Labour’s shadow cabinet honours victims of Hamas atrocities

Starmer, Reeves, Lammy and Cooper pledged solidarity to Israel at LFI event at Liverpool conference


Most of the shadow cabinet attended a vigil held to honour the victims of the Hamas atrocities in Israel, where they heard impassioned pledges of solidarity from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.

The event, held on Tuesday evening by Labour Friends of Israel at the party’s Liverpool conference, began with Hebrew prayers for the dead led by LFI chair Adrian Cohen, and ended with a rendition of the Israeli national anthem, the Hatikvah.

Although it took place in one of the conference centre’s largest halls, the event was packed with more than 1,000 people, with long queues to get in. On display inside was a table draped with Israel’s flag and adorned with candles to remember the dead.

Starmer reiterated parts of his keynote conference speech earlier in the day, when he was given two successive standing ovations a few moments apart after voicing support for Israel and his continued determination to “rip out antisemitism” by the roots.

He told the LFI gathering: “This action by Hamas does nothing for Palestine.  And in this dark hour Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel. And Israel must always have the right to defend her people.

“Our message is clear. The terrorists of Hamas and those states who back them are determined to destroy any hope of peace. We cannot, we must not let them. This action was designed to destroy any hope of peace… I urge all responsible partners in the Middle East to speak out against terror.”

As Lammy began his speech, his voice cracked with emotion as he mentioned the reports of babies being slaughtered which had been confirmed shortly before the meeting started. “The latest stories about babies – I can’t even say what happened – those babies, the women being raped, the hostages being held – you cannot describe these people as ‘militants’,” he said, in an implicit rebuke to the BBC, which has continued to use this term to describe Hamas terrorists.

“This is terrorism,” he went on, “and we must call it what it is.”

Lammy continued: “We stand here as Labour Friends of Israel, but I have to say I am proud to live in a country where it doesn’t matter if you are Labour, Liberal Democrat or you are Conservative to stand with the people of Israel.

“We hold on to the ideal of a two-state solution and we say to Hamas, your actions have set back the cause of peace. Free the hostages. Let them come home. Put down your weapons. Because as surely as night follows day, we say, of course Israel has a right to defend itself.”

Lammy also referred to the antisemitism that disfigured Labour when it was led by Jeremy Corbyn, saying that “our party is one that in the recent past had to stand up and face down hatred”. Now the country must do the same, he went on, so that children would not feel fearful if they used public transport to travel to school wearing Jewish school uniforms.

Earlier in the evening Lammy had spoken briefly at a sparsely-attended event organised by Labour Friends of Palestine. He told those present: “This is a dark and sombre moment, and we utterly condemn the attacks by Hamas. The idea that there can be any justification for these terrorist attacks is totally and utterly wrong.”

Reeves also made a highly emotional speech at the LFI event, saying: “Thirteen years I’ve been vice chair of LFI, but never have I stood here with such pride and emotion. I know that many of you are not able to account for all your friends and family.  I know some of you have loved ones who’ve been taken hostage, and I grieve with you.”

The attacks, she said, were “barbaric”, adding: “We will do everything we can to stand alongside you, and hunt down the people responsible for all this. This is our pledge.”

Labour would do all it could to combat antisemitism in Britain, she went on, urging the police to “do everything within their powers” to hold those organising pro-Hamas protests to account.

Cooper reminded the gathering that she and Lammy had been urging the government to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation for many months, a call she now was repeating in light of the emerging evidence that Iran was involved with the “truly barbaric terrorist attacks”.

She said she “stood in solidarity” with the Jewish community and said Labour would work closely with both the police and the Community Security Trust, “whose work we have supported for many decades”. The police, she went on, must use their powers to hold those who supported Hamas, which is a proscribed organisation, to account.

She added: “In Britain there is no place for antisemitic hate… we stand in solidarity against hatred and with Israel in this dark hour, not just this week, but in the weeks and months ahead.”

Other shadow cabinet members at the vigil included shadow heath secretary Wes Streeting, shadow education secretary Bridget Philipson, shadow international development minister Lisa Nandy and shadow paymaster general Jon Ashworth.

Among representatives of leading Jewish organisations who were also present were Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Claudia Mendoza and Maria van der Zyl, Presdient of the Board of Deputies.

The meeting began with a minute’s silence, and ended with the playing of an orchestral version of the Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem. 

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