Labour MP Andy McDonald gets three-month suspension for 'river and the sea' peace plea

Labour MP Andy McDonald gets three-month suspension for 'river and the sea' peace plea
Labour have been slammed for suspending MP Andy McDonald after a 'between the river and the sea' justice plea.
3 min read
01 November, 2023
McDonald had spoken at a pro-Palestine rally in London over the weekend that drew crowds of half a million [Getty]

A UK MP has been suspended from the opposition Labour Party for using the phrase "between the river and the sea" during a speech at a rally in support of Palestine.

Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesborough since 2012, used the phrase as he called for peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians at a pro-Palestine protest on Saturday.

Nearly 8,800 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its bombardment of Gaza on 7 October, including at least 3,500 children with calls across the world for an immediate ceasefire.

"We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty," McDonald said at the protest in London that drew an estimated 500,000 people.

The phrase bore some resemblance to a chant used during pro-Palestine protests, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", seeking a one-state solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict and which Labour has cracked down on.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has branded the chant anti-Semitic and claimed that it is "widely understood" to call for the wiping out of Israel. Pro-Palestine and Jewish activists who use this chant say it means no such thing and just a call for one state between the River Jordan and Mediterranean where Jewish and Palestininians have equal rights.

McDonald said on Monday that he had been told by the Labour Party's chief whip of his "precautionary suspension" lasting three months, which had left him "saddened".

McDonald said he had used the phrase "as a heartfelt plea for an end to the killings in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and for all peoples in the region to live in freedom without the threat of violence."

The opposition Labour Party's position on Israel's brutal bombardment of Gaza has drawn ire from many, who say it is parroting the US' staunchly pro-Israel rhetoric.

Recent voting intention polls have found that the party's share of support among British Muslims has plummeted as a result, and dozens of councillors have resigned from the party in protest.

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McDonald’s suspension comes as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed a senior Conservative MP from the party for calling for a ceasefire for Gaza.

Paul Bristow, the MP for Peterborough, had called in a letter to Sunak for a "permanent" ceasefire that "would save lives and allow for a continued column of humanitarian aid reach the people who need it the most".

Sunak has thrown his support behind Israel, despite the Israeli military's apparently indiscriminate bombing of the enclave that has killed more than 8,500 Palestinians.

Labour leader Keir Starmer was also slammed on Tuesday after claiming a ceasefire in Gaza would embolden Hamas.