Thornberry: Fascism must be rooted out from Labour

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Fascism must be rooted out from Labour, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has told the Labour conference, admitting there are “sickening individuals” exploiting legitimate support for Palestine.

Ms Thornberry also condemned the Israeli government’s “racist policies and criminal actions” as she gave her keynote speech in Liverpool.

She said: “We all support the Palestinian cause, we are all committed to recognise the Palestinian State, and I stand here with no hesitation when I condemn the Netanyahu government for its racist policies and its criminal actions against the Palestinian people.

“But I know as well, and we must all acknowledge, that there are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed.

“Those people stand for everything that we have always stood against and they must be kicked out of our party the same way Oswald Mosley was kicked out of Liverpool.”

Ms Thornberry was speaking after a debate on Palestine saw one speaker defying the chair to whoops, cheers and scores of Palestine flags being waved in support.

Delegates chanted “Free Palestine” as a motion condemning the Israeli response to protests in the Gaza Strip was moved by Colin Monehen from Harlow CLP.

He said an “army” would be needed to remove him from the stage, prompting cheers and claps from many in the audience, after he was told his speaking time was up.

He said: “If you want me off this stage you’re going to have to get security up here, and they better send an army, because Eastenders, like Palestinians, don’t go down easy.”

Mr Monehen said the Palestinian people could not be “left alone in the darkness”, saying their story “must be told”.

“I want us to send a message to Mr Trump that cutting the funding to the UNRWA, the humanitarian agency set up by the UN to assist these people in exile, born homeless, born stateless, in refugee camps, will not crush their spirit.

“It will not lessen their resolve to return home.

“Expelling Palestinian diplomats will not make them disappear like a snowflake in the hot sun.”

The debate happened after Labour leader Mr Corbyn threw his support behind a two-state solution to Middle East peace, saying he wanted a “secure and viable” Palestine alongside Israel.

Addressing the Labour Friends of Palestine conference fringe event he attacked Donald Trump for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and cutting funding for the UN Refugee Agency.

He also called for a “sustainable, just peace” with Israel after “51 years of occupation”.

“But peace cannot be achieved with the existence of settlements, human rights abuses, and a disregard for international law by the current Israeli government, like last Sunday’s demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan Al Amar,” he continued.

“The security of one country can never be achieved at the expense of another and Britain has historic responsibility towards Palestinian people.

“We will continue to stand up for Palestinians, we will recognise an independent state of Palestine as soon as we take office.”

At the same fringe meeting, Ms Thornberry echoed the party leader, saying an independent Palestine was needed “while there is still some Palestine left to recognise”.

She also highlighted the toll the conflict was taking on children, both in Israel and Palestine.

Hilary Wise, of Ealing Central and Acton CLP, was warned to be “very careful” with her language after she claimed “most” accusations of anti-Semitism against the left wing of Labour were not justified.

“I’ve been campaigning for Palestinian rights for about 30 years now, and I’ve never actually seen anything quite like the … campaign of slurs and accusations of anti-Semitism, largely against the leadership, against Jeremy Corbyn, against the left of the party.

“I have looked into these accusations very carefully – I’m an academic, I know how to do research – a few of them are justified, most of them actually are not.

“I’m afraid it is an orchestrated campaign.”

Jewish Labour delegate Steve Lapsley, from Derby South, denounced Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before also noting Labour had more work to do to win back the Jewish community’s trust, saying: “This isn’t helped by some members of our Parliamentary Labour Party who are actively supporting suspended anti-Semites.”

One delegate, raising a point of order, also said: “People always say Muslim women don’t want to integrate.

“There’s less than five people who are wearing hijab and we were asking you to take the part of the debate. You didn’t give us an opportunity. I’m very sorry but that is not the party I’m a member of.”

Delegates later approved a motion which, among other things, urged a freeze of UK Government arms sales to Israel.

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