Gwynne defends Israeli visit

Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne

Front-bencher Andrew Gwynne is one of several Labour MPs whose visit to Israel as part of a Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) delegation this week has attracted outrage in the wake of the slaughter of over sixty Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza – and the serious wounding of thousands more – by Israeli soldiers earlier this month.

Gwynne has responded to criticism by posting a lengthy explanation of the reasons for his decision to participate in the visit on his Facebook page, along with a series of images of his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. It is reproduced below in full without further comment:


On 17th April, I was tasked with opening for the Labour Frontbench in the anti-Semitism debate in the Commons. It was one of the hardest contributions I’ve ever had to make in Parliament.

I was supported in the Commons by Jeremy Corbyn, who sat next to me throughout my speech, where I had to spell out clearly that Anti-Semitism is wrong; it’s racism and it has no place in modern society and certainly no place in progressive left-of-centre politics where we have a long and proud history of campaigning for social justice and against all kinds of discrimination.

The very next morning I was interviewed alongside a Holocaust survivor on the Today programme. She begged me, at the first opportunity, to visit Yad Vashem – the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem – as a signal to the British Jewish community that the Labour Party fully understands the issue. I agreed, and this Whitsun Recess has been my opportunity to make good on my word.

For those who do not know it, Yad Vashem tells the story of the Jewish people living in Europe during the inter-war years. Ordinary people; men, women and children, absolutely no different to you or I, living pretty ordinary lives in ordinary towns and villages.

Film images of them going about their daily business are projected onto a stark concrete wall. A poignant reminder that these people were no different to any of us. The same hopes and dreams, the same fears and worries in life.

Through a tunnel of history you’re led towards some of the most horrific events of the 20th Century. First, the propagation of anti-Semitic views into the daily narrative. Largely unchallenged, it leads to a warped political ideology and coincides with the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Book burning, violence and terror, ghettoisation and eventually the tragedy of ‘the final solution’ where over 7 million Jews were exterminated.

There are points of hope: good people who helped those in need are recognised for their deeds. But the eternal mark of shame is that the world largely turned their backs on the Holocaust (despite the Allies and others knowing it was happening) throughout most of the Second World War.

For me, it is the strongest of reminders of the capacity for human beings to perform the most evil acts to fellow human beings, and it all starts with people not challenging hatred and bigotry – in whatever form, and wherever it exists.

Anti-Semitism is wrong. It needs tackling. That it still exists in 2018 is incomprehensible. Jeremy Corbyn has made it publicly clear: no act of anti-Semitism is done in his name, or that of the Labour Party, and he is right to do so.

That I’ve honoured my commitment to come to Yad Vashem at the earliest opportunity, as Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary, I hope will be recognised for the right intentions. I want progressive Jews, who share Labour’s values for equality of opportunity and social justice to feel at home in our party. I want the next Labour Government to be their Labour Government too. This is a small step towards regaining that trust.


I’ll post about the rest of my visit to the area, including the Palestinian Territories where I’ve had meetings with Ministers and others; and on my observations on the current dreadful situation in Gaza, and prospects for getting the peace process back on track in a separate post to come.

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    1. dare I say to elicit Debate and inform people of what’s going on that’s the point see comments below

  1. @KC Gordon, SBs point appears to be to give Gwynne’s full unedited statement without bias or comment. This allowes the reader to form their own opinion without subtle prejudice creeping in. Something that would not happen in one of the maistream papers.

  2. Any one can support the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli government by supporting the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction).

    I think this MP was wrong to go to Israel. This is my opinion.

  3. I am hoping for a similar tone regarding Gaza & the plight of the Palestinians in the present day which is something we can do NOW. We cannot redress those horrors which happened in the past. We all need to push for the 2 state solution.

    1. and the plight of those forced from their homes 40-50 years ago and have lived in appalling conditions in refugee camps across the ‘non-existent’ borders of occupied Palestine where they have been bombed and murdered for the length of that time – stateless, homeless, poverty stricken for all that time. Looking forward to his review.

  4. Andrew Gwynne appears to be naive in the extreme. He should listen to Jews and their families who were directly involved or affected by the holocaust. Many of them say that Israel uses Yad Vashem not as a memorial but as a justification for its colonisation of Palestine and subjugation of Palestinians.

    Quite rightly, they say that even though Israel holds up the millions of Jews slaughtered in the most horrible of circumstances as martyrs, they were not. Those poor people had no say in their deaths, they were unmercifully wiped out by the Nazis and to desecrate their memory with a false memorial to justify another wicked act is unforgivable.

  5. “I’ll post about the rest of my visit to the area, including the Palestinian Territories where I’ve had meetings with Ministers and others”

    Lets hope it’s a little more even handed than this …
    We are horrified by the bloodletting and destruction in Gaza, but we cannot ignore that it was Hamas that called an end to the ceasefire last week and escalated its rockets, mortars and missiles launched at Israeli civilians.

    Following years of attack and with hundreds of thousands of Israelis – both Jew and Arab – unable to go about their daily lives due to this intolerable threat, Israel has been left with very few options. Hamas shows no interest in peace. Not only is it unwilling to seek reconciliation with Israel, it torpedoed Egyptian-brokered talks to bring about reconciliation with their fellow Palestinians.

    It is therefore Hamas, and its Iranian sponsors, who must answer to their own people, as to why they brought this destruction on Gaza.

    Louise Ellman MP, Andrew Dismore MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Eric Joyce MP, Baroness Meta Ramsay

    1. Yes, yet again, Zionists within the Party trying to justify Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians. The start of the Israeli onslaught was timed to kill as many school children as possible when they were out on the streets between lessons. Remember when IDF ‘soldiers’ boasted about killing pregnant women because they had taken two Palestinian lives in one go? And they have still have the cheek to say they are the most moral army in the world!!!!

      Israel was born out of terrorism yet they label Hamas as terrorists for resisting the illegal occupation!

      This is a link to a Likud MK confirming the views of many holocaust survivors mentioned in my previous comment.

  6. The delegation are either blind or deluded.

    Every visit to Israel by other countries “officials” give them credability.

    Wake up and smell the coffee

  7. It amazes me that all those pontificating about antisemitism forget that the Arab nations are also
    ‘ descendants of Shem’ which is where the word originates. Check out the biblical account of Sara ( wife of Abraham) and her hand maiden.

  8. ‘Book burning, violence and terror, ghettoisation and eventually the tragedy of ‘the final solution’ where over 7 million Jews were exterminated.’

    No doubt I’ll be labelled antisemitic… But isn’t that figure ‘revisionist’?

  9. Israel was mooted as a place for Jews BEFORE the holocaust not because of it. The global persecution of Jews was the reason for the need for a homeland. Having said that it is no reason to take another’s land and persecute them in return. 2 wrongs do not make a right.

  10. If it was me – I would just go on these jollies for the influence it would give me – introductions to the right people who could forward my career, pay for my kids private school fees, promises of future directorships. And I would happily spout the propaganda guff that paid for it all. But then…I’m a cynical opportunist!

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