Labour should forge stronger links with Fatah

January 4, 2013 3:02 pm

“See up there, the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al Aqsa mosque, they won’t be there in 12 months’ time… after successful Israeli elections we’ll raze them to the ground.”

Four years on and I’m back in Palestine’s West Bank to see what’s changed and these are the comments of an Israeli passer-by in Jerusalem’s old city, said to me and Labour colleagues. It doesn’t bode well. It’s our second night there and random Israelis are making unsolicited incendiary comments to visitors to the holy land.

“Gas the Arabs” graffiti, expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, increased Israeli settler violence towards Palestinians, both confirmed by UN agencies; and a whole raft of restrictions placed on Palestinians by the Israeli state which make their lives a misery – all suggest things had clearly got worse.

Faced with this horrific injustice I took some solace from the fact that Labour has supported recognition of the Palestinians at the UN in stark contrast to the Liberal-Tory Coalition who actively opposed it. If One Nation Labour is about anything it’s about being on the side of fairness and justice, it’s about promoting equality and fighting discrimination. In terms of this conflict, it has to be about helping bridge the gap between a non-existent peace process and a Palestinian Authority which must be finding it increasingly difficult to keep the peace.

Having taken the lead in UK politics in supporting Palestinian recognition, one of the next steps is for Labour to bolster relations with Fatah, its sister party in Palestine.

Fatah run Palestine’s West Bank in exceptionally difficult circumstances while it’s occupied by the Israelis. And they are responsible for the international community’s overwhelming support for Palestine at the UN’s General Assembly. They are a secular party of peace, pursuing non-violence and continually pressing for a two state solution, whilst Israel gives the impression it has moved beyond that solution.

Labour can do so much to support Fatah, just as Germany’s Social Democratic Party has. We could strengthen links by holding regular meetings between senior representatives so that we’re more familiar with what their priorities are. We can provide training and intern programmes which support younger and female Fatah activists so that we’re helping renew their base. We can assist with capacity building in administration and local governance. And we can have more exchanges so that Labour activists are aware of the Palestine-Israeli situation and Palestinians understand the context within which the Labour Party operates.

Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander have made an excellent start on preparing Labour to play a more positive role in the Middle East. They have been in tune with the international community in supporting Palestinian recognition. And they have played their part in signaling to Israel that its behaviour is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

The next step Labour can take is to forge stronger links with Fatah and re-establish Labour’s credentials in the Middle East. Our leadership has started the process of redressing the in-balance that has existed for too long, but we have to do more than just hold a candle for peace. We must support Fatah as the best chance for a peaceful solution. The alternative in Hamas does not bear thinking about.

Simon Danczuk is Rochdale’s MP and chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East. He was in Palestine with CAABU during December

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    Well said, Simon. Indeed, Hamas grew because of the lack of support Fatah received in trying to maintain a moderate stance
    I was encouraged by the statements of both Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham at the Reception for Labour Friends of Palestine at last years conference. I think we need to make it clear that the tactics of the current Israeli government in making a 2 state solution infeasible do not have our support.

Latest

  • Comment Scotland Solidarity – a view from South of the border

    Solidarity – a view from South of the border

    “Solidarity” has always been a special word for me. But it has never been an easy one to define. Loyalty, unity, mutual support; all of those come into it but none of them quite sums the word up properly. Somehow solidarity is the “whole” that is more than the sum of its parts. But however difficult solidarity may be to define, you know when you see it and you know it when you experience it. As a trade unionist and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Bring your old football kit to conference

    Bring your old football kit to conference

    Every football fan has got a favourite football strip. That kit your team wore when they won the Cup, or the first game you went to, the season you got promoted, or the first year you had a season ticket. I’ve got more football tops than I’d care to admit – Athletic Bilbao, Kaizer Chiefs, Brazil, Scotland, South Africa, for some reason Motherwell and Middlesbrough. I also have a couple belonging to a team from Glasgow that play in green […]

    Read more →
  • Comment How Labour can make sure we’re the party for the self-employed

    How Labour can make sure we’re the party for the self-employed

    Labour must be the party both of and for the self employed and small business if it is to win the next election. It is on strong ground as it has an excellent Labour Business team who are widely respected. Labour’s grassroots are being filled with those who run their own businesses, work as self employed or as freelance. It is growing to become a key constituency both within the Labour party and within society. In March 2013, Labour’s Small […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Power to the regions

    Power to the regions

    After one of the greatest shocks to the global financial market, UK plc is tentatively getting back on track. Unemployment is at a six-year low, and the UK economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter compared with the same period last year. However, whilst London and the financial services sector have played an important role, the real story is what’s happening elsewhere in the country. In the North West, a regional economic powerhouse is starting to take shape thanks […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Video Gordon Brown’s barnstorming speech in defence of the Union

    Gordon Brown’s barnstorming speech in defence of the Union

    Gordon Brown’s speech this lunchtime has already been heaped with praise as ranking among his best – and it only finished an hour ago. If you have thirteen minutes to spare today, watch this: “When young men were injured in these wars, they didn’t look to each other and ask whether you were Scots or English; they came to each others’ aid because they were part of a common cause. And we not only won these wars together; we won […]

    Read more →