Why as a Palestinian I support Corbyn’s Labour
The United Kingdom's general election offers the potential for some seismic changes to the global political scene.
The Labour Party is putting forward a serious and radical challenge to the Conservative Party which could have far-reaching effects. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has rid us of Tony Blair's New Labour and taken the party back to a politics that embraces its working-class and socialist roots.
This is an internationalist politics which recognises the solidarities between peoples of colour, women, the working classes, trade unions and others in the struggle against capitalism, neoliberalism, patriarchy and colonialism. It is a politics that should complement the Palestinian struggle.
But still, it cannot obscure that my relationship with the Labour Party is a complicated one.
I moved to the UK from Palestine in 2001, just a couple of years before the Iraq War. As a young teenager, I marched through the streets with hundreds of thousands of others on the eve of the war, calling on the government not to invade Iraq. Having never before seen so many people mobilised on the streets, I distinctly remember feeling the might of people power.
I remember, even more distinctly, the crushing feeling when the British parliament, led by Tony Blair's New Labour, approved the invasion.
As a Palestinian with a British passport, it was devastating to know that British bombs and soldiers would be descending upon my brothers and sisters in Iraq. Some years later, New Labour would also be at the forefront of arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, many of the Saudi fighter jets being used to bomb Yemen today were sold to them by the New Labour governments, first under Blair and later under Gordon Brown. Labour certainly does not have clean hands when it comes to British government involvement in the Middle East.
"Involvement" is probably an understatement for Britain's long and violent history in the region.
As a colonial power, it was instrumental in the carving up of the Middle East. It divided peoples, propped up elites loyal to the colonial powers and repressed independence movements. Most notoriously, in Palestine, it signed and facilitated the takeover of land - already inhabited by indigenous Palestinians - by the Zionist settler-colonial movement. Indeed, the British Labour Party eagerly supported Arthur Balfour and his declaration of support for a Jewish homeland in the land of Palestine. Britain's continuous support for Zionism and the State of Israel, in the form of diplomatic, intelligence and trade links, as well as arms deals, has had disastrous consequences for the Palestinian people.
It is time now more than ever for Britain to be held accountable for its colonial crimes in Palestine and elsewhere, and it is also time for British complicity in the ongoing violations against the Palestinian people to end. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party could begin to do just that.