26th February 2016
When Your Party Is Accused Of Something Quite Terrible
Dan Hodges, what are you doing to me?
I speak of Dan’s recent article in light of the allegations of anti-Semitism at the Oxford Union Labour Club where he writes about the problem of racism within the Labour Party.
The article saddened me and left me troubled by my association with those of my Labour colleagues who hold anti-Semitic views. I’m the one who ended up with my picture on someone’s blog holding up a banner saying “I love Israel” at a rally. I’m the one who stood with Israel supporters across the road from Israel haters. This time the banner complained about Hamas not allowing the Palestinian people a general election. That was years ago, and there has still been no election.
But I stick with the Labour Party and try to see a bigger picture. I am proud of the work of Labour Friends of Israel, and I am proud of the party’s work as a whole for helping those who need us by providing healthcare, decent education and routes out of poverty, as well as providing support to many countries overseas.
It increasingly weighs heavily on the minds of Labour members like me, just what the party is getting itself involved with. All this talk of the leadership being friends with Hamas, expressing support for the IRA, and whether we will actually give proper condemnation for the actions of Putin.
I’m sure it must similarly be the case for some Conservative members. I would like to think that many of them felt discomfort at Margaret Thatcher’s adoration of Augusto Pinochet.
Pinochet was President of Chile for over fifteen years and the torture, killings and other human rights abuses during his time in power make for harrowing reading. Some will argue that Chile was crucial to our victory over Argentina in the Falklands war. Whatever the truth is I have yet to hear why support for Hamas would be in our national interest.
In other instances, I do feel for our political leaders who have to be warm and friendly with unpalatable counterparts from other countries on our behalf, and it is left to us supporters of those leaders to reconcile our feelings afterwards. Thank goodness Tony Blair persuaded Gaddafi to give up his WMD otherwise Libya would have maintained its weapons of mass destruction, and then where would we be?!
The BDS movement pushes for boycotts against Israel and the government has announced plans to prevent English Town Halls and publicly funded universities from putting such boycotts in place. This would affect boycotts on “unethical” companies as well.
Labour Friends of Israel have welcomed the move and remind us that boycotts against Israel are against the policies of the Labour Party. I welcome the move, and note that you will find Israel haters in the party who also champion the NHS. But one in six NHS prescription medicines come from Israel. For goodness sake comrades, you’ll make us a laughing stock with such hypocrisy!
And how helpful are boycotts for the Palestinian people? A campaign was launched against the fizzy drinks firm SodaStream, whose Israeli factory was sited in an Israeli settlement. The Palestinian workers knew it would result in lost jobs where pay far exceeded what would be available from Palestinian employers.
I still approach our government’s plans with some apprehension. Town Halls etc will still be able to put sanctions in place, but only where they have been decided by central government. I know I have avoided buying from certain companies because I see the way they conduct their operations as unethical, and perhaps public sector organisations will feel similarly.
One example would be where companies have used packaging that is sourced from the destruction of the rainforest. Popular manufacturers have been guilty of this in the past and I believe it would be vital for big money purchasers, such as our councils, to be able to employ some consumer muscle.
But I am astute enough to realise that most who are opposed to the government on this simply want the right to punish Israel and that is all they are concerned with. And Dan, I only wish there was more I could do about it.
By Paddington Baby