ICJP statement on Labour removing references to ‘apartheid’ from party conference event

  • Labour officials censor the term ‘apartheid’ in Palestine Solidarity Campaign Labour Conference event titled: ‘Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid’
  • Reports from UN and human rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch found that Israel breaks international law by committing the crime of apartheid.
  • ICJP says that Labour leadership must accept that ending apartheid is fundamental to achieving justice for the Palestinian people.  

London, 5th October 2023- The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) is gravely concerned to hear that the Labour Party leadership is trying to censor the term ‘apartheid’ at an upcoming Labour Conference event organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).  ICJP will also be speaking at a Palestine-related event at Labour Conference. ICJP recognises the reality of apartheid in Israel and is committed to working against it. 

The PSC event, entitled ‘Justice for Palestine: End Apartheid’ will take place at next week’s Labour Party Conference. The party informed PSC that the reference to apartheid should be removed from the record. According to PSC Director Ben Jamal, a senior figure within the Labour party proposed that publishing a description of Israel as an apartheid state would be ‘detrimental to the party’.

The use of the term apartheid to describe the system of rule that Israel has established over the Palestinian people is not merely a matter of semantics, or party politics – it is international law. 

Since 2017, the UN and leading human rights organisations have concluded that Israel is engaging in the crime of apartheid. These include authoritative reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al Haq, B’Tselem and successive UN Special Rapporteurs for the occupied Palestinian territories including Professor Michael Lynk and incumbent Francesca Albanese.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Apartheid Convention. It is one of the most serious of crimes under international law, alongside war crimes, annexation, genocide, slavery and torture. All states – including the UK – have a duty under international law to cooperate in ending situations of apartheid.

Moreover, a growing number of prominent voices within Israel have also recognized that Israel is imposing apartheid on the Palestinians. They include Israeli historian Benny Morris, former speaker of the Israeli parliament, Avraham Burg, former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, Tamir Pardo, and former Israeli attorney general, Michael Ben-Yair.

Despite consensus amongst respected international human rights organisations, distinguished legal experts, and even those who were complicit in creating and entrenching Israeli apartheid, the Labour Party has chosen to take the extraordinary step of attempting to censor civil society organisations from referring to apartheid in their advocacy campaigns. 

In contrast to Labour’s historic work in leading the campaign against South African apartheid, this move is an appalling abdication of responsibility from a party historically dedicated to championing human rights across the world. It is also a betrayal of the tens of thousands of grassroots Labour members who condemn apartheid in Israel just as they did in South Africa.

Tayab Ali, ICJP Director said:

“The Labour leadership must not help Israel cover up their participation in international crimes.

There is overwhelming evidence that Israel has participated in legally defined acts of apartheid. It is unacceptable for the Party leadership to try to restrict its member’s rights to freedom of speech, particularly by attempting to ban reference to legally defined crimes.

British politicians should be at the forefront of calling out violations of international criminal law and not helping to hide them. If there is to be any hope of peace in the region the international community must deal with the harsh realities of what is being done to the Palestinian people. 

Ending apartheid is fundamental to achieving justice for the Palestinian people. Labour members accept this, human rights organisations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch accept this and the Labour leadership must accept this too.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
  2. Ben Jamal’s article in LabourList can be found here.
  3. Apartheid reports by: B’TselemHuman Rights watchAmnesty InternationalAl HaqMichael Lynk, UN Special RapporteurFrancesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur.
  4. For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact: Jonathan Purcell, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, at [email protected]