Starmer under fire over ‘one-sided’ response

The Labour leader had hit out at the ‘violence against worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque’ but failed to condemn attacks on Israel


Opposition Labour Party Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer attends the second day of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on September 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's response to escalating violence between Iseral and militant groups in Gaza has been attacked as “one sided” and doing nothing to “reduce tensions” in the region.  

Former Labour MP and peer Lord Austin said Mr Starmer’s “one sided” response to escalating tensions should have been to “urge for calm and restraint on all sides.”

Violence erupted after militant groups in Gaza fired rockets into Israel, which responded with air strikes on the Palestinian territory. The escalation came in the wake of a police raid on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem that left hundreds injured.

Lord Austin tweeted: “British politicians should be urging calm and restraint on all sides: The violence must stop. Civilian populations must not be targeted. Terrorists must not fire rockets at Israeli cities. One-sided statements like this from Keir Starmer won’t help reduce tensions.”

The Labour Leader had hit out at the “violence against worshippers during Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque” and said it “was shocking," but failed to condemn attacks on Israel.

“Israel must respect international law, and must take steps, immediately, to work with Palestinian leaders to de-escalate tensions.”

Meanwhile others on social media shared a video of Israelis dancing and cheering at the Western Wall while a tree in the background by the Al-Aqsa mosque was on fire. 

Those sharing the video suggested the crowds were celebrating because the mosque had been bombed.

The video was shared thousands of times by accounts condemning the behaviour of Israelis at the holy site.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “How anyone could fail to condemn this, or criticise those who do, is really beyond me.”

However others criticised this narrative as “fake news” and said the singing and dancing was part of Jerusalem Day celebrations which happen every year and always ends at the Western Wall, and had been happening before the tree caught fire. 

Others said the tree was on fire because “Arabs threw firecrackers up there and burned it down.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl condemned Hamas “for its reprehensible and cynical barrage of over 200 rockets into civilian areas in Israel.

“We urge politicians and the media to call this out and not fall into the trap of inadvertently encouraging Hamas by ignoring or downplaying its terrorist activities.

“Before yet more people are killed or injured, action must be taken on all sides to de-escalate the situation. This tragic conflict has taken or damaged too many lives already.”

Others criticised the Board for failing to speak out against “unprecedented violence and racism in the holy city of Jerusalem.” 

An open letter by left wing peace group Yachad signed by 700 people condemned elected Israeli officials who “have gone out of their way to stoke and inflame racial tension and hatred,” in the last few weeks.

The letter said: “The deputy mayor of Jerusalem stood next to Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where settlers are using discriminatory laws to try and evict Palestinians from their homes, and shouted at a Palestinian that he wished he had been shot in the head.”

The group added: “If you never said anything about Israel, we would accept your silence. But you choose to constantly pass comment. You cannot blame others if they draw the conclusion that your failure to condemn this behaviour, means that you condone it.

“We will not stand by whilst you claim to represent us yet have nothing to say about unchecked racism and incitement out of the mouths of Israeli officials. The Board of Deputies cannot credibly claim to be anti-racist as long as you refuse to condemn this racism on the streets of Jerusalem.”

Elsewhere British Jewish and Muslim religious leaders called for peace. 

In a joint statement Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, former Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism and Julie Siddiqi said scenes of violence has caused “anguish and heartache.”

The pair said: “It is time for British Jews and Muslims together to speak for higher truths. The world is witnessing scenes of armed police storming the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque, disrupting a holy night of worship and of escalating violence. Scenes we do not want our children to see - yet many have and many will. This cannot be the way for a city that is holy to both Islam and Judaism, a city of beauty.”

 They warned both Jewish and Muslim communities were being “increasingly inward facing” when it came to speaking out about the rising tension. 

“We are importing the conflict there into our relationships here - to our detriment.”

Meanwhile, security group the Community Security Trust wrote to Jewish organisations this week saying had “taken reports of a small number of antisemitic incidents that appear to be related to the situation” in Israel and urged caution over the coming days.

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