UK Labour Party passes motion that defines Israel as 'apartheid state'

Demonstrators take part in protests outside a meeting of the National Executive of Britain's Labour Party which will discuss the party's definition of antisemitism, in London, September 4, 2018

The motion to define Israel as an apartheid state comes as the party tried to recover from the antisemitism scandal the party faced under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The UK Labour Party passed a motion in their annual Brighton conference to define Israel as an apartheid state and impose sanctions against Israel as a result, the Independent reported on Tuesday.

The motion further demanded actions against "the building of settlements, reverse any annexation and ends the occupation of the West Bank and the Blockade of Gaza."

Human rights groups were quoted in the motion as "concluding unequivocally that Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid as defined by the UN."

Not all the party members supported the motion. The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, distanced herself from the motion, telling the Independent that Labour must follow a "fair and balanced approach", while Labour leader Kier Starmer reportedly clashed with the members who supported the motion.

Nandy is the former chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, and in February 2020 she was backed by the Jewish Labour Movement to become the new party leader. 

"There can only be a lasting peace through a safe and secure Israel existing alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state," Nandy told the Independent. "Therefore we cannot support this motion. It does not address the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comprehensive or balanced way."

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy speaks during Britain's Labour Party annual conference, in Brighton, Britain, September 27, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)

According to the Middle East Monitor, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the motion, saying that it sends a strong message to Israel.

The motion came after a Jewish former member of the party, Dame Louise Ellman, rejoined the party. 

Ellman had previously left the party in protest while it was led by Jeremy Corbyn and facing an antisemitism scandal.

"The Labour party should never have allowed and tolerated the growth of racism within its ranks," wrote Ellman in a statement on Twitter.

She added that she was "confident that, under the leadership of Kier Starmer, the party is once again led by a man of principle in whom the British people and Britain's Jews can have trust."

Starmer welcomed Louise back by writing in a tweet that Ellman "showed courage and dignity in standing up against appalling antisemitic abuse," adding that he was "heartened that her faith in [the] party has been restored enough for her to return to her political home."

He ended his tweet by stating that he knew there was still more work to do.

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