Reynolds on his reasons for Israel visit

Jonathan Reynolds MP

Front-bencher Andrew Gwynne has responded to criticism of his participation in a Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) delegation to Israel a few weeks after Israeli soldiers massacred over sixty protesters and seriously injured thousands more by posting a defence to his Facebook page. LFI responded to the killings with a despicable, victim-blaming statement that triggered widespread condemnation and caused three Labour MPs to withdraw their support for the group.

Perhaps anticipating the anger the visit would cause, fellow front-bench MP Jonathan Reynolds posted his own defence to his Facebook page at the start of the trip. It is reproduced below in full, without further comment:

Parliament is not sitting this week so I have taken the opportunity to attend a delegation of Labour MPs to Israel and Palestine. The Middle East is a part of the world where British interests, and British history, are acutely felt. You do not walk lightly in the Middle East as a British MP, where a series of British decisions over many years has undoubtedly shaped the region we see today. In my view finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is the most pressing foreign policy issue of our time, and one which directly affects our national security in the U.K.

We will spend the next four days meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders, journalists, and charities, as well as our Ambassador and diplomatic staff. This will be my fourth visit to the region since I first went in 2004. Although the prospects for peace do not look good at present, aided by the recklessness of President Trump, on each visit I have been struck by the incredible co-existence work of grassroots Israeli and Palestinian organisations, including groups like OneVoice, the Parents Circle Families Forum, Israeli Physicians for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence. Wherever you go within Israel itself you see Muslims, Jews and Christians living their daily lives alongside one another.

One thing I will stress from the outset: I strongly reject the binary positions taken by the most extreme partisans on both sides of this debate. Those who claim the ongoing conflict is entirely the fault of the Israelis or entirely the fault of the Palestinians should immediately be rejected. There is much blame and legitimate historical grievance to be found on both sides. I often find myself arguing with correspondence from constituents if it attempts to attribute the blame entirely to one side or the other. This is not a conflict that lends itself to simplistic analysis. If we want Israelis and Palestinians to agree a peace, then we have to be an honest broker and recognise the legitimate concerns of both.

There are many contradictions in the region: Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East, and the only country where minorities have full equality before the law. Israel is renowned for its educational opportunities, strong welfare state, and women’s and LGBT rights. There are Arab Israeli politicians in all major parties in the Knesset (Parliament), and several Arab Israelis have served on the Supreme Court. Israel feels embattled by the hostile threats it faces on nearly every one of its borders, and faces a daily terrorist threat few countries would tolerate: since 2000 1300 people have been killed in terrorist attacks, and between 2001-14 15,200 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from Gaza (an average of 3 each day).

However, in the West Bank I have seen first hand just how difficult life is for the Palestinians. They face severe restrictions on their civil rights and arbitrary control of their lives by the Israeli army. Illegal Israeli settlement construction within the West Bank is a major problem, forcing Palestinians off their land and undermining the long-term prospects for peace. This ongoing occupation severely damages Israel in the rest of the world. In Gaza, although Israel withdrew all settlements and military forces unilaterally in 2005, it still exercises considerable control through a blockade of the territory. For the last 10 years, Gaza has been run by the terrorist organisation Hamas, who don’t tolerate any dissent and divert a huge proportion of their budget to digging tunnels under the border from which to attack Israel. The result is a truly dire situation for the people of Gaza, as evidenced recently by their willingness to effectively walk into live gunfire in their desperation. The current Israeli Government has done little to try to ease their plight.

The likely solution to this is well-known: a two-state solution offering security and prosperity to both Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians desperately need this, but so too does Israel. Every year this isn’t achieved makes the long-term solution harder: the conflict becomes more bitter, the number of illegal settlements that will have to be evacuated becomes larger, and so to does the number of refugees (the descendants of the Palestinian refugees who fled their homes after the Arab states declared war on Israel in 1948 are legally refugees).

I’m hoping for an insightful few days and looking forward to being able to communicate just how keen people in the U.K. are to see a long-term peace achieved.

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  1. where does he get his figures from.
    And does he not realise by just going to Israel gives them credability and reasons to carry on the killings.

    1. Agreed .

      But where to begin , there are so many things wrong with this visit it’s hard to know where to start.
      1.The very vehicle used for the visit is LFI , is this really the right organisation to help bring about a sustainable peace in the area ? Just what trust and credibility has it with the Palestine people ?
      2.Just what have these MPs done to balance the propaganda that they will undoubtedly be fed
      3.Are they members or supporters of Palestine Solidarity Campaign to enable their education of the issues from a Palestinian perspective
      4.How many visits have they made just to Palestine , have they met or had any meetings with anyone from HAMAS.
      5.Why not form part of a UN delegation and take their supposed concerns for a fair and just peace through that organisation rather than the LFI a biased apologist for the atrocities of the Israeli Govt .
      6. Do they beleive that they somehow think they have an ability to affect the thinking of the Israeli Govt , take a look at the most recent actions of the state for the answer.

      For some of the MPs who are supporters / members of LFI I don’t doubt their intentions , but the effectiveness of this organisation is USELESS in bringing about peace as the past 10 years or more has shown.
      It is a mouth peace of the State Of Israel and it’s only job is to stop any criticism of the what the Israeli Govt does, as evidenced by weaponisation of AS to expel those who are effective critics and in some cases are innocent of AS .
      Dare I say that those MPs don’t have the courage ( as Corbyn has ) to step outside of the LFI and utilise more effective ways to bring the Govt of Israel to the table , that would be a truer measure of their sincerity to the Palestinian and Israeli people.
      The only incisive thing that Reynolds mentions is that Trump is a problem , well it don’t take a virtue signalling visit to grasp that .

      There is so much more for Labour to do besides being consumed by AS debates and Israel ( take a look outside your front door ) . That state is not the be all and end all of what Labour is about and we inc MPs would do well to remember that .
      The ongoing high level attacks on Corbyn and the Labour membership from LFI/JVL and some of their supporting MPS is to undermine and get rid of Corbyn .To stop any further scrutiny/criticism of the State Of Israel .This visit is just another , not to subtle , step in that attack plan and trying to rehabilitate the LFI after it’s most recent appalling tweet over the deaths being HAMAS & fault nothing to do with the IDF.

      1. “2.Just what have these MPs done to balance the propaganda that they will undoubtedly be fed”

        Did they go freely into the illegally occupied Palestinian territories and see how the illegal occupation and colonization affects every aspect of daily life for Palestinians?

        It appears Israeli children are subject to a one sided narrative and of course most go straight from education into military conscription much of which includes IOF which de facto conducts protection for the Israeli colonists illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and severe, even brutal repression of Palestinian human rights.
        Lest I forget the IDF regular “mowing the lawn” in Gaza with powerful bombs. That is on top of the land, sea and air blockade Israel imposes on Gaza.

        Israeli academic Nurit Peled-Elhanan talking about her studies of text books used in Israeli schools and colleges, I think in 2011, so a few years ago. I suspect this hasn’t changed and the trajectory of the content of text books will have continued.

        Again, in my opinion there are two societies suffering in this situation and those enabling it to continue are actually prolonging the ever present fears, pervasive and destructive suspicions and hatred fostered in Israeli society in their hyper-militaristic neo colonial system.

      2. I correct myself, it appears they did go into the illegally occupied west bank at some point.

        “The likely solution to this is well-known: a two-state solution offering security and prosperity to both Israelis and Palestinians.”

        I again ask the question how the two state solution could work given the facts on the ground? Does this mean Palestinians will have to live behind walls in unproductive, disconnected ‘Bantustans’? Or will Israelis have to pack up and retreat behind the green lines?
        What lands are left for a viable, “prosperous”, independent, and self sustaining Palestinian state?
        It is long past time it is acknowledged that the situation the illegal Israeli colonization has created on the ground no longer provides for a viable, cohesive independent Palestinian state.

  2. Jonathan Reynolds you are either a fool or intentionally partisan. This statement alone disbars you from any sensible contribution to the discussion: Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East, and the only country where minorities have full equality before the law!!!

    Don’t you know that there are over forty Laws which apply to Arabs/Palestinians only? Your lack of knowledge means that anything you say vis a vis Israel is to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    How can we have in the Labour Party such badly informed or easily influenced MPs as Jonathan Reynolds?

  3. Literally, regurgitating Israeli talking points, so much for critical-function!

    The Palestinians are colonised, under international law, they have full rights to fight back with arms, except on practical grounds, fighting the 4th most powerful army in the world that stole our own nuclear secrets , is pointless, and yet these front bench labour politicians under Corbyn still support an army actively directed to shoot un-armed protestors – where would they stand on bloody sunday and selma?

  4. There are some facts to correct. First, most of the Palestinians have been deported or fled BEFORE the arab armies invasion, but during the civil war. Also, seems that he is using the term “illegal settlement” in its Israeli interpretation, meanning settlment which didn’t get an official Israeli planning permission. By international law, ALL settlements are illegal. This is obvious becouse he doesn’t mention that the two states must be based on the ’67 border. there much more to say about the false symmetry, the impresonments, the institutional raciscm in israel propper and more which was deserved mentioning by him.

  5. You are either for apartheid or against apartheid.

    It really is that simple.

    By making this visit these Labour MPs have exposed themselves as bring apartheid supporters.

    The Labour Party has a zero tolerance policy on racism.

    There is no place for apartheid supporters in the Labour Party.

      1. Starmer supports violent, racist Israeli Zionism ‘without qualification’!!!

  6. Reynolds moans about over simplifying things then does exactly that.

    Remind me how big is the Palestinian army vs the IDF? How many Israel’s killed were military vs civilians & again the same for Palestinians?

    Who is the invading force here?

    YES there are faults on both sides this is very true but as Reynolds says Israel is a functioning democracy & as such has the responsibility to behave & comport itself accordingly not just murder people. The fact is it looks to outsiders like many Israel’s don’t view Palestinians as people they’re just cattle to be herded & culled. Israel completely rejects the idea it itself creates the terrorists with their actions (indeed as we did in NI to a degree).

    Here’s a simple fact that is true the fact is the cycle of violence begets violence & it has to STOP in order for peace the most likely people to start breaking that is Israel but generally they don’t care & don’t want to because ultimately whilst they’re behaving this way driving Palestinians into violence they have an excuse to herd them & steal their land.

    Israel could essentially solve this tomorrow & THAT is the difference.

  7. Oh & as for functioning democracy why isn’t he talking about what day to day life is like for Palestinians living in Israel where they face abuse every day of their lives.

    This is still basically a nice jolly for Reynolds & it’s again legitimising what Israel is doing.

  8. Not sure that Palestinian people have ‘full equality under the law’ in Israel. I could be wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me.

    1. You are correct, Palestinians do NOT have full equality under the law and Israel is NOT a fully functioning democracy. Of course many in Britain try to keep up this pretense because we were instrumental in the catastrophe i.e the Nakba of the founding of Israel.

      The fact that a bunch of European Zionists decided that the Holy Land was a great place for them to colonise and turf out the local inhabitants speaks for itself.

    2. “pimatters” You cant remove 3/4 of your population so they can’t vote and then call yourself a democracy.

      Thanks, very succinctly put but I would change it slightly:

      You cant remove 3/4 of the original population so they can’t vote and then call yourself a democracy.

  9. ‘Those who claim the ongoing conflict is entirely the fault of the Israelis or entirely the fault of the Palestinians should immediately be rejected. There is much blame and legitimate historical grievance to be found on both sides.’

    Should’ve left it at that, in my opinion.

  10. Yes Naura Eraket has intellectually smashed the Right Wing Israeli Govt’s glass ceiling. Their policy is laid bare; they will not talk (aided and abetted by the Right Wing Barbarians in the US) because they want to keep their “religious, ethnic and economic supremacy.”
    Let the refufgees return and FREEDOM 4 PALESTINIANS!

  11. As I said in the previous article – 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!

  12. Would he have gone to South Africa and the apartheid regime they ran?
    Of course he wouldn’t he wasn’t old enough!
    The next time I see him, I will be having a word with him, over his outrages thinking and doctrine on the subject he really is lopsided on!
    The same goes for the other Labour Delegation of MPs.
    His thoughts on the region are skewed and unrealistic, I saw the Israeli soldiers shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinian People!
    What is their, other than, a piece out of the OLD TESTAMENT, DAVID AND GOLIATH in reverse, except David’s Brothers were part of the Philistines army and he was taking food to them on a daily basis, when he decided on the 40th day to fight Goliath, which made his brothers very angry!
    The rest is “HISTORY”!
    I’m sure there’s a moral to this story?

  13. Jonathan

    Yes, there has been violence on both sides, but have the Palestinians been merely reacting to provocation, theft and ethnic cleansing since their lands became colonised? I understand prior to the 20th century Jews and Arabs got on quite well in Palestine.

    To collate Israeli deaths since 2000 is cherry picking the starting date. In recent years Israeli civilian casualties have been minimal, unlike the Palestinians who pay dearly. The UN believe Israeli attacks on Gaza are disproportionate, and I don’t think there has been any Israeli casualties from rocket attacks since 2014.

    You claim Israel is a democracy. However, do Arabs as a minority have any real influence in important national decisions; particularly the ones regarding land allocation and military operations? The danger here is that it provides a facade of democracy for publicity purposes.

    Since Israel has always secretly regarded the West Bank and the Gaza strip to be part of their country, and is partly colonised and largely controlled by them, shouldn’t all their inhabitants have a right to vote in the Israeli parliament if it’s truly democratic?

    It’s not only democracy in Palestine that is at stake here but also in the UK. Israel has disproportionate influence on our elected representatives on both sides of the house, and that’s why MPs membership of FOI is of some concern. It’s no secret that Israel is deeply implicated in conflating the legitimate criticism of its actions with anti-Semitism and is using this to undermine the Labour party.

    1. Well said Stephen. Israel is founded on vicious theft & sustained by vicious apartheid.

  14. I remain shocked, angry, and mystified by any politician telling me that visiting a nation that has just murdered 60 unarmed people as a justified visit! He made absolutely no comment about the presence of Medicines Sans Frontiers doctors who were shot during Israeli free-for-all. He talks of Palestinians being run by Hamas?

    Anyone who has worked with Palestinians in their open air prison knows just how bad conditions are for them all. He makes absolutely no recognition of that. The idea that he is talking to people who support Palestinians is of no worth in this situation, because it is second or third hand information. What he should have done is gone and seen for himself what living in an open air prison is actually like.

    What of Israelis imprisoning young children, or taking homes from Palestinians at will? Nothing mentioned. His attitude is one of sheer arrogance when he says he will not listen to advocates of either side. Surely it is his job to listen to all people? Or perhaps he believes that having been to Israel so many times it gives him the right to make a firm decision? Utterly outrageous.

    Sorry to say but this seems to me to be typical of LFI to say how they understand there are two sides and then shut down any debate. He doesn’t get to say what & when anything gets shut down.

    If he expects to be taken seriously and authentic then he should go into Gaza and see how people are living and what is happening to them on a daily basis. Or even try reading this: http://mondoweiss.net/2018/04/palestinian-christians-communities/

    1. Thanks Annie. Two sides??? It was fanatical violent zionists who founded Israel on THEFT and who violently preserve Israel by violent APARTHEID. Don’t expect Palestinians to quietly accept this continual extreme violence & humiliation. Whose side are you on; oppressors or oppressed? No justice, no peace.

  15. What an excellent comment – thank you.

    For decades discussion on this subject has been quashed. When anyone in the LP, or any other Party for that matter, tried to discuss it sensibly quoting facts and figures, those who dared to mention it were immediately labeled by the LFI and others as anti-Semitic. It is a well known and deliberately exploited tactic. Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli education minister – “anti-semitism and Holocaust are tools against the facts – it’s a trick we use”.

    Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker are among the few who have ignored the insults and spoken out against the atrocities committed by Israel. Out of the four, only Jeremy Corbyn remains in the Party, therefore the Zionist snipers rifles are concentrated on him and it is our job to protect him.

    It is tragic to see how many Labour MPs are being duped by the JLM and LFI who receive funds from Israel to promote the Zionist ideology i.e. the colonisation of the whole of Palestine and the expulsion of its Arab population. Especially MPs such as Barry Gardiner who has great admiration from many of us within the Party. Barry, please please leave that disgraceful organisation whose only purpose is to protect Israel by smearing and undermining ANYONE who speaks in favour of the Palestinians.

    It’s so annoying when we hear people, especially Labour MPs say there is right and wrong on both sides. That is to draw a moral equivalence between a vicious violent occupation and the actions of those who are trying to and have every right to resist. Whenever Miko Peled the Jewish Israeli writer, and supporter of Palestinian rights, starts one of his famous lectures he will say “don’t expect to hear a balanced talk because there is no balance” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOaxAckFCuQ

    It’s time to stop the appeasement of the Zionists within the Party and ostracise them for supporting one of the most vicious and determined regimes on Earth – masquerading as a democracy.

    1. I don’t think any of the MPs you refer to are being duped by anybody. THEY are part and parcel of the program to undermine and demonise JC and his supporters.

      As for stopping the appeasment of the false accusers, and standing up for those who have been falsely accused, this is what happens when you do so (the Telegraph has a paywall, so it’s just the first part of the so-called article, but enough is shown to get the jist of it):


      1. “I don’t think any of the MPs you refer to are being duped by anybody. THEY are part and parcel of the program to undermine and demonise JC and his supporters.”

        Allan, to be honest, I was giving them, at least some of them, the benefit of the doubt. Do you really believe that Barry Gardiner is anti Corbyn?

        Thanks for the links. By whatever route, I ended up at “Fathom” from BICOM and you only have to see the list of contributors to know how deep JCs problem is with Zionists and Zionism.

        There is an article in ‘Fathom’ by Paul Bogdanor which tries to discredit Ken Livingstone by in turn trying to discredit some of Ken’s historical references to dealings between the Nazis and the Zionists, particularly with regard to the findings of Lenni Brenner. It’s yet another of the attempts to drag the arguments off into the long grass when the issue is plain and simple, the atrocious treatment of the Palestinians by Israel.

        I’ve said this many times and I will keep on saying it. The whole cause of the problem is a bunch of European Zionists, despite objections from many in the Jewish community, such as Albert Einstein, decided that Palestine – the Holy Land, would be a great place for them to colonise and install their mono religious State, without any regard to the local population. Indeed the only way they could implement their aim was to get rid of the locals and this they proceeded to do and are still doing to this day.

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