Starmer and Labour are still yoked to a holy war on the Jews

It was Starmer’s words that were truly shocking, writes Melanie Phillips

May 13, 2021 14:02

When Sir Keir Starmer became leader of the Labour Party, British Jews heaved a sigh of relief. After the nightmare period under Jeremy Corbyn, here was a Labour leader declaring that he would tolerate no antisemitism in his party. Some of us, though, were less optimistic. True, Starmer seemed prepared to deal with the most egregious examples. However, he conspicuously failed to acknowledge that the toxic fuel for the Corbynistas’ bigotry was provided by nothing less than the signature cause of the entire “progressive” world.

This is its support for the Palestinians, a cause which is driven by theological hatred of the Jews and pumps out libellous falsehoods about Israel. These are believed as axiomatically true by many Labour members — as well as, alas, by too many British Jews.

Here in Jerusalem on Monday evening, I heard the air raid sirens wail and then the crump of rockets exploding in the distance at around the same time that I read Starmer’s tweet on the violence around Temple Mount that preceded the Hamas rocket barrage from Gaza. He wrote: “The violence against worshippers during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque was shocking. Israel must respect international law, and must take steps, immediately, to work with Palestinian leaders to de-escalate tensions.”

It was Starmer’s words that were truly shocking. Israel was taking action against violence by worshippers at al-Aqsa. Starmer had displayed the progressives’ reflex action over Israel and the Palestinians — reversing victim and aggressor. Arab aggression was initiated at the start of Ramadan with attacks on Jews in Jerusalem’s streets and its light rail.

A yeshiva student was murdered in an attack that left two other students critically wounded. A terrorist cell was thwarted on its way to commit a major atrocity in Jerusalem.

The Arabs desecrated the al-Aqsa mosque by turning it into a theatre of war. Stockpiled rocks and Molotov cocktails were lobbed from the mosque compound at the police and at Jews praying at the Western Wall.

The police went into the mosque purely to stop this murderous onslaught. For Starmer to represent this as gratuitous violence against innocent and pious worshippers was grotesque.

Al-Aqsa was used as an ammunition stockpile because this is indeed an Islamic religious war. Fathi Hammad, a senior Hamas official, tweeted: “People of Jerusalem, we want you to cut off the heads of the Jews with knives… You shall find the strongest in enmity towards the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists”.

On Monday evening, Israeli Arabs set fire to a yeshiva, school and other Jewish buildings, stoned and tried to lynch Israeli car drivers, and descended upon a hospital emergency room where they threw rocks at the Israeli Arab medical staff for “collaborating” with the Jews.

The principal reason for this Arab violence is the constant incitement that has been pumped out for weeks by Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and the Fatah organisation that he leads. These have repeated false and incendiary claims that Israel intends to take over Temple Mount.

This falsehood has a long and bloody history. “Al-Aqsa is in danger” was the cry with which the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini — Hitler’s ally who was equally committed to the genocide of the Jews — launched murderous Arab pogroms against the Jews of pre-war Palestine.

Now Husseini’s self-professed disciple, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah grouping are using the same lie to incite the murder of Jews, quoting from the Koran to underline that this is a call to jihad just as it was in the Thirties.

It’s not clear what Starmer had in mind in scolding Israel over international law. If it was the Israel-bashers’ constant refrain that Israel is illegally occupying the “West Bank” and East Jerusalem, this is untrue. Israel is legally entitled to these territories several times over.

If he was referring to the claim that the riots were “resistance” to Israel’s attempt to seize Palestinians’ properties by evicting them from their homes in the Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, this is another inflammatory lie.

Jewish ownership of those properties goes back to the middle of the 19th century. This ownership chain was interrupted only between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan illegally occupied this territory, expelled the Jews and sequestered their land.

When Jerusalem was re-unified, the Jewish owners regained their properties in Sheikh Jarrah, and the Arab tenants living there signed an agreement confirming that the Jews were the rightful owners. It was only after the current Arab residents refused to pay the rent and illegally expanded the properties that the Jewish owners initiated eviction proceedings.

The malevolent media coverage has largely omitted all these facts and presented the violence instead through the “progressive” prism of Palestinian victimisation and Israeli aggression.

Unless Starmer adjusts his vision to reality, he will not only fail to rid Labour of its antisemitism, he will continue disgustingly to yoke himself and his party to the Islamic holy war against the Jews.

Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist

May 13, 2021 14:02

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