Labour delegates voted overwhelmingly to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland at the UK opposition party’s annual conference on Monday.
The historic motion opposes any proposed “solution” for Palestinians not based on international law, including their right “to return to their homes.”
It also reaffirms the party’s relatively new commitment to end all arms sales to Israel.
A motion passed last year calls for a Labour government to “freeze” arms sales to Israel. The motion passed on Monday calls for the party to end “any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.”
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign stated that the motion commits the party to ending the UK’s financial and military complicity with Israel’s oppression.
“Labour Party members have said in one voice to the Palestinian people – we stand with you in your fight for justice,” PSC director Ben Jamal stated.
“What is required now is for this crucial motion, passed overwhelmingly by members, to be translated into official party policy as we move towards the next general election.”
An election is expected within months.
A Labour government must “adhere to an ethical foreign policy” on trade with Israel, including ending any trade in arms used to violate Palestinians’ human rights, the motion passed on Monday states.
It also states that Labour “has a special responsibility to redress … ongoing injustices” due to colonial Britain’s role in the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.
Some 800,000 Palestinians were expelled by Zionist militias and later the Israeli army between 1947 and 1949. Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their right to return ever since.
British troops withdrew in 1948, giving the militias free rein, in some cases even aiding them first.
“Raise the pressure”
Britain’s trade union federation voted two weeks ago to recognize Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
The Trade Union Congress motion also calls for unions to “raise the pressure” on corporations complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinians, the Morning Star reported.
The Labour motion passed on Monday is a reversal of the position taken by the party in 1948, when it was in government in Britain.
The party went into the 1945 election with policy in place arguing for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. It stated that there was a necessity in Palestine “for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in.”
The party at the time even advocated “the possibility” of expanding the borders of the future Jewish state by annexing parts of Jordan, Egypt or Syria.
The biographer of Labour chancellor Hugh Dalton, who authored this policy, described his vision as “Zionism plus plus.”
An earlier draft later toned down in subcommittee advocated “throwing open Libya or Eritrea to Jewish settlement, as satellites or colonies to [Jewish] Palestine.”