Analysis comment

Exclusive: LFI claims Palestinians ‘abandoned’ their homes and land in 1948

Labour Friends of Israel’s astonishing perversion of history in briefing to supporters to attack Palestinian Solidarity Campaign

Some Palestinians ‘abandoning’ their land in 1948

A leaked document sent by Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) to its supporters has shed light on the group’s mindset and naked rewriting of history.

The briefing, intended to help LFI supporters counter the forthcoming Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) ‘Lobby Day’, provides them with four pages of material to smear and undermine the group’s attempts to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians and the actions of Israel.

It includes such gems as attacking Brighton PSC for tweeting a cartoon about Israeli right-wingers waving flags and shouting ‘Kill all Arabs’. Here is CNN, in June this year, covering a march of Israeli right-wingers shouting ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘I hope your villages burn’:

Others include:

  • attacking PSC for ‘exclusively support[ing] the national rights of Palestinians
  • attacking the PSC’s ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ regime, which PSC promotes as a ‘non-violent response to apartheid’, because it doesn’t differentiate between goods produced in more recently-seized Palestinian territories and those from the land taken from Palestinians in 1948. Labour’s own conference this year strongly backed a call for sanctions against Israel for its apartheid
  • describing cosmetics sold at a shop affected by PSC protests as from ‘undisputed Israeli territory’
  • accusing PSC of resisting the ‘IHRA definition’ of antisemitism. Kenneth Stern, the IHRA ‘working definition’s own author, has attacked the way the right is abusing the code, saying: “I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it”
  • attacking PSC co-founder Tony Greenstein, who is Jewish, for criticising former MP Louise Ellman as ‘a racist supporter of the child abuse of Palestinian children’.
  • treating holding a dinner with ‘expelled Labour member Jackie Walker – a black British Jew – as an offence in itself
  • attacking PSC for opposing a move by right-wing MPs to ‘fully proscribe Hamas’ – which functions the elected government of Gaza
  • claiming that the Co-operative Bank’s decision to close PSC’s accounts, even though it could find no evidence that any funds were being misused, is damning of PSC

But perhaps most shocking is the revelation that, as far as LFI is concerned, Palestinians were not driven from their homes in 1948 to create the new state of Israel on their land. Instead, they ‘abandoned’ them:

Apparently, in LFI’s version of history some 700,000 Palestinians got bored of living in Palestine and wandered off, rather than being forced out at gunpoint. In fact, in the period after the 1947-49 Palestine War, up to 5,000 mostly unarmed Palestinians were killed for trying to return to their homes.

‘Form’

This kind of revisionism and disdain for Palestinian rights and lives is not a new phenomenon for LFI. The group has ‘form’. In 2018, after more than fifty unarmed protesters were killed and more than two thousands injured by Israeli troops during Palestinians’ annual Nakba demonstrations in memory of their dispossession – sorry, ‘abandonment’ – LFI tweeted blaming Palestinians for their own murder:

The tweet, subsequently deleted, sparked outrage and calls for Labour to sever ties with the group, which also had close ties to the now-defunct ‘tinge’ ‘Change UK’ party via then-chair and now ‘honorary president’ Joan Ryan and others. Those were not heeded and Ryan was a guest at the organisation’s dinner recently at which Keir Starmer was slammed for repeating the colonial myth that Palestine was a desert until incoming settlers ‘made the desert flower’.

Based on the latest briefing to its supporters, neither Israel’s ongoing abuses of human rights – nor Labour’s sovereign conference resolution supporting sanctions against the country – have done anything to change LFI’s views or position.

Read the full LFI document here.

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