Solidarity with Palestine from the Conference Floor

Yesterday, Labour Conference passed a historic motion condemning the ongoing Nakba in Palestine. Here, we republish a speech made by a Young Labour representative calling for justice for Palestinians.

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Chair, delegates. My name is Jawad Khan, and today it is my honour and my privilege to speak on behalf of Young Labour, in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Five years ago, when I was in sixth form, my friends and I organised a fundraiser for Palestinian refugees in Gaza. This summer, I watched in horror as schoolchildren across the country faced sanctions, punishments, and even exclusions for doing exactly the same thing.

I was horrified because I know how hopeless we all felt as we watched families being evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, as we watched neighbourhoods being ethnically cleansed in Silwan, as we watched civilians—even children—being shot in cold blood by the Israeli Defence Forces.

I know how desperate we all were to do everything within our power to help the people of Palestine. To be told—by headteachers and politicians no less—that we shouldn’t care about this suffering was an insult to our instinctive sense of justice.

But, comrades, this summer I also saw one of the labour movement’s greatest lessons put into action: that when we stand united—united in the principles that bind us, and united in the certainty that our cause is just—we can turn the tides of history.

In May, 200,000 of us marched in London calling for an end to the dispossession, occupation, exile and siege that the Palestinian people have faced for over 100 years. These were the largest pro-Palestine demonstrations that this country has ever seen, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with young people.

Conference, I was proud that day to see thousands of people marching under the banners of their trade unions.

Because we cannot forget that from the ranks of the labour movement, our comrades have fought and fallen in the fight against fascism in Spain, joined anti-colonial struggles across the Global South, and played a crucial role in ending Apartheid in South Africa.

Now, it is my generation’s turn to play our part in ending apartheid in Israel.

My generation refuses to sit by while Palestinian civilians are shot by snipers and drones marketed at arms fairs in East London.

We refuse to sit by while our councils are told that they can’t divest from companies that violently enforce Israel’s apartheid laws.

We refuse to sit by while yet another generation of Palestinians lose their homes in this ongoing act of settler colonialism.

This summer, inspired by the sacrifices of those who have struggled before us, we took to the streets to show our determination to answer the Palestinian people’s call for solidarity – whatever it takes.

Sometimes, it’s not easy to know exactly what that is. But comrades, the words, the gestures and the practical actions we take at Conference here today mean so much to a people who have been struggling for their most basic rights for far too many years.

The motion before you today will not only send our uncompromising solidarity to the Palestinian people; by calling for sanctions against a state that is practicing war crimes, it will bring us one step closer to finally ending a shameful century of British complicity in the denial of their rights to self-determination, liberation, and return.

In 1948, when our government stood by and allowed the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their land during the Nakba, we were complicit.

Today, as the descendants of those expelled are injured by weapons sold by British companies, we are complicit.

Conference, this motion is about the next generation of Palestinians, those children who were born refugees, about giving them a chance at a future in which they can be free.

It is also about the next generation of the labour movement, about breaking with our imperial past and enacting our foundational principles – solidarity and internationalism.

As that great hero of the global anti-apartheid struggle once said, ‘We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’

About the Author

Jawad Khan is a former Labour Party candidate for the European Parliament and a member of the Young Labour National Committee. He is also on the GMB union's national young members committee and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Young Workers Forum.