When Britain’s Labor Party Loved Israel

Last week, Israel’s Labor party made an official decision to sever ties with its British counterpart in response to the latter’s becoming a bastion of anti-Semitism and hostility toward Israel. But it was not ever so. Robert Philpot recounts Labor’s early support for Zionism, and the gradual and uneven descent into today’s attitudes:

Three months prior to the publication of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, the party issued the first draft of the War Aims Memorandum, its vision for the postwar world. Written by Arthur Henderson, the Labor leader, and Sidney Webb, the party’s intellectual driving force, it declared: “The British Labor movement expresses the opinion that Palestine should be set free from the harsh and oppressive government of the Turk, in order that the country may form a free state, under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish people as desired to do so may return, and may work out their salvation.” . . .

It was also the moment which cemented the alliance between Poalei Zion—a Jewish workers’ movement founded in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century which preached a blend of socialism and Zionism [and was a precursor to Israel’s Labor party]—and the [UK’s] Labor party. A year later, on the eve of the 1918 general election, Poalei Zion, which had established its first branches in Britain in 1903, urged Jewish voters to back Labor. . . .

Labor proved itself a steadfast supporter of the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Its own annual conferences, and those of its allies in the trade-union movement, repeatedly endorsed this principle during the 1930s. In May 1939, Labor opposed the Conservative government’s White Paper, which sought to halt Jewish immigration to Palestine and effectively reneged on the undertakings made by Arthur Balfour nearly twenty years before. . . . In 1945, shortly after Germany’s surrender and as Britain prepared for its first general election in a decade, Labor nailed its colors firmly to the Zionist mast. Addressing its annual conference in May 1945, Hugh Dalton, who two months later would become chancellor of the exchequer following the party’s landslide win, declared it “morally wrong and politically indefensible to restrict the entry into Palestine of Jews desiring to go there.” . . .

[Yet] Clement Attlee, who led Labor to victory in July 1945 and is often regarded as one of the party’s greatest ever prime ministers, . . . betrayed the Zionist cause which Labor had consistently advocated for nearly three decades. The party, he announced, would honor the terms of the 1939 White Paper it had voted against six years previously.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Labor Party, Labor Party (UK), United Kingdom


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict