 Poale Zion (now
renamed the Jewish Labour Movement) has been an affiliated socialist society of
the Labour Party. PZ’s affiliation should be seen in the context of Labour’s support
at that time for the British Empire. Supporting Zionism and a Jewish settler
state was a part of Labour’s support for the Empire.

Joan Ryan with a group of helpers

Former leader Isaac Herzog (left) and current leader Avi Gabbay (right)

 In the words of
Sir Ronald Storres, the British Military Governor of Jerusalem from 1920-25 the
Zionist project would be ‘one that blessed him that gave as well as him that
took by forming for England “a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of hostile
’ [Orientations, Nicholson & Watson, London 1943, p.345] 

Whatever imperial
justification there was in 1920 for the anachronism whereby the overseas wing
of the Israeli Labour Party (then Ahdut Ha’avodah) was affiliated to the Labour
Party with the status of an affiliated socialist society, there is no such justification
Labour Friends of Israel’s Joan Ryan doing her best not to support Jeremy Corbyn in the General Election
Jewish Palestine was seen as a piece in the imperial jigsaw.  Today Israel is an essential component of Pax
Americana in the Middle East.  It is
supported to the tune of $4 billion a year by the United States.
If there is a case for a Jewish
section of the Labour Party, then the Jewish Labour Movement which describes
the Israeli Labour Party as its sister party’ is not it.  The JLM’s name
is misleading. It is only open to Zionists 
Jewish or non-Jewish. The JLM is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation
whose Jerusalem Program
holds that Zionism means the centrality
of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the
[Jewish] nation’
Jews who are neither Zionists
nor racists cannot join the JLM whereas non-Jewish racists are welcome.  The JLM is believed to be largely composed of
non-Jewish members for whom ‘anti-Semitism’ is simply a weapon to attack the
In the wake of Gabbay’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn, Gabbay became impatient awaiting a reply and so sent a second letter
Rather than reprimanding
Gabbay for seeking to interfere in the internal affairs of the British Labour
Party and for appointing himself the representative of Jews in the Labour Party
(when were the elections?) Joan Ryan, the Labour MP for Enfield Southgate (when
is she going to be reselected?) and Chair of Labour Friends of Israel rushed
out an Open Letter,
on behalf of LFI, supporting Gabbay. 
This is the same Joan Ryan who told
her constituents in the General Election that she understood why they liked
Theresa May more than Corbyn! She wrote:
“The polls are all saying
that the Conservative party will win a large majority, possibly with more MPs
than they have ever had before. Realistically, no one thinks Theresa May will
not be prime minister or that she will not have the majority she needs to
negotiate Brexit.”
These are the 10 reasons
why the Labour Party should cut its links with the Israeli Labour Party and its
‘sister’ party the Jewish Labour Movement
As Ben White explained in The
the Israeli Labour Party’s ‘“glory days include the Nakba [the
ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948]”, as well as “conquering and settling
the West Bank and East Jerusalem”. In 1947-48 the ILP organised the ethnic
cleansing of Palestine.
  ¾ million Palestinian
refugees were expelled and thousands were massacred by the Labour Zionist terror
group, Haganah and Palmach.
The Israeli Labour Party was always a racist party of
segregation and apartheid.  From the time
of its formation in 1906 it fought for Jewish Labour, which meant campaigning
against Jewish employers hiring Arab labour. 
It was a nationalist never a socialist party.
When it comes to repressing the Palestinians there is no
difference between Labour and Netanyahu. 
In his open letter to Corbyn Gabbay stated that he was cutting his links
with him because ‘Corbyn had expressed “very public hatred of the policies of
the government of the state of Israel, many of which regard the security of our
citizens and actions of our soldiers – policies where the opposition and
coalition in Israel are
There isn’t a war in Israel that the ILP hasn’t supported or
an attack on the Palestinians which they have not taken part in.  Gabbay and the ILP wholeheartedly support the
current shooting of unarmed protestors in the Gaza prison camp by Israeli snipers.
leader Isaac Herzog declared
that his nightmare was waking up to find that Israel had a Palestinian Prime
Minister and 61 Palestinian Members of Israel’s Knesset (Parliament).  Herzog
also emphasised that he wanted to dispel the false impression that the ILP were
has gone better.  He declared that
he would not join a coalition with members of the Joint List, a grouping of
parties made up predominantly of Palestinian citizens of Israel. An Israeli Palestinian
party has never been part of a government in Israel. It is an unwritten Zionist
convention that Arab parties do not take part in the government of a Jewish state.  “We will not share a government with the
Joint List, period,”
Gabbay said. “Let that be clear.”  Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List,
responded that “Someone who doesn’t view Arab citizens and their elected
representatives as a legitimate group, doesn’t present a real alternative to
the right.”  
At the same time, Gabbay
indicated he could team up with Yisrael Beiteinu,
the far-right party led by Israel’s notoriously anti-Arab
defense minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman believes
Palestinians like Odeh should eventually be stripped of their Israeli
citizenship altogether.
Gabbay followed up
with more belligerent comments declaring that “the Arabs have to be afraid
of us”
and that Israel need never evacuate any
of its settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of
international law.  According to Gabbay ‘Settlements
represent the ‘beautiful face of Zionism’
Gabbay’s Labour Party, which is supposed to be the part of everyone, opposes admitting asylum seekers for the same reason that it expelled 3/4m Palestinians – because a Jewish state means a Jewish majority state
In May 2012, Herzog wrote an opinion piece, challenging
arguments by human rights groups that Eritreans in Israel deserved protection
as refugees.  When the current crisis
over Netanyahu’s attempt to deport 40,000 Black African refugees for the crime
of not being Jewish or White erupted, Gabbay rushed to support Netanyahu. 
The Israeli
Labour Party was in power in Israel from 1948-1977.  During that time its closest ally was
Apartheid South Africa.  Labour’s trade
union Histadrut established an arms factory in South Africa, Iskandoor.  Israel also jointly developed a nuclear bomb
with South Africa.
On 22nd
November, Ha’aretz published an editorial Labor
Party’s Support of Deportation, Imprisonment of Asylum Seekers Cheapens the
Israeli Opposition
.  It described how
the ‘Zionist Union gave their support to a disgraceful government bill for the
deportation and imprisonment of asylum-seekers.’ (Zionist Union is the Israeli
Labour Party plus a smaller party, Hatnuah). 
Gabbay, who previously
served in Netanyahu’s cabinet has only just joined the Israeli Labour Party.  Previously he was Chairman of Bezzek, Israel’s
telecommunications giant.  There is
nothing in the slightest left-wing about this billionaire.  It is a measure of the ILP’s desperation that
he has been elected the leader of a party which is, in the worlds of Uri Avnery ‘a political corpse without a purpose’.

From vowing never to join forces with Arab political parties to saying
there’s no reason to remove settlements, Labor’s new leader has alienated many
on the Left in recent months. His latest move, supporting the deportation of
asylum seekers, is different.

Head of the Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay with Opposition Leader Isaac
Herzog. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Last July, Avi Gabbay was elected chairman of the Labor party on the
promise to return the party to power. Since then, Gabbay has staked out
positions considerably to the right of Labor’s traditional base, leaving many
on the Left frustrated, even devastated. Labor gained ground in the 2015 elections
because it cast itself as the anti-Netanyahu; now, Labor voters worry, Gabbay
is turning into Netanyahu.
Gabbay was always an unconventional choice for Labor. A former head of
the Israeli telecom giant Bezeq, Gabbay was among the founding members of Moshe
Kakhlon’s center-right Kulanu party, and even served as minister in the current
government, resigning in May of 2016 to protest the appointment of Avigdor
Liberman as defense minister. While Gabbay’s rivals in Labor raised questions
about his right-wing past, the party ultimately decided to give him a chance.
Religion and state? Okay

The first sign of trouble came shortly after Gabbay’s election, in
August, when he appeared at an event about religion and state alongside
Education Minister Naftali Bennett in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.
Bennett, at the time, was facing criticism from secular Israelis who were
angered by his changes to the Israeli public school curriculum, which they felt
amounted to religious indoctrination. While Gabbay did criticize Bennett’s
changes to the curriculum, he made a concerted effort to appeal to the
religious right. “I have no problem if my son learns Talmud,” Gabbay said.
‘We have nothing in common with them’

In early October, at a speaking event in Beer Sheva, Gabbay announced
that he would refuse to form a governing coalition that included the Joint
List, the political heterogeneous union of Arab parties and the third largest
party in the Knesset. “We have nothing in common with them,” he said. Gabbay’s
stance on the Arab parties was in practice not significantly different from
that of his predecessor, Isaac Herzog, but the absolute rejection of partnering
with Arab parties ruffled feathers even within his own party.
Threatening to kick out Labor’s only Arab MK

Two weeks later, when Labor MK Zuheir Bahlul announced he would not
attend the Knesset’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the
Balfour Declaration, Gabby reportedly threatened that
Bahlul “won’t sit in the next Knesset session,” adding that he was tired of
“this kind of extremism.” Gabbay’s public threats against his party’s only Arab
MK disturbed many in Labor and on the left. “From his response to Bahlul,” the Haaretz
editorial board wrote,
“[Gabbay] has proven himself to be a nationalist like all the others—someone
who does not want Arabs in the governing coalition, or in his party.”
Settlements are here to stay

Gabbay further frustrated members of his own party when he declared that
no settlements would need to be evacuated in a future peace agreement. Tzipi
Livni was quick to release a statement that Gabbay’s views did represent hers
or those of the Zionist Union, the merger of the Labor party and Livni’s
Hatnua. Despite the controversy, Gabbay’s comments, again, reflected more of a
shift in style than in substance. Herzog, during his time as Labor chairman,
also did not exactly take a pro-peace position, claiming that now was not the
time to attempt a two-solution.
Gabbay’s strong statement in favor of keeping the settlements in place
did not sit well with others on the left either. Meretz MK Ilan Gilon remarked at
the time that Gabbay seemed “to have forgotten that he was chosen to lead the
alternative to the Likud.”
Adopting Netanyahu’s disdain for the Left

If pandering to the religious right, threatening an Arab member of his
party, and cozying up to the settler lobby wasn’t enough, Gabbay appeared to
cross another line when in early November he echoed a famous Netanyahu comment
that “the Left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish” — that the Labor party
had chosen liberal values at the expense of Jewish values. Adopting a line
associated with the beginning of Netanyahu’s tenure generated a firestorm.
The last, or latest, straw

Gabbay’s defenders have insisted that the rightward swing is all part of
a strategy to return Labor to power—though
it is a strategy that has been tried and failed before
Yet Gabbay’s new direction for the party became more than just a change
in rhetoric this week, when he ordered the party to support a bill that will
allow the deportation and indefinite detention of asylum seekers living in
Israel. Support for the bill does more than shift Labor’s location on the
political map, it could have real consequences: the deportation of tens of
thousands of people who have lived in Israel for years, putting many of their
lives at risk.
Nine of the Zionist Union’s 23 MKs opposed
Gabbay’s decision. Sheli Yachimovitch, the former Labor chairwoman, said it
“was morally impossible to support the bill.” Zuheir Bahlul remarked, “I cannot
understand how the party can support an immoral, right-wing proposal to send
the refugees to hell.”

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Tony Greenstein

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