The only question is how bad Labour will be for the Jews

Starmer is a human rights lawyer – and human rights law has been turned into a global weapon in the armoury of those intent upon the destruction of Israel, which spells trouble


Sir Keir Starmer (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

June 27, 2024 09:06

According to received opinion, the question is not whether Labour will win next week’s general election by a huge majority. The only question is how huge.

The party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has reportedly purged it of the antisemites, jihad-enablers and terrorism supporters who infested it under his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. As a result, Starmer has apparently turned it from a hard-left, Jew-baiting nest of vipers into a party of decent, principled moderates.

Yet when asked why he had campaigned for Corbyn to win the 2019 general election and had even said he thought Corbyn would make “a great prime minister”, the best Starmer could come up with was that he had been certain that Corbyn couldn’t win and he’d wanted to support the good people in the party.

If that was lame and evasive, worse was to come. During the special edition of the BBC’s Question Time last week, Starmer said Corbyn would have been a “better prime minister” than Boris Johnson, “a man who made massive promises and didn’t keep them”.

What a marmalade-dropper! In Starmer’s moral universe, a man who failed to deliver what it said on the tin was worse than a man who described terrorists as “friends” and those who want to murder Jews, destroy Israel and conquer the world.

It suggests that Starmer doesn’t understand why Corbyn was totally beyond the pale. And that suggests Starmer doesn’t understand what the pale in this case actually is.

A look at his “purged” party merely reinforces that unease. Starmer boasts of his ruthlessness in getting rid of Labour’s hard-left. Yet Corbyn’s former deputy, John McDonnell, who has accused Israel of apartheid and genocide, remains a party figure. And Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, who was happy to serve Corbyn’s agenda in his Shadow Cabinet, was also protected from the purge.

In last month’s uproar over Diane Abbott, a former Corbynite who had been suspended from the party for a year after denying that Jews or Irish people suffered more prejudice than people with red hair, Rayner forced Starmer to enable Abbott to stand once again as a Labour candidate at the general election.

In Rayner’s own constituency last May, she virtually grovelled to a roomful of Muslim men as she pleaded for their votes, saying: “If Labour get into power, we will recognise Palestine.”

Unilateral recognition of “Palestine” is an act of deep hostility against Israel, since it would foreclose any negotiated settlement and invest the Palestinian Arabs with an independent global status that would enable them to attack the Israeli heartlands with impunity.

Labour’s manifesto commitment on this issue is deliberately ambiguous. Stating that “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people” and that it is “not in the gift of any neighbour,” it commits Labour to recognising a Palestinian state “as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state”.

This leaves up in the air whether a Labour government would recognise “Palestine” unilaterally, as demanded by so many of its Israel-hating activists. The ambiguity means that it may do just that.

Starmer may have rid the Labour party of its most egregious antisemites. But as in the progressive world in general, he has drawn a wholly artificial line between Jew-hatred and the demonisation of Israel that is now de rigeur on the left.

He fails to acknowledge the seamless connection between the two, because he fails to acknowledge that the Palestinian cause — supported by all “progressives” — is constructed entirely around the extermination of Israel and the denial of Jewish history in the land by the Palestinian Arabs who claim it instead as their own.

He fails to acknowledge that the supposedly “moderate” Palestinians are literally the heirs to the Nazis, with the Palestinian Authority is pumping out genocidal Nazi-style antisemitism with its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, hero-worshipping Haj Amin al Husseini, Hitler’s ally who promised to wipe out every Jew in the Middle East.

Labour has also supported the application by Karim Khan KC, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, for arrest warrants against Israel’s prime minister and defence minister over “war crimes” in Gaza. Even though Khan’s case rests entirely upon fabricated, distorted and malevolent claims by Israel’s enemies — and has upended the ICC’s own rules for pursuing a country’s government — Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has said that if such arrest warrants are issued a Labour government would implement them.

The only decent response to Khan’s action is to condemn it as outrageous and despicable, and to say that if the ICC issued such arrest warrants the British government would withdraw the UK from the court.

This, though, is unthinkable because Starmer is a human rights lawyer. And human rights law, as expressed through the UN, the ICC, the International Court of Justice and non-governmental organisations, has been turned into a global weapon in the armoury of those intent upon the destruction of Israel.

The question about a Starmer government is not whether it will be bad for the Jews. The only question is how bad.

Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist

June 27, 2024 09:06

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