Starmer's Labour Party is enabling Israel's genocide in Gaza

Starmer's Labour Party is enabling Israel's genocide in Gaza
6 min read

Farrah Koutteineh

22 January, 2024
Starmer's reversal of Labour's promise to recognise Palestinian statehood and support for Israel's war shows he is not fit to lead, writes Farrah Koutteineh.
The Labour Party leader's decision further dehumanises Palestinians by refusing to recognise their existence as a state, writes Farrah Koutteineh. [Getty]

Last week, the death toll in Gaza surpassed 25,000, with over 7,000 more trapped under the rubble and presumed dead.

Also last week, instead of doing the bare minimum and calling for an immediate ceasefire, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer decided to drop the Labour Party’s promise to recognise Palestine.

For years the Labour Party had cemented the promise that once elected it would both immediately and unilaterally recognise Palestine as a state, alongside the over 140 countries around the world that already have.

This was until last week when Starmer u-turned and claimed the party would only recognise Palestine as a result of a ‘two-state solution’ with Israel.

A so-called ‘solution’ void in a settler-colonial reality, and one that only seeks to legitimise Israeli settler-colonialism, apartheid and domination of the indigenous Palestinian population.

The fact that the current British government does not recognise Palestine as a state is inherently absurd, as they seemingly did recognise Palestine as a state in 1917, when they gave it away to the Zionist project in the Balfour Declaration without the consent of the natives already living there.

The timing of Starmer's u-turn cannot be overlooked: it comes in the midst of unravelling genocide in Gaza, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians that has killed more than 16,000 women and children, over 120 journalists, and targeted hospitals and civil infrastructure.

Almost all of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million are displaced, and are being starved as Israel denies the access of any aid.

But despite all of this, the leader of the UK’s opposition party has decided to further dehumanise Palestinians, by not only refusing to recognise their existence as a state, but refusing to recognise Palestinians as a people victim to ongoing genocide.

Starmer's u-turn on Palestinian statehood is just the latest episode in a series of acts since 7th October that amount to collusion in genocide.

Starmer has publicly stated that Israel “has the right” to withhold power and water from Gaza, a war crime under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention, which as a former human rights lawyer, he knows.

He has shamelessly continued to dismiss any criticism of the indiscriminate and disproportionate killing of Palestinians by repeatedly asserting that “Israel has a right to defend itself”, and rejecting calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Since 7th October, Labour Party branches have been banned from discussing what is happening in Gaza, and the party also controversially banned the Palestine Solidarity Campaign from describing Israel as an “apartheid state” in its pamphlets at the Party’s annual conference.

The party’s councillors and MP’s have also been deterred from attending any Palestine protests and demonstrations by party leadership. Labour’s chief whip “strongly advised” all Labour MP’s that they “should not under any circumstances attend any of these events”, whilst councillors were more harshly emailed that they “must not, under any circumstance” attend any protest or demonstration.

These authoritarian and suppressive emails from the Party’s leadership have resulted in dozens of Labour councillors resigning from all over the country due to what they describe as Labour’s “draconian, immoral ban on solidarity”.

Most troubling of all, just a few days ago a delegation of elected Labour MP’s, all members of the pro-Israel lobby group ‘Labour Friends of Israel’ (LFI) were taken on what they described as a ‘solidarity visit’ to Israel, meeting Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, who recently proclaimed no one is innocent in Gaza, including civilians.

This ‘solidarity visit’, with coincided with Israel’s hearing in the International Court of Justice on South Africa’s complaint of genocide, was in fact some of the Labour MP’s second visits since 7th October alone.

Starmers unequivocal support of Israel has amplified the voices calling out the Labour Party’s deep rooted Islamophobia, anti-Black and anti-Palestinian racism, exposed more recently in the Forde Report, which accused the party of operating a “hierarchy of racism” where anti-black racism and Islamophobia are not addressed as seriously as other forms of racism.

Starmer himself exposed his own unreserved anti-Palestinian racism shortly after becoming Labour leader. In a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in 2021, he repeated a deeply problematic quote from former Labour leader and Prime Minister Harold Wilson that, “Israeli Social Democrats made the desert flower”.

Since then, he has led an all-out crackdown on any Labour members who voiced any public solidarity with Palestine. Starmer oversaw the investigations, suspensions and expulsions of hundreds of members who have merely used their freedom of speech to voice their support for Palestinian human rights.

This past week, old images and videos of Labour leader Keir Starmer from 2015 have resurfaced online, going viral. They show Starmer speaking at a Palestine solidarity event, calling for a boycott of Israeli products, an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza, and standing in front of a sign stating to ‘kick Israeli racism out of FIFA’.

These images are paradoxical and unrecognisable to the genocide apologist he has become on his quest to become the next Labour Prime Minister.

A man who can so quickly flip the switch on his stance on human rights is a man who should not be trusted in any position of power.

With the UK’s next general election looming over us as we are witnessing both parties staunch support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, it is abundantly clear that when it comes to Palestine, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party are identical in everything but name.

Neither party should be in any position to run in an election. They should instead be tried for their collusion in genocide.

Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.