Lisa Nandy set out her views on the Israel-Palestine conflict during an ‘in conversation with event’ held by the Jewish Representative Council of Manchester and the Jewish Leadership Council earlier this week.
Speaking in front of an audience in Manchester on Tuesday evening, the Shadow Foreign Secretary reiterated her party’s support for a two-state solution and said that Israel has a “right to defend itself”.
Discussing rocket attacks by Hamas and airstrikes by Israel this year and asked whether Labour supports the use of “targeted force” by the Israeli government, she said: “We have always believed that Israel has a right to defend itself.
“One of the things that Wayne David – who’s the shadow minister – and I said repeatedly during that time was that we didn’t support blocking the sale of weapons to Israel, for example, that helped them to deflect the rocket attacks because Israel has a right to defend itself and Israel’s citizens have a right to live in peace and security. But where we were really critical was of a disproportionate use of force and in particular force that targets civilians.”
Nandy told the event she does not draw a “moral equivalence between Hamas and the Israeli government”, saying: “Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation that has committed acts of violence against its own citizens as well.
“So no moral equivalence between the two. Do I think that Israel’s attacks were sufficiently targeted with sufficient warning and proportionate that the loss of civilian life in Palestine was minimised? No, I absolutely do not.”
She added: “It’s important to recognise that there is an equivalence in terms of every single life matters, and that’s why we talked about air strikes and rocket attacks because people lost their lives on both sides.”
Nandy said “there are a lot of people in this country who are fighting the Palestinian cause because they’re well motivated and because they care” but some used the conflict to “divide people and stoke hate and division”.
“There are a lot of people in this country who just feel absolutely heartbroken when they see the plight of the Palestinian people and I think that it’s important to recognise that,” the Shadow Foreign Secretary argued.
“The best thing we can do to support those people is to create the conditions in which both Israelis and Palestinians and those moderate voices in Israel and Palestine can come together and reach some kind of agreement.”
She reiterated that she is “unequivocally” in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, adding: “Given the unique circumstances in which Israel came into being, I think BDS in that context is really problematic. And I also think it’s unhelpful in that creates walls when what we need is bridges.”
But the Labour frontbencher said it is “absolutely right and fair that people, consumers, should be able to make their own choice about the goods that they buy”, and stressed the importance of origin labelling on goods including from the “occupied Palestinian territories”.
Nandy also explained that Labour would have supported a boycott had former US President Donald Trump’s plan for the region been implemented, which she said would have “been the end of a two-state solution”.
She said: “We took the view in the Labour Party that, were that to go ahead, it would be so significantly serious that we should not continue to trade with the annexed territories and the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Questioned on the West’s approach to Iran, the Shadow Foreign Secretary said the US administration under Joe Biden is “right to continue to persevere” in talks with the country but warned that “we have to be very cautious”.
She added: “This is a state that is still developing nuclear weapons, that has shown no sign of dropping their hardline approach. It’s also a state that uses hostage diplomacy.”
She warned of the implications for the region of the UK government’s response to the situation in Afghanistan, arguing that the events of recent weeks had left the UK in a “weakened position in the world” and “changed the power relationships”.