Related Quarterly Updates

In the lead-up to local elections across the UK on 5/5, the Labour Party came under renewed accusations of anti-Semitism after the schism within Labour between the old guard and the new progressive wing over new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s break with the party’s traditional pro-Israel positions and rhetoric. Although hints of controversy surfaced amid Corbyn’s rise to party leadership in 9/2015 (see JPS 45 [2]), it dominated the UK press in 2/2016 after former Labour leader Ed Miliband indefinitely postponed his planned address to the Oxford University Labour Club in protest at the club’s decision to support Israeli Apartheid Week (2/22–28). Labour Club cochair Alex Chalmers resigned, claiming that many of the club’s mbrs. had “some kind of problem with Jews” (Guardian, 2/17). As Labour’s national students’ group launched an inquiry into the alleged anti-Semitism, previous incidents came under reexamination. Gerry Downing’s 8/22/ 2015 tweet about the “Jewish question” and Vicky Kirby’s summer 2014 social media posts suggesting Hitler might be a “Zionist god” appeared to some critics as part of a trend rather than random incidents.

The controversy escalated in 4/2016. Labour suspended MP Naz Shah (4/27) after a conservative blogger dug up Facebook posts she made in 2014 suggesting that Israelis move en masse to the U.S. The party also suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone (4/28) after he made comments, defending Shah; in an interview that day, Livingstone alleged that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews” and suggested that the Israel lobby had a “wellorchestrated campaign”to “smear anybody who criticizes Israeli policy as anti-Semitic.” Amid intensifying complaints from Labour Party elders, Corbyn announced (4/29) an independent review of alleged anti-Semitism within the party, but the issue was far from settled at quarter’s end.

The Palestinian leadership embarked on a new effort this quarter to achieve justice in the international legal system. At an Arab League summit on 7/20, FM Riyad al-Maliki announced that the PA intended to file a lawsuit against Great Britain over the 11/1917 Balfour Declaration, which signaled Britain’s support for a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine and eventually led to the Nakba. Abbas later called (7/24) for Arab states to back the effort. By the end of the quarter, however, it was unclear what sort of damages the Palestinians were seeking, and there were no further updates.

There was 1 major Palestine-related development in the UK this quarter. Secy. of State for International Development Priti Patel, a Conservative who rose to power after the Brexit vote earlier this year, announced that the British govt. had decided to freeze the transfer of £25 m. (approx. $31 m.) to the PA out of concern about the PA’s transfer of allowances to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel on terrorismrelated charges or to their families (Haaretz, 10/7). According to Foreign Office sources, the aid would likely resume in 2017: “We are not stopping [aid] for the PA overall,” an official was quoted as saying, “just delaying it.”

Three mos. after UK secy. of state for international development Priti Patel froze around a 3d of the UK’s annual aid to the Palestinians and ordered a review of funding procedures (see JPS 46 [2]), the Dept. for International Development (DID) announced (12/16) the results of the review DID pledged to provide the PA with up to £25 m. (approximately $31 m.) in the 2017 fiscal year, saying the aid would “focus solely on vital health and education services, to meet the immediate needs of the Palestinian people and maximize value for money.” The DID statement added that aid money would only go toward the salaries of health and education officials who had been vetted. No funds would be used to pay the salaries of PA employees in Gaza who have been out of work since Hamas took over a decade ago. DID also pledged to undertake an assessment of the PA’s fiscal and public financial management reforms.

Also of note: The Mail on Sunday published video footage on 1/8 depicting a “senior political officer” from Israel’s embassy in London plotting to “take down” senior UK officials for criticizing Israel and calling Foreign Secy. Johnson an “idiot.” Israel’s amb. to the UK, Mark Regev, offered (1/7) the British govt. a formal apology and the Israeli Embassy said (1/7) that the employee, Shai Masot, would soon be leaving his job.

On 4/3, PA pres. Abbas called on the UK govt. to offer incoming Palestinian rep. Maen Areikat the same diplomatic status as his predecessor, Manuel Hassassian. “We asked the British govt. to deal with the new representative in the same way it dealt with the outgoing one,” he said. “They should not change that, lest it be understood as a malicious act.” Since 2011, the Palestinian office in London has been an official diplomatic mission. The British govt. did not respond to Abbas’s request.

The apparent downgrade in the Palestinians’ status in the UK came amid rising tensions surrounding the 100-year anniversary of the 11/1917 Balfour Declaration. PA FM Riyad al-Maliki previously threatened legal action against Britain should it proceed with planned celebrations (see JPS 46 [1]). This quarter, Abbas reiterated (4/3) that threat, and more than 13,000 UK citizens signed onto a petition calling on the UK govt. to “openly apologize to the Palestinian people.” The UK govt. is required to respond to all petitions garnering more than 10,000 signatures, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) did so on 4/25. “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which [the British govt.] does not intend to apologize,” the FCO said. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”

Controversy dogged the UK Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, this quarter, leading to a diplomatic row with Israel’s Labor Party. The affair began when Corbyn, a longtime critic of the Israeli occupation, attended a Passover Seder organized by Jewdas, a self-described “radical” Jewish group. The UK press picked up the story after Jewdas’s Twitter account posted (4/3) an “Israel-Palestine prayer” read at the meal. “We take a moment to consider how shit the State of Israel is in general and particularly at this moment,” it read. In response, a number of Zionist UK Jewish groups and Labour Party officials accused Corbyn of facilitating anti-Semitism. “How can we take his stated commitment to be an ally against anti-Semitism seriously?” asked the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush. Corbyn rejected their allegations, but the story stuck. On 4/10, Israel’s Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay announced that he was cutting ties with the UK Labour Party. “It is my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour Party UK,” he wrote in a letter to Corbyn. “You are not fulfilling your role in curbing anti-Semitism around you, and your public statements carry a load of hatred toward Israel.”

               The UK released a statement saying it was adding Hezbollah in its entirety to its list of terrorist organizations. The UK’s home secretary Sajid Javid said, “Hizballah is continuing in its attempts to destabilase the fragile situation in the Middle East—and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.” Hezbollah’s military wing was designated a terrorist organization by the UK in 2001. Hezbollah holds 2 of 30 cabinet positions in Lebanon and 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament.

               The foreign secretary of the UK Jeremy Hunt penned an op-ed in the Jewish Chronicle on 21 March stating a change in UK policy toward the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary Hunt stipulated that the UK would vote against “all text proposed under Item 7.” Item 7 is dedicated for discussions of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in Gaza and the West Bank. The UK has for the past 2 years lobbied for removing Item 7.

               The United Kingdom (UK), along with the European Union and United Nations denounced Israel’s decision to expand 4 Israeli settlements in the West Bank, totaling 2,304 housing units. British foreign secretary Dominic Raab urged “Israel to halt its settlement expansion, which is contrary to international law and promotes the effective annexation of the West Bank . . . [and] to develop improved mechanisms that allow Palestinians to build within Area C.”

               The UK city of Sheffield’s city council voted to recognize the State of Palestine. The UK does not recognize the State of Palestine.

Quarterly Updates for (1 Jan 1970 — 1 Jan 1970)

Three mos. after UK secy. of state for international development Priti Patel froze around a 3d of the UK’s annual aid to the Palestinians and ordered a review of funding procedures (see JPS 46 [2]), the Dept. for International Development (DID) announced (12/16) the results of the review DID pledged to provide the PA with up to £25 m.