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Islamophobia in the Palestine Debate - A Short Guide

Updated: May 24, 2021



As the crisis in Palestine and Israel persists and with the recent escalation in violence, much of the British political world has been thrust into a new debate on the urgent situation in Palestine. From occupation to military force, millions across the world have been united in demanding that governments and global institutions act. On Saturday 15th May, we saw over 100,000 people take to the streets of London (and many more across other cities in the UK) to demand action from the UK government and the opposition Labour Party.


This unprecedented show of solidarity and emergent debate has unfortunately also seen a rise in incidents of Islamophobia and use of Islamophobic tropes - both online and in person.


Our team at the Labour Muslim Network has put together a short guide of common Islamophobic tropes and examples of Islamophobia in the Palestine discourse to help in identifying and reporting incidents wherever they may arise:


  • "What about Hamas?" The persistent expectation and demand for activists to disavow/explain Hamas activity in any discussions surrounding Palestine - even when the discussion does not involve them - is rooted in Islamophobia and the perception of violent Muslims. In the discourse around Palestine, Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims are constantly harassed into condemnations/explanations of the activity of groups that have nothing to do with them, often because they too are Muslim. Holding Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of one Muslim group or state is a common example of Islamophobia.

  • Dehumanisation of Palestinian lives The assertion or suggestion (either explicitly or implicitly) that Palestinian lives are somehow less valuable or their loss more acceptable than that of their Israeli counterparts. This is often framed as ‘acceptable collateral damage to military targets’ both in news coverage and in individual discussions and debates.

  • The fight for Palestinian self-determination is a “terrorist” endevour The denial of Muslim populations the human right of self-determination - for example to proclaim the fight for an independent Palestine is a “terrorist” endevour.

  • ‘Primitive’ Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians Using language that purports and/or insinuates that Muslims/Arab/Palestinian communities are somehow less civilised or more primitive; compared to their Israeli and western counterparts. Common examples of this include suggestions that Palestinians and Muslims have backwards social views, are oppressive to women and use children as human shields in combat.

  • Nakba Denial The denial of the forced expulsion of over 700,000* and killing of thousands of Palestinians (estimated to be in the region of 12,000*) in 1948. Denial of this historic event breaches the Labour Party adopted definition of Islamophobia, specifically example #4: "Accusing Muslims as a group, or Muslim majority states, of inventing or exaggerating Islamophobia, ethnic cleansing or genocide perpetrated against Muslims."

  • Why don’t you protest Saudi Arabia? The demand that Muslim activists and communities protest against the actions of other Muslim states and organisations in order to be legitimate. Applying double standards by requiring of Muslims what is not expected or demanded by any other group in society.

  • Plenty of other Muslim countries for Palestinians to go to The erasure of national identity and historic links to homes and spiritual places of worship for Muslims by claiming there are simply “other Muslim countries Arabs/Palestinians could go to”.


These are just a few common examples of the Islamophobia that often arises in our discussions surrounding Palestine. There are many more. Unfortunately, too often we also see anti-Semitism arise in the criticisms of Israel and the actions of the Israeli government. LMN is absolutely clear that any Islamophobia or anti-Semitism in these discussion is abhorrent and a betrayal of the fight for justice and freedom.


If you see any examples of racism by Labour Party members, please report it urgently via this email: complaints@labour.org.uk


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Reference: * On 1948 expulsions: McDowall, David; Claire Palley (1987). The Palestinians. Minority Rights Group Report no 24. p. 10. ISBN978-0-946690-42-8. * On estimated killings: Benny Morris 1948: A History of the First Arab–Israeli War, Yale University Press, 2008, p.406

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