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Corbyn receives award for supporting Palestinians amid Labour debate on BDS

Palestinian Forum in Britain awards former Labour leader its highest honour, weeks after Keir Starmer said party would not support BDS movement
Corbyn addresses protesters during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian cause outside the Israeli embassy in London earlier this year (AFP)

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has received an award for his efforts in helping the Palestinian people, as debates over boycotts on Israel continue in the party. 

The Palestinian Forum in Britain awarded Corbyn its highest honour on Saturday for his efforts in helping Palestine and Palestinian refugees. 

The forum said it gave Corbyn the award in recognition of his "remarkable efforts in supporting the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian community in the UK".

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Addressing hundreds of people at the organisation's annual convention, Corbyn said he was "honoured" to receive the award and told the audience that support for Palestine was strong in the Labour party. 

"The Palestinian people have suffered like no other in that they have been under occupation for many decades, and many are living in refugee camps ever since 1948 in different countries around the region, but particularly in Lebanon," said Corbyn. 

"I think it is important to recognise an entity known as Palestine, a state of Palestine, and I was proud to present a manifesto in the election two years ago to the British people which included unconditional recognition of Palestine."

Corbyn used his speech to remind Britain's largest Palestinian diaspora group that Labour supported Palestinians despite the party leadership's criticism of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on Israel. 

Starmer remarks

Earlier this year, Labour passed a motion at its annual conference, which backed an International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip. 

The motion also recognised the Palestinian right of return and indirectly endorsed the Palestinian Civil Society's call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel.

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Corbyn's speech follows remarks last month by Labour's current leader Keir Starmer in which he told the Labour Friends of Israel lobby group that the party would not support the BDS movement, which he described as "counter-productive" to ongoing peace efforts. 

Speaking to an audience which included Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's ambassador to the UK, Starmer said a boycott of Israel "denies the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination", a comment that was criticised by a number of left-wing Jewish activists.

"It would drive people apart when we should be bringing them together," said Starmer.

"BDS wouldn’t just hurt the people of Israel and Palestine, it would cause huge damage to the relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom, when we should be working together to tackle the great challenges of our time."