Labour councillors revolt over Starmer's policy on Israel

Polls show more in Starmer's party support the Palestinians than Israel


Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers his keynote address to delegates on the third day of the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, northwest England, on October 10, 2023. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour is facing a rebellion over Sir Keir Starmer’s pro-Israel stance after a string of Muslim councillors from across the party resigned.

The Labour leader said in an interview last week that "Israel had the right" to withhold water and power from Gaza following the Hamas terrorist attack on the Jewish state.

The remarks, made on LBC Radio, prompted Amna Abdullatif, a Manchester city councillor representing the district of Ardwick, to quit the party alongside Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, of Oxford city council.

Abdullatif described Sir Keir’s comments as "horrifying” and accused the Labour leader of “effectively endorsing a war crime".

Lubaba Khalid, a Palestinian photographer who had been a Young Labour BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) officer, also resigned from the party. 

Usman Bhaimia, who represents the Barton and Tredworth ward on Gloucester city council, quit the party too.

In a scathing letter, Bhaimia said: “Where is his [Sir Keir’s] belief that all human life is sacred and equal? Where is the empathy for Palestinians who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their futures?

"I join the huge scores of other Labour councillors up and down the country and unequivocally remove my affiliation with the Labour Party with immediate effect - we are livid and let down by the lack of consistency, the double standards and hypocrisy."

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy held crisis talks with Labour council leaders on Monday in a bid to prevent further resignations.

Sir Keir has since written to all Labour councillors setting out his position on Hamas’s terror attack on Israel.

A Labour spokesman said the party’s position was to "completely condemn" the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and to say that Israel has "a right to defend herself, to go and get the hostages back".

However, he stressed "all parties need to act in accordance with international law" and it was "vitally important" that humanitarian aid reached Gaza.

He added: “[Sir Keir] respects those who are councillors who have communities to represent across the religious spectrum, across people of all faiths and none.”

The rebellion came as fresh polling indicated that most Labour voters would not sympathise solely with Israel during the Jewish state’s ongoing conflict with Hamas terrorists. 

Overall, 27 per cent of Labour voters would sympathise with Palestinians over Israelis, while just nine per cent would sympathise primarily with Israelis, a survey of more than 2,500 UK adults carried out by pollsters YouGov found.

One third of Labour voters (35 per cent) said they sympathised with both sides equally, and 29 per cent said they did not know.

By contrast, the 39 per cent of Conservative voters said they sympathised more with the Israeli side compared to just six per cent who threw their support behind the Palestinians. Just over one in four (27 per cent) said they did not know.

There was also a generational divide. Overall, 29 per cent 18 to 24-year-olds said they sympathised more with Palestinians compared to just 11 per cent who felt that way about the Israeli side. One third of young people were not sure and 16 per cent sympathised with both sides equally.

Meanwhile, 37 per cent of people aged 65 or over said they supported Israel, and 11 per cent said they sympathised more with Palestinians.

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