LABOUR’S NEW shadow cabinet avoided making any major policy announcements on Israel at the party’s conference this week, but there were a series of hostile receptions and controversial comments around the fringes.
In his first conference speech as leader, Jeremy Corbyn did not refer to Israel or the Palestinians during a lengthy passage on the situation in Syria.
But his keynote address on Tuesday did include support for United States president Barack Obama’s approach to Iran. He praised Mr Obama’s “clever and difficult diplomacy” in concluding the nuclear deal with Tehran.
The previous day, his Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn made only a short reference to Israel in his own speech.
Mr Benn said: “We must end the conflict in the Middle East, where it is now time for the Palestinian people to have their own state so that they and the people of Israel can live in peace.”
Away from the main speeches and television cameras, the approach was quite different. The tone for the fringe sessions was set even before conference began, at a meeting in Coventry last week, when former Labour MP and Trotskyist Dave Nellist referred to Labour Friends of Israel as “the enemy within”. The atmosphere at Brighton was similarly hostile. Shadow Equalities Minister Cat Smith, the Lancaster and Fleetwood MP who previously worked for Mr Corbyn, told the audience at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting that Britain should enforce an arms embargo on Israel.
She said: “The situation where we continue to supply Israel with arms and other security equipment… as though there was no occupation and no systematic abuse of human rights cannot be tolerated.
“There is now a compelling case for Britain to suspend this trade until Israel takes serious strides to ending the occupation and respecting the fundamental rights of those they rule over.”
Onemember cited the gas chambers in a speech on workers’ rights