‘I’m not an anti-Semite!’
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, delegate from Chingford and Woolford Green CLP and media officer of the newly founded Jewish Voice for Labour, received a standing ovation following this speech
I want to welcome the insertion into the NPF annual report’s section on the Middle East of the key paragraph from our ground-breaking election manifesto, which referred to Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian land. I’m so pleased that this section has been put back in, after it had been inexplicably omitted from the NPF report.
Let me tell you my perspective on this: I’m Jewish, I come from a tradition of anti-racist and anti-colonial struggle - a socialist Labour tradition of international solidarity with oppressed people. This is not some meaningless David Spart slogan out of the pages of Private Eye: it is a fundamental feature of our tradition as a party committed to justice and equality.
Oppression and discrimination are rampant in today’s world, so why Palestine? Well, it’s not only that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation and illegal resettlement; it’s not only that this year marks 10 years of the siege of Gaza, with intermittent military onslaughts against its people. This year also marks 100 years since the Balfour declaration, when a British foreign secretary promised the land of Palestine to the Jewish people - my people. The civil rights of the existing population - that’s the Palestinians - were meant to be protected, but that turned out to be an empty promise.
We Brits - all of us - have a responsibility for what occurred. Despite huge misgivings and even outright opposition from many Jews, our leaders - that’s British leaders - facilitated founding a state which privileges Jews such as myself over non-Jews.
Seventy years ago, 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, in what for them was a catastrophe that they call the Nakba. More than 450 towns and villages were destroyed. The world’s longest-running refugee population was created. We Brits need to take responsibility for the ongoing Palestinian tragedy dating from Balfour’s pledge.
So, in this policy report, we call for an end to Israel’s blockage of Gaza, an end to the occupation and the settlements, and endorsement of the Palestinian state. This is the very least that we should be doing. I say this as a Jew, as an anti-racist and as a dedicated member of this - this revived, internationalist - Labour Party.
Comrades, I’m not an anti-Semite! And, conference, this party does not have a problem with Jews!