Plates, Party Politics, and Palestine: the immense Power of the Zionist Lobby in the UK
The Balfour declaration from 1917 was a decisive moment in history and possibly the main instigator of what has become today a decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the first World War, the British Empire was at war with the Ottoman empire, then the controller of the land of Palestine, home to the incredibly holy city of Jerusalem. Being a holy city in 3 massive monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, the religious importance of Jerusalem cannot be understated, and it has long been a source of conflict going as far back as the crusades and beyond. The Balfour declaration was a letter from the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, a prominent leader within the British Jewish community, announcing the government’s support for a Jewish state to be established on the land of Palestine. The agreement seemed good, Jewish people never had a land of their own and suffered much atrocious persecution within Europe for centuries, with the worst still to come… The British Empire would use its territory acquired through violence for good, allowing a marginalised community to finally have a home and a land of its own. Sadly, the Palestinian people were not consulted.
This Balfour declaration was one of the first major signs of the immense power the Zionist lobby has within the UK, which maintains its immense power to this date. The state ended up being established in 1948, after the second World War and the Holocaust, one of the most infamous genocides in history. Many of the Jewish people of Europe moved to this new state hoping for a fresh start, an end to violence and a place to live safely and have prosperous lives.
History has shown that this has sadly not happened, and violence stemming from both sides of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian, has become much the status quo in this part of the World. Recounting the violence can be very tricky and arbitrary, and putting the blame solely on any belligerent in this untraditional and decades long conflict is essentially impossible.
What I believe can be denounced though, is the power of the Zionist lobby in the UK today, which offers no solutions other than the erasure of the Palestinian people, a people who have never been in control of their own land and have been constantly under the boot of imperialism, and today, segregation. Amnesty International officially declared Israel an apartheid state, and Israel has defied international law on several occasions in expanding its colonies within lands that are supposedly Palestinian, and their powerful lobby abroad has allowed for this to go on with essentially zero repercussions.
In fact, a recent example of the immense pressure that the Zionist lobby can exert comes from a hospital in London, where artworks painted by Palestinian children have been removed and dubbed “propaganda”. The artwork, painted by schoolchildren from Gaza, showed cultural and religious staples of Palestine, with women wearing hijabs, the Gaza coastline, and, controversially, the Dome of the Rock, an important religious monument in both Islam and Judaism, with a Palestinian flag flying atop it. This alleged "wall of anti-Israel propaganda" apparently made Jewish patients feel uncomfortable and harassed when visiting the hospital. Obviously, everyone needs to be able to feel safe within a hospital, but being made uncomfortable by a paper plate painted by a child living in an encircled enclave of conflict torn land seems like a bit of an exaggeration. The UKLFI (UK Lawyers for Israel) were behind the removal of the artwork, and the removal itself is just another example of the tendency of the Zionist erasure of the Palestinian people. Their problem isn’t the propaganda, their problem is that they cannot erase the suffering people of Israel from the global consciousness.
The Zionist lobby makes talking about Israel negatively as hard as possible for anyone, as many members/politicians within the Labour party have learned. There have been prolonged investigations into anti-Semitism within the party, where a lot of the time, being an anti-Zionist was equated to being anti-Semitic. Al-Jazeera revealed last year the “Labour Files” , showing past intimidation tactics within the right-wing members of the labour party using threats of accusations and accusations of anti-Semitism as a threat to the more left-leaning, Palestine supporting members of the party. Some instances even revealed cases of Jewish labour members being accused of anti-Semitism. The party was led at the time by Jeremy Corbyn, the first socialist leader of Labour since the 1980s, and a member of the Palestine solidarity campaign. These internal pressures are beyond a reasonable doubt one of the reasons the party has shifted towards the right in recent years, and is now under the leadership of Keir Starmer. The accusations helped achieve this by discrediting a famously militant anti-racist, peace pursuing politician by reducing his legitimacy as being an activist in favour of equality. Obviously other factors, such as Corbyn being seen as quite a radical figure politically, contributed to the change in leadership, but the accusations of anti-Semitism have left their mark on the Labour party, and to this day, investigations are still ongoing into anti-Semitic behaviour and discrimination within the party. This manipulation from within the organisation of the party ultimately undermined the democratic will of the people who chose Corbyn as a leader.
Obviously, anti-Semitism is a serious issue, and all forms of discrimination must be dealt with accordingly and seriously, but its repeated weaponisation to crack down on criticism of Israel is very dangerous indeed. The Zionist lobby has the power to erase representations of Palestinian culture and the power to make established parties crumble from within if they step out of line. 106 years on from the Balfour declaration, it is worrying to see the shift to the far-right in Israel, and the fact that the increasing extremism in violence and discourse throughout the state of Israel is escalating on both sides, one can only hope the mistakes of the past can be rectified and a bilateral peaceful solution can be found.