The National Jewish Assembly categorically denounces the blatant untruths peddled by Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) during a fringe Labour conference event.
During an event titled ‘Now is the time to speak up for Palestine’, Whelan described the Palestinian territories as the “biggest open prison in the world” and noted that “there was security, roadblocks, security, people struggling to feed families, basic needs were not allowed”.
In the event organised by ‘Labour & Palestine’ and supported by ‘Unite the Union’, Whelan added that “if we can stand up for self determination in Ukraine, we can stand up for his anywhere” and declared that “supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) is the right thing to do”.
The National Jewish Assembly rejects Whelan’s mischaracterisation of the status quo in Israel on the following grounds:
Firstly, the lazy use of the “open air prison” label fails to probe at any of the reasons for the problems facing Palestinians, and absolves Palestinians of any responsibility thereof. Chief among these reasons are Palestinian in-fighting, systemic corruption in Palestinian leadership, and the misappropriation of humanitarian funds by terror groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Perhaps Mr Whelan should consider more closely why Palestinian leaders are failing their own people, rather than deflecting blame onto Israel.
Secondly, Whelan expressed outrage at the presence of “security, roadblocks, security” in Israel, and presumably within the Palestinian-controlled areas he visited on his Palestine Solidarity Campaign-sponsored trip. In addition to the security threats facing Israel, the Palestinian Authority Security Forces are also grappling with security challenges presented by the West Bank’s restive population. A recent example of this occurred on September 20, when Palestinian Authority Security Forces arrested a Hamas member in Nablus, sparking widespread protests and killing one person. The need for heightened security is by no means exclusive to Israel.
Thirdly, Whelan made a baseless accusation that Israel had failed to give warnings ahead of airstrikes during an operation that targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror targets in Gaza in August this year. The Israeli Defence Force’s standard operating procedures include multiple layers of warnings issued to civilians prior to strikes, including phone calls, SMS messaging, flyer drops, and ‘knock-on-roof’ warning strikes. The recordings and videos of the IDF’s measures are well-documented and can be freely accessed online.
Fourthly, Whelan attempted to analogise the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Expedient comparisons such as the one proffered by Whelan attempt to gloss-over the vastly different political, historical, and cultural contexts in which the two conflicts are situated. This is both dishonest and reductive, while achieving nothing in advancing solutions to either issue.
Lastly, Whelan pledged support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) – a blatantly antisemitic movement that aims to deligitimize Israel. The founding goals of the BDS movement reject the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and the movement’s end goal is the eradication of Israel. It is highly concerning the Mr Whelan would pledge his support for a movement that militates for these ends.
The National Jewish Assembly denounces Mr Whelan’s anti-Israel hate and condemns ‘Labour & Palestine’ for giving a platform for blatant and unchecked hatred of Israel.