Young Labour activists taken on Israel visit to ‘help shift opinion’

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Young Labour activists taken on Israel visit to ‘help shift opinion’

EXCLUSIVE Activists from Labour's much criticised youth wing are in Israel this week as part of a delegation jointly organised by Labour Friends of Israel and We Believe In Israel

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A delegation of activists from Young Labour – the Labour Party’s official youth wing – has flown to Israel this week for a visit aimed at changing attitudes and understanding of politics in the region.

The trip, jointly organised by Labour Friends of Israel and the We Believe In Israel campaign group, will see the delegation visit Yad Vashem, the Knesset, and meet with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll.

Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe In Israel, said he hoped the visit would “help shift opinion in Young Labour towards a more balanced approach to the conflict.”

The Young Labour activists will also visit the Gaza border and the West Bank and meet with leaders of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence projects.

Young Labour, which represents party members in the 14-26 year old bracket, has repeatedly become embroiled in series of controversies in relation to its stance on Israel, and with wider comments relating to Labour’s antisemitism crisis under Jeremy Corbyn.

In 2017, Young Labour rejected a motion calling for a two-state solution at its annual conference, and at last year’s main Labour conference the group was behind a motion that was passed calling for sanctions against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

More recently the London Young Labour Twitter feed was accused of supporting Israel’s abolition after a tweet included the chant:”From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

It led to calls from some in the Jewish community for Young Labour, chaired by Jess Barnard, to be shut down.

In February Keir Starmer approved a cut in funding for Young Labour, and scrapped their annual conference after they issued anti-NATO statements ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Access to the Young Labour Twitter feed was also restricted with the leadership stating posts had “recently become actively detrimental to the Party’s core objectives: to promote Labour candidates and policies, and to win elections.”

During this week’s visit to Israel delegates will have the opportunity to tour Jerusalem’s Old City, Ben Gurion University, and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

As part of the ongoing process to rebuild and renew the sister party relationship between UK and Israeli Labour, the activists will also meet with Labor MKs and their counterparts in Israeli Young Labor.

Speaking ahead of the delegation, LFI director Michael Rubin said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to restart delegations for Young Labour activists after so long.

“These activists represent the Labour Party’s future, and so it is essential that they have an understanding of the history and complexity of Israel, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and the wider Middle East.

“I’m especially pleased that the activists will be able to further rekindle our sister party relationship with the Israeli Labor Party, a reminder that Labour’s future is one of friendship and support for our progressive counterparts in Israel”.

Luke Akehurst said: “We Believe in Israel has a long history of taking political activists on their first visits to Israel, as part of our strategy of educating key players in UK political life and civil society.

“We are currently prioritising taking young people from the main political parties and hope that this initial tour by some of the rising stars of the Labour Party will help shift opinion in Young Labour towards a more balanced approach to the conflict.”

This year has already seen two LFI delegations to the region for shadow Middle East Minister Bambos Charalambous and shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, with more planned for the future.

Young Labour activist and delegation participant Lauren Howells said: “I’m so glad to have had this opportunity to visit a part of the world that is so often discussed in our party, but which is often so poorly understood.

“This delegation has really opened my eyes to the complexity of the region, and the need for progressives in the UK to support peacebuilders in both Israel and Palestine, and the need for a two state solution.”

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