Bethan Winter is a Welsh Labour Party politician. She has been the Member of Parliament for Cynon Valley since the 2019 general election.
Ms Winter has signed all three of the recent statements opposing extension of Israeli law into part of Judea and Samaria: the CAABU letter, the Socialist Campaign Group statement and the European Parliamentarians’ letter. She doesn’t have a record of anti-Israel or antisemitic statements but has recently written an op-ed in the Western Mail full of anti-Israel bias and factual errors. (She reproduces it on her Facebook page).
Let’s examine this op-ed………..
First Ms Winter refers to ‘Annexation of the West Bank’. Wrong. One, there is no such things as ‘annexation’, you cannot annex what’s already yours by law. Consequent on the San Remo Accord, the League of Nations designated the West Bank for a Jewish homeland in 1922. The international legal doctrine of uti possidetis juris granted Israel sovereignty over Judea and Samaria upon its independence in 1948. Jordan illegally conquered and annexed the territory during its 1948 attempt to destroy Israel. Israel defended itself from Jordanian aggression in 1967. If Israel applies civilian law in Judea/Samaria that is NOT ‘annexation’. Two – No-one is proposing a change for any area other than the Jordan Valley – That is, part of Area C (agreed under the Oslo Accord) adjacent to where Israel is narrowest currently
Why are checkpoints there? Ms Winter fails to say. They are there to save lives. All lives, Jewish, Arab, all lives. Over time, at least 742 civilians have been killed and 4,899 wounded by suicide bombings in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (data from University of Chicago). Nevertheless Israel reduces the number of checkpoints to as low as possible. In May 2013 there were 13 checkpoints in the West Bank, down from 40 in 2008.
Ms Winter writes that the security fence is ‘illegal’. Wrong, it is perfectly legal. No Court of law has ever found it illegal. The International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion in 2004 deeming it ‘illegal’ but the ICJ isn’t a genuine legal Court, it is a creature of the UN General Assembly. Israel had no representation among the Judges. Like the checkpoints, the fence saves lives!
Ms Winter mentioned roads in Judea/Samaria that cannot be used by vehicles without Israeli licence plates. Israeli Arabs can use them, and so can foreigners, including Arab and Muslim foreigners. Palestinians were once able to drive on them but have not been allowed to do so since the second intifada, when suicide bombers used them to penetrate Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in order to kill people.
If Wales was a separate country and the English were firing missiles into Cynon Valley and English suicide bombers were killing her constituents, would Ms Winter not expect the Welsh government to take measures to protect her? Yes? So why can’t Israel protect its citizens in the same way? To require Israel to behave differently from any other democracy under attack from terrorists is antisemitic, by definition (the IHRA definition, accepted by Labour!).
Ms Winter calls the Israeli presence in Judea/Samaria ‘illegal occupation’. Wrong. The Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply because as part of Mandatory Palestine, Judea and Samaria never belonged to any sovereign state, but were occupied and administered illegally by Jordan between 1948 and 1967, after the Arab war of aggression against Israel in 1948.
Ms Winter says that ‘annexation means life will get harder’ for Palestinian women and their families. A straight lie. The Palestinians in the areas affected will be offered full Israeli citizenship with concomitant access to first class medical care and education. In other areas the lives of Palestinian women will be no different from now.
Ms Winter seems to get her information from Mairead Canavan who represents Wales on the Executive of the National Education Union. Canavan – see above – is hardly a reliable source of information regarding either Israel or antisemitism – she is a supporter of Ken Loach, the film director who said that Labour MPs who joined the ‘Enough is Enough’ protest outside Parliament against antisemitism in Labour were “the ones we need to kick out.” And the NEU (or at least its predecessor the NUT) hosts the antisemitic Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Perhaps the nastiest demonisation from Ms Winter is the lie that Israel ‘attempts to censor textbooks’ of Palestinian children. Presumably this comes from Canavan. It shows the lies which NEU visitors to Judea and Samaria are fed. And at home the NEU (in truth its prececessor the NUT) is in bed with the antisemitic Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
What is in Palestinian textbooks? Well an 11th grade history book described the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre by Palestinian terrorists in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered as ‘a strike at Zionist interests abroad.’ As for Mathematics, calculus is taught by counting the number of dead Hamas terrorists in Palestinian uprisings. Is calling out the perversion and antisemitic violence in Palestinian text books what Canavan and Winter mean by ‘attempts to censor’?
Demonisation of Israel – in the form of straight lies, or omitting the security rationale, for example for checkpoints or the security fence – has been the breeding ground of much of the antisemitism evident in the Labour Party. If Keir Starmer is serious about tackling it then he must come down hard on Labour MPs like Bethan Winter who give currency to the demonising lies. This should be a recommendation of the EHRC. But we all know it won’t be ……………
Addendum: An edited and updated version of this blog has been published by CAMERA UK
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