On June 25th, the U.K. Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was requested to step down from her position by the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer. Long-Bailey had retweeted an interview with British actress Maxine Peak on Twitter that included a statement claiming that tactics used by U.S. police forces originated from security practices employed by Israeli secret services. The incident caused an uproar across the country for inciting anti-semitic hatred and controversy over whether Starmer’s decision was well-founded. A strong sense of political divisiveness has since flourished, largely due to the contradictory tension between fallacy and truth in the statement that Long-Bailey references, and thus endorses.
Maxine Peak is well-known in the U.K. for her openly socialist views and affiliation to Corbynism. In recent years and under the direction of politician Jeremy Corbyn, the distinct shift in political ideology within the Labour Party generally favours far-left, progressive policies that has contributed to a political crisis within the party. In The Independent Peak asserted that, “systemic racism is a global issue. The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.” Critics argue that this claim accounts to nothing more than a conspiracy theory. Conversely, others insist that Long-Bailey’s departure exposes the powerlessness of British politicians with regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict and their incapacity to publicly condemn Israel’s settler-colonial project.
The exchange of tactics between Israeli and U.S. police forces is an existing and ongoing enterprise. This is presented in the ‘Deadly Exchange’ report produced by organizations, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA), which details the extent of the operation. Eran Efrati is the executive director of the RAIA and explains that during these exchange programmes, U.S. police delegates observe live demonstrations of state-violence by Israeli forces in protests across the West Bank or patrols in East Jerusalem. This then provides evidence to support Peake’s claim and is a source of information that should be disseminated across the country, since it reveals the severity of police state-violence in both the U.S. and in Palestine.
Yet the statement is also inaccurate and misleading, which results in an overall contradictory tension between fallacy and truth. Peake references ongoing U.S.-Israeli collaborative exchanges in security tactics while simultaneously suggesting that U.S. police state-violence is a product of Jewish strategic coordination and power. The JVP emphasises that, “suggesting that Israel is the start or source of American police violence or racism shifts the blame from the United States to Israel…” which frames “Jews as secretly controlling and manipulating the world.” Hence, collaborative security practices between the U.S. and Israel must not be taken out of context, in order to prevent violent, antisemitic assumptions from materialising.
The Long-Bailey incident then exposes important factors with regards to how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is interpreted and discussed in British domestic politics. It is critical that when politicians remark on the conflict, they do so with clarity and a more informed understanding of the situation both historically and in present circumstances. It is crucial that collaborative practices in police state-violence between the U.S. and Israel is expressed by British politicians as an ongoing and unfortunate tragic reality, but with supporting evidence.
Alternatively, Starmer’s decision to sack Long-Bailey deviates the Labour Party away from a stance favourable to Palestinian self-determination, which automatically positions Britain as a co-participant in the strangling of Palestine and the fight for national sovereignty. This stance is particularly problematic, since Israel plans to annex parts of the West Bank and engage in settler-colonial expansionism as early as July next month.
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