Newly-elected National Executive Committee member Gemma Bolton, who was backed by left wing group Momentum, has been placed under investigation by the party for tweeting in 2018: “If I run the risk of getting suspended for calling Israel an apartheid state then so be it. Suspend me. Because that comrades, is a hill I am perfectly happy to die on.”
An article in the Jewish Chronicle article referred to Bolton’s views on Israel as “hard line” and attempted to shame her for previous posts completely unrelated to the issue. She was accused of being fond of “sexually explicit humour”; the pro-Israel community newspaper cited a social media post from 2015 in which she said, “I’m torn between wanting to be a high class Westminster politician or a porn star.”
In 2017, a UN report said that, “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” UN Under-Secretary-General Rima Khalaf said at the time that the report “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.” Israel immediately expressed its outrage and dismissed the report as “anti-Semitic”.
The latest Labour suspension follows that of former leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, who was suspended after the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into alleged anti-Semitism in the party. Those opposed to such moves point out that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not the same thing, and that legitimate criticism of the Israeli government’s policies is not anti-Semitic per se.
Labour leader Keir Starmer sacked left wing Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet earlier this year for sharing an interview with actress Maxine Peake speaking out about police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Peake mentioned that US police forces receive training from their Israeli counterparts. This is a well-known fact, but it was deemed by Starmer to be unacceptable to criticise Israel.
Starmer also reportedly gave backbench MP Stephen Kinnock a “dressing down” for suggesting that the government should stop buying goods from illegal Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land. Again, the reality is that such settlements and the movement of people to live on occupied land are war crimes.