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Labour blocks Palestinian group from using ‘apartheid’ in conference brochure

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said Labour banned them from describing Israel as an apartheid state in its conference literature
Labour members holding Palestine flags during the 2018 Party conference (Reuters)

The Labour Party has told the UK's largest Palestinian advocacy organisation that it cannot refer to Israel as an apartheid state in publicity material ahead of next week's party conference.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said Labour had removed any references related to the word apartheid from PSC’s listing of its stall and fringe meeting in the conference brochure.

The event, titled “Justice for Palestinians, End Apartheid”, is set to take place next Tuesday. But this title will not feature in any Labour Party conference literature. 

Israel's decades-old occupation of Palestinian territories and its policies of discrimination against Palestinians have been described as amounting to apartheid by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Speakers listed by PSC who will address the event include Saleh Hijazi, policy coordinator at the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) national committee, and Mick Whelan, who is general secretary of the Aslef trade union. 

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When PSC challenged Labour on the ban, the pro-Palestine group said the party responded by stating that “the Labour Party will not publish a description of Israel as an apartheid state”. 

PSC added that Labour officials told them that publishing literature containing the word apartheid would be “detrimental to the party”. 

In response to Labour's move, PSC director Ben Jamal said: “A Labour government should be fully committed to the upholding of international law and the principle that respect for human rights should be central to all relations with foreign states, including trade relations. Such a commitment would mean holding Israel to account for its practice of what amounts to a crime against humanity." 

He added: “PSC’s fringe meeting next week, entitled 'Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid', will go ahead regardless of how it is advertised in Labour’s conference brochure.

“We look forward to welcoming all Labour members and members of PSC’s nationally affiliated trade unions, who hold firm to Martin Luther King’s injunction that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "Keir Starmer has been clear that this is not the position of the Labour Party."

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