Labour Friend of Palestine Jo Cox slain

Jo Cox

Jo Cox, a Labour Party member of the UK Parliament, was slain on Thursday in what police said was likely the work of a lone gunman.

She was fatally injured as she left a meeting with her local constituents. Some eyewitnesses are reported as saying the killer lay in wait for her.

Shortly after the attack, a suspect was arrested and weapons were recovered, police said at a press conference.

“As this inquiry is at an early stage and we have an individual under arrest, we are not in a position to discuss any motive at this time,” said Dee Collins, the acting chief constable of West Yorkshire Police.

Collins said police were not looking for any other suspects. UK media have named the suspect as 52-year-old Tommy Mair.

At least two eyewitnesses said that the killer screamed “Britain first” as he stabbed and shot Cox outside a library where she had been meeting constituents.

Witnesses said the suspect made similar statements as he was being arrested. At the press conference, chief constable Collins declined to confirm these reports: “we’re not able to say at present.”

Cox’s partner, Brendan Cox, tweeted this photo of his wife after news of the attack broke:

Friend of Palestine

Cox had only been elected in 2015. As an MP, she was involved with Labour Friends of Palestine and wrote part of a 2015 report by the group, urging a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Jo Cox, fifth from left, with other MPs who joined Labour Friends of Palestine’s in 2015. (Labour Friends of Palestine)

She said in February that moves by the Conservative government to use legal threats to curtail the boycott of Israel were “a gross attack on democratic freedoms. It is our right to boycott unethical companies.”

Although a new MP, Cox had already developed a reputation as a campaigner for refugees to be given shelter in the UK, especially those fleeing the war in Syria.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that “the whole of the Labour Party and Labour family – and indeed the whole country – will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today.”

Cox had previously worked with the international development charity Oxfam. “Jo was a diminutive pocket rocket from the north. She was as a ball of energy, always smiling, full of new ideas, of idealism, of passion,” her former colleague Max Lawson said in a statement from the charity.

Arjan El Fassed, a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, was a colleague of Cox’s when he worked at Oxfam’s Dutch affiliate.

“Jo was a true humanitarian. She was a caring powerhouse, giving the voiceless a strong, powerful voice. She was able to hold governments to their humanitarian obligations,” El Fassed said. “I admire her for her limitless energy to act and for spinning the powerful in a different, more humane direction.”

The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin knew Cox when she was the head of Oxfam’s office in Brussels more than a decade ago.

She was “a very bubbly friendly character, a very friendly person,” Cronin said. “I wasn’t surprised that people were saying she was very bright and would go far in Westminster.”

White nationalist link?

Although the police investigation is at an early stage, the suspect’s alleged use of the slogan “Britain first” could indicate a possible political motive.

Britain First is a far-right group known for spreading Islamophobic memes on Facebook, as well as staging demonstrations at mosques carrying crosses.

It also recently held an “activist training camp” in Wales during which “knife defense” training was given.

In a statement, the group distanced itself from the attack.

No direct link has been made between the suspect and the group, and the killer could have used “Britain first” as an ultra-nationalist slogan rather than as a reference to a specific organization.

Mair’s half-brother Duane St Louis told media that he was not aware of Mair having any strong political views. St Louis, whose father is from Grenada, also reportedly said Mair seemed fine with having a mixed-race sibling.

Amateur video footage said to be of the arrest of the suspected killer was aired on UK news channels.

The killing comes as the campaign for next week’s referendum on continued UK membership in the EU has become increasingly heated.

Campaigners for a “leave” vote have used shrill scaremongering tactics targeting immigrants and refugees. This could have made Cox, an outspoken advocate for refugees, a potential target of ultra-nationalist ire.

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian jailed for the murder of 77 people in 2011, targeted government civil servants and young activists in the Norwegian counterpart of the Labour Party, blaming them for allowing Muslims into the country.

A 2006 newsletter archived online, identified a Thomas Mair from Batley in Yorkshire as one of the earliest subscribers to a publication called S.A.Patriot.

The white supremacist newsletter expresses disgust at “White sportsmen” who are prepared to wear the emblems of non-racial, post-colonial states in Africa, which it refers to as “terrorist regimes.” The newsletter urges whites to emigrate from African countries where they no longer control the governments.

The newsletter sought information on Thomas Mair’s whereabouts and gave his last known address as the Fieldhead Estate.

The registered address of the suspect arrested in Cox’s killing is the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall.

Batley is adjacent to Birstall, where Cox was killed. Both towns are within her parliamentary constituency.

As well as advocating for refugees, Cox was part of the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

Additional reporting by Ali Abunimah.

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Comments

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This is terrible news. No words can adequately express the horror generated by such an act. Jo Cox's life was taken in an atmosphere grown toxic due to right wing pressures fomented by the Conservative Party, UKIP (a rump section of the Tories), fascist affinity groups, and the filthy mass media operating unchecked in Britain.

May Jo Cox's family, friends and colleagues receive a measure of peace, and her cause- the cause of today's Labour Party- be upheld in her honour.

Peace and freedom for Palestine.

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One aspect not covered in this obituary is Cox’s work for Syrians and Palestinian refugees in Syria. She co-wrote a piece in the Telegraph which started with a quote from a resident of the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp. "In order to break the siege, you need to first break the silence surrounding it.” She was writing this January when the first skeletal images of starving children in Madaya were reaching the public.

Palestinian Syrian blogger Salim Salamah's Blog, himself born in Yarmouk, wrote yesterday “ Syrians today did not only lose a friend, they lost one of very few allies and it is tragic on many levels. Cox did not only lobby for the protection of civilians, she called for a hospital Europe where some 3000 child from Syria could be given a shelter in the UK following Aleppo assault by the Syrian regime and Russia. Moreover, she called for a systematic investigation of war crimes accusation in the highest level possible within the ranks of the Syrian regime.”

Cox insisted that the U.N. break the sieges in Syria and called for convoys and airdrops. She insisted Britain pressure Russia to allow food to enter the areas on under siege. She even went so far as calling for “no-fly” zones in Syria as a way to protect civilians.

One fitting memorial to Cox’s life would be to “break the silence” among the many on the Left and supporters of Palestinian rights who say Syria is “too controversial” or “too divisive”. Discuss it, debate it. Break the sieges of the Palestinian camps in Syria and every community under siege #DropFoodNotBombs #Yarmouk

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I want to share your comment. Excellent way to describe her.

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Ms.Cox is correctly remembered for her integrity. Let us not forget one of her bravest acts: identifying Assad as foremost responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. At a time when so many commentators attempt a cheap objectivity by glossing over the hard facts of the war crimes of the Assad regime, Ms. Cox stood out precisely because she refused to compromise her tenacious and principled defense of human rights to the criteria of political expediency.

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Great loss to human cause. Right thoughts will miss her whenever wrong doings will spread wings.
RIP.

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“President Assad and the civil war in Syria is, I believe, the greatest test of our generation – it is certainly the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. It is a test that so far, as a party and as a nation, we have failed"
Jo Cox
Please note her reference to the perpetrator of 90% of the deaths in Syria, 'President' Assad, not ISIS, not Nusra. Jo Cox was one of the very few who understood the genocide happening there today and exactly who is the cause of that crisis.

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Ah yes, why waste a good epitath/eulogy by giving up a chance to bash Bashar al-Assad.

Keeping this tasteful, I will say no more. Unless of course you wish to add something more.

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I'm in full agreement with your comment. Thanks for having the guts to say it.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.