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

  • Featured Talk of a breakaway “Workers’ Party” is dangerous and wrong

    Talk of a breakaway “Workers’ Party” is dangerous and wrong

    On Friday, for the second time in recent weeks, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said something really important and dangerous that ought to have caused a reaction across the entire labour movement and Labour Party. But virtually no one reacted. According to the Guardian Len “repeated his warning that his members may force a split from Labour and urge support for a new workers’ party if Miliband fails to set out a radical vision to inspire people before the next […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Since its earliest days Labour has been an internationalist party and proud of it, too. From Keir Hardy and Harold Wilson to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, those who shaped Labour’s vision in the 20th and early 21st Century regarded the fight against poverty overseas as a natural extension of the fight against poverty at home. If Labour wins in 2015, we look forward to our proud tradition continuing. But with the clear focus of the current leadership on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Contrary to popular belief (and by popular belief, I mean the belief that prevails amongst the Shadow Cabinet and its apparatchiks) the Labour Party does not exist as a fan club for the Parliamentary faction. The Labour Party is an instrument through which ordinary people can shape their own lives and change the future of this country in a direction that is beneficial to our people. The recent decision by the Labour leadership to vote with the Coalition and implement […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What can Labour offer young people?

    What can Labour offer young people?

    Tony Blair proclaimed in 1997 that his three main priorities in government were ‘education, education, education.’ This has not translated to an increase in votes from young people.  Voter turnout between 1997 and 2005 amongst those aged 18-24 fell from an estimated 54.1% of this age range in 1997, down to 38.2% in 2005.  By contrast, voter turnout amongst those who are aged over 65 has never fallen below 70% since 1964.  As voters aged over 65 are more likely […]

    Read more →
  • News Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Sir John Chilcot’s report into the Iraq War is now not expected to be published until spring 2015, leaving worries for Labour as to how it will affect the election campaign. The Independent reports that “discussions between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office remain deadlocked, and a year-long stand-off is now unlikely to be resolved before the current parliamentary session ends. Even if a deal were reached over the summer recess, legal protocols and procedures would push the Iraq report’s […]

    Read more →