LFI have been visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week with a delegation of Labour MPs. Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, led the delegation alongside fellow MPs Rosie Winterton, Gloria De Piero, Michael Dugher and Ruth Smeeth. The delegation included tours of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem. The delegation also met with the UK Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, and leader of the Israeli Labor Party, Isaac Herzog. Speaking in advance of his meeting with Herzog, Tom Watson spoke of his desire to ‘build on our friendships and our determination to work for peace in the Middle East.’
Central to the visit was a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, where a wreath was laid on behalf of the Labour Party in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The visit comes on the invitation of Isaac Herzog, following a number of high-profile incidents of anti-semitism within the Labour party, which included distortions of Nazi history and attacks on Holocaust memorial days. Mr Watson said: ‘I wanted to come back to Israel and the Palestinian Territories and to pay respects on behalf of the UK Labour Party at Yad Vashem. We remembered those who died in the Holocaust and renewed our determination to fight racism and antisemitism – whatever form it takes and wherever it exists.’
The delegation also met with young Israelis and Palestinians participating in the Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) coexistence project in East Jerusalem. MEET brings together Israeli and Palestinian high school students (age 15-17) for a three-year course in technology and computing. Reflecting on the visit, Mr Watson said he was pleased to meet ‘inspiring young entrepreneurs from both the Israeli and Palestinian communities studying together.’ MEET is one of many coexistence projects that LFI is campaigning to support, by asking the UK government to allocate additional funds to coexistence projects and to support the establishment of the Alliance for Middle East Peace’s International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
In Tel Aviv, the delegation met with Israeli security and counter-terrorism specialists as well as leaders in Israel’s high-tech research and development sector. The delegation is one of many that LFI run throughout the year. Reflecting on the visit, LFI director Jennifer Gerber said: ‘LFI is delighted to take Tom to Israel along with the other MPs. It is vital that at a time of growing anti-semitism Tom has joined us to visit Yad Vashem as well as meeting a coexistence project that brings Israelis and Palestinians together. We are also honoured to meet Isaac Herzog to discuss how we can strengthen the bonds of friendship between our parties.’ LFI hopes the visit will reassure the party’s Jewish and pro-Israel supporters that we still have many allies within the party, and that Labour remains a home for progressive advocates of a two-state solution.