Hamas is like Boko Haram, says Kemi Badenoch

The Business and Trade Secretary gives an exclusive interview to the JC


Kemi Badenoch speaking at the Israel 75 event (Shai Dolev Photography)

When some politicians talk about Israel, in many cases we’ve heard it all before. Countless times we’ve been told that “Israel has a right to defend itself” in a “proportional manner” along with a call for a two-state solution.

When Kemi Badenoch spoke, it felt distinctly personal. In an exclusive interview with the JC, the Business and Trade Secretary and Women’s and Equalities Minister, who grew up in Nigeria, compared Hamas’s atrocities on October 7 to the kidnapping of 276 girls by Islamist group Boko Haram in 2014.

Badenoch rejected the “oppressor vs oppressed narrative” that dominates much of the discussion around Israel’s war against Hamas, a narrative she called “nonsense”. Like Boko Haram, Hamas is a “violent Islamist group”, she said.

Badenoch described how moved she was seeing the release of Noa Argamani, Shlomi Ziv, Andrey Kozlov, and Almog Meir Jan in a daring raid by the IDF. She has met with the families of hostages in London and “told them that they need to stay strong so that they can be there for their families when they come home.” She was devastated when she learned of the death of Almog Meir Jan’s father, 59-year-old Yossi Meir, just hours before his son’s rescue.

She was keen to point out how she co-sponsored the so-called anti-BDS bill in Parliament and that in pushing for a free trade agreement with Israel she has had to fight against “obstructing” civil servants and unions. Both her and her staff have “faced intimidation” from of anti-Israel protesters, she added.

Does Badenoch agree with former Home Secretary Suella Braverman that pro-Palestine protests are “hate marches”? No. “Saying ‘hate marches’ was unhelpful, there are obviously people there who are motivated by hate, but there are also many people who are deeply misguided,” says Badenoch. But she claims that only the Conservatives are properly prepared to call out the antisemitism at the marches and on university campuses.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she argues, shows that the Labour Party hasn’t really changed, despite the best efforts of Sir Keir Starmer.

“Look at how they acted after the comments about their candidate in Rochdale came out,” a reference to Labour’s candidate Azhar Ali who was initially backed by Labour after the Mail on Sunday revealed he said Israel “allowed” the October 7 attacks to happen to get a “green light to do whatever they bloody want”. He was initially allowed to remain as a Labour candidate, but the party withdrew support after further comments came to light. “The party hasn’t changed; people are just keeping quiet,” she says.

The Conservatives, she claims, “are the only party that doesn’t do identity politics” and they, would stand up against what she called “divisive HR policies.” “The Equality Act should be used as a shield to protect our rights, not as a sword” to impose more radical ideological positions. Labour, she claimed, “will make things worse” and Reform UK can’t be trusted. She rejected any sort of alliance with Nigel Farage, “when he says he wants to destroy the Conservatives, we should listen.”

Despite her fighting talk, opinion polls are dire for the Conservatives. A YouGov poll had Reform UK ahead of the Tories and most predict a Labour landslide. A contrast to 2019 where Boris Johnson led them to their biggest victory since 1987. Does Badenoch regret her part in getting rid of him? “No regrets,” she says. However she praised the former PM’s ability to reach voters who hadn’t voted Tory and noted the anger among some at his removal. For her, it was a question of trust. When ministers were no longer able to trust what they are told in official briefings, government couldn’t function, she said, addding that politicians shouldn’t shy from controversial decisions.

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