Palestinians will not be silenced

Palestinians in Gaza commemorating Land Day 2014. Photo: Joe Catron

As a British Palestinian Arab and member of the Labour Party I am beginning to feel there is a minority who do not want the Party to welcome people like me. And they sure don’t want to make the Labour Party a safe place for me, writes Chris Khamis.

It is not so much what Jonathan Arkush said. He is President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, a body which has always argued that Jewish people should not go out on the streets to oppose anti-Semitism. He is also reported to be a right-wing Tory who welcomed Donald Trump’s victory and who supports Netanyahu.

It is those Labour MPs who supported him on Monday. And now Progress, a group within the Labour Party, whose Director has just called for the automatic suspension for using Zionism as a ‘pejorative word or term of abuse’ and that it is not acceptable to liken ‘Israel to..apartheid South Africa’. He also calls for a reaffirmation of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which suggests that it is anti-Semitic to say that Israel is a ‘racist endeavour’.

Well I think, based on personal experience, that Zionism has led to the oppression of Palestinians, that Israel is a racist state and that it has many similarities with apartheid South Africa. Why? Well, for starters, my father, who was studying in Britain in 1948 was denied the right to return to where he was born and brought up because he was a Palestinian Arab and not a Palestinian Jew. In fact if he was Jewish person from anywhere else in the world, he would have been allowed into Israel and given citizenship.

My father was just one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who were not allowed to return or who were driven out of their homes. But for saying this, Progress’s Director would have me expelled from the Labour Party or suspended and ‘retrained’ by the Jewish Labour Movement, an organisation that is affiliated to the Israeli Labour Party. This is the Party that ran Israel when my father was denied his right to return and which now worries about being seen as too ‘Arab friendly’. So who are the real racists?

I am both frightened and angry. But I will continue to demand at the very least that Palestinians have a voice. And I will support the current Leader of the Labour Party who has an unimpeachable record of acting against all forms of racism. And I will continue to fight all forms of racism including anti-Semitism.

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