Chakrabarti inquiry: Labour Friends of Israel intend to force the Party to adhere to their red line

Yesterday, Joan Ryan MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said in a statement that:

It is now obvious that the virulently anti-Israel discourse which exists among a minority within the Labour party cannot be separated from the issue of anti-semitism. I have made this clear in my discussions thus far with Shami Chakrabarti and LFI will be working to ensure this is at the top of her agenda. We will judge the success of this inquiry on its willingness to make the case that while there is nothing illegitimate about criticising the actions of the Israeli government, this must not be allowed to cross the red line into denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and thus the existence of the state of Israel.

Since her appointment to lead LFI in Parliament, in August 2015, Ryan has issued clear statements of intent with little attempt at obfuscation. The new LFI chair urged supporters not to vote for Corbyn, and said Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Israel. She warned that LFI would,

remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimise Israel…and have no place in the Labour party.

During the Israeli military’s massacre of civilians in the beseiged Gaza strip, in summer 2014, Labour Friends of Israel officer Louise Ellman MP acknowledged that “in terms of views that have been expressed in public,” her position on Operation Protective Edge was a “minority position” within the Parliamentary Labour Party. Her unconscionable position was that Israel was “wholly justified in taking action to protect its civilians from rocket attacks directed at Israel citizens and from the terror tunnels that would have been used to launch mass attacks.” Criticising Ed Miliband, she added that “previous Labour leaders have been much clearer” in their support for Israel.

Two years on, the threat from LFI is the greatest it has been since the end of the Blair era. There have been calls, even from within, for the Left to cease using Zionist ‘as a term of abuse,’ that we should ‘stop talking about Zionism.’ The proponents of this policing of political discourse recognise that Zionism has become a toxic brand; if they can’t make it respectable, they intend to make it unassailable. It’s an imperative particularly for groups that are affiliated with the World Zionist Organization, like the Jewish Labour Movement. There will henceforth be ‘no place in the party’ for those who don’t adhere to this red line.

The spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in London, Yiftah Curiel complains today that anyone questioning its ‘credentials on peace’ ‘demonizes’ Israel. If ‘demonising’ is identifying the Israeli state as a cruel tormentor and a threat to universal human rights, and if it is rejecting the notion that there exists in law the right of any people to settle, colonise and – through expulsion and population transfer – radically alter the ethnic make-up of another people’s land, then who will stand up for the Labour members right to ‘demonise’ Israel, without the threat of disciplinary measures, expulsion and public humiliation?

Elly Fryksos

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