Muslims abandon UK Labour over “deeply offensive” Gaza position

A man stares vacantly into space

Keir Starmer is the ultimate focus group politician.

Justin Ng Avalon

Keir Starmer – sorry, Sir Keir Starmer – has a Palestine problem.

Britain’s Labour Party leader – and head of His Majesty’s Official Opposition – ought to be a shoe-in to win the UK’s next general election, most likely some time later this year.

Labour has consistently polled significantly ahead of a ruling Conservative Party whose 15 years in power have been marked by division, incompetence and corruption.

Starmer has maintained the lead with a simple strategy: Take your base for granted and appeal to swing voters by ditching every promise or traditional Labour policy that got you elected as leader by Labour members in the first place, remaking your party in the image of the Conservative Party it is supposed to be challenging.

Thus, in the name of “fiscal responsibility,” the Labour shadow cabinet – the opposition’s would-be government – has ditched any suggestion of tax reform to fund spending on health or education, traditionally two areas of Labour focus.

Starmer has refused to back unions – traditionally the backbone of Labour support – over pay disputes and even banned Labour politicians from joining picket lines.

And just last week, he effectively dropped a $35 billion green investment pledge, pretty much the last of his policies standing.

It is a tried and tested election strategy: Keep your head under the parapet in order to make yourself as small a target as possible, closing any avenue of attack from political opponents.

And it has been working. Core Labour supporters seemed to buy the argument that all is fair in trying to win a general election and that the party would eventually return to its roots.

Unfortunately for Starmer, he has been badly exposed by Gaza.

Craven and complicit

Parroting Conservative policy on domestic issues to leave your opponents without ammunition ahead of a vote is one thing; parroting the British government’s fulsome support for a foreign country’s genocidal violence against a largely defenseless civilian population takes craven to quite another level.

Starmer has twisted himself into pretzels trying to avoid calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

He has tried out concepts like “sustainable” ceasefires or “humanitarian pauses” all, it seems, in an attempt to give Israel as much time as it wants to finish its campaign of ethnic cleansing in Gaza under the guise of “self-defense.”

The Labour leader even appeared to endorse Israel cutting off food, water, electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza’s 2.3 million people, in an interview with a London radio station, remarks he then tried to “clarify” after a backlash.

Starmer’s position has appalled Labour members and supporters.

Tens of local Labour councilors have resigned, 56 Labour parliamentarians voted against the leadership to support a motion in November calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

Eight members of Labour’s front bench – which consists of senior members – resigned their posts in protest at being banned from supporting the motion.

Muslim party members, meanwhile, feel they are being gaslit by the party leadership when they raise any concerns.

And support for the Labour Party is collapsing among Muslim voters.

According to a recent poll initiated by the Labour Muslim Network, a group dedicated to promoting issues of concern to British Muslims within the Labour Party, just 43 percent of Muslim respondents now say they intend to vote for Labour, down from 86 percent in 2021.

That is, Labour has lost 50 percent of the Muslim vote, if the poll translates into actual behavior on election day. The biggest chunk – 9 percent – has gone to the Green Party which early called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

But, perhaps tellingly, most of those lost votes have become undecideds, suggesting that the UK’s 4 million Muslims are feeling increasingly disenfranchised, with neither of the main parties speaking for them.


Nasser Nasrallah, 54, owns a cafe in a forgotten corner of southeast London. He would, he said, “usually” vote Labour – “it’s the best option we have” – but not this time.

“They are rubbish,” he said of Labour’s leadership.

He confessed to being so “extremely angry” at Starmer that he is intending to vote for the Conservative Party in the next election, purely, he said, to “punish Labour.”

“I want the Conservatives to stay in power because it’s the only way to teach Labour a lesson.”

His anger is widespread, according to the Labour Muslim Network, which said Starmer’s position on Palestine is “deeply offensive” to British Muslims and causing a “crisis” with the party’s Muslim supporters.

So far, this anger has been ignored. But Labour’s handling of dissenting voices within the party is beginning to look farcical.

The first test of voter intentions will be a by-election – an election called to fill a single parliamentary seat, usually after an MP dies or resigns.

A by-election for Rochdale in the northwest of England on 29 February, has already been lost by Labour – and in cack-handed fashion.

The party withdrew its support for its own candidate Azhar Ali over comments he made back in October suggesting Israel had known about the Hamas operation on 7 October and had let it happen.

But the action came too late to replace him with a different candidate, ensuring that while Ali will run as a Labour candidate, should he win, he would wind up in Parliament as an independent.

Rochdale might anyway have returned an independent candidate regardless of Ali’s candidacy, even though it had, until now, been considered a safe seat for Labour. George Galloway, a former MP and a staunch pro-Palestine activist, is running on a Gaza-focused campaign he has described as the “ultimate protest” against Labour.

Galloway, a veteran politician, was a Labour parliamentarian for some 15 years before being expelled from the party over his criticism of the UK’s role in the Iraq invasion in 2003.

Since then he has twice beaten Labour candidates in elections in areas with large Muslim populations.

Stifling dissent

But the Labour leadership was not done there.

A day after the party withdrew its support for Ali, it announced that it had done the same for Graham Jones, now the erstwhile Labour candidate for Hyndburn, also in England’s northwest.

Jones had not aired any conspiracy theories. But he had made the fatal mistake – in the eyes of his party leadership – of suggesting that world leaders were fed up with “fucking Israel” and that Britons who fight in the Israeli military should be prosecuted … as per British law.

For Muslim voters, this all amounts to a crackdown on those who have different opinions on Palestine, and many are suggesting that pro-Israel groups have complete sway over the Labour leadership.

According to a report by the Declassified UK investigative site, some 20 percent of Labour’s current MPs have taken funding from pro-Israel groups.

The party is “owned” by Zionists, said Hasan, 44, who runs a print shop in south-east London.

Shaking his head in disbelief at how “my party” had handled what he called the genocide in Gaza, he said he could not vote for either of the main parties now and would look to vote either for the Social Democratic Party or the Green Party.

He also predicted that Labour would suffer as a result of its Palestine position, suggesting the UK could end up with a hung parliament.

Certainly Labour is facing a problem. A slew of independent challengers – including a young British Palestinian activist Leanne Mohamad – are challenging Labour candidates across the country in a concerted campaign seeking to harness the Muslim vote.

Starmer himself may be challenged in his own North London seat by Andrew Feinstein, a veteran anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and a former Nelson Mandela advisor.

But the Labour leader is nothing if not the consummate focus group politician. His team will have calculated that whatever hit Labour takes from the party’s abject Gaza position is manageable.

And beyond Gaza, Starmer has presented himself as almost entirely devoid of any controversial opinion, principled position or even firm policy.

It should be enough to see him over the line in any general election later this year, even if Labour’s lead in the polls is narrowing. Foreign policy issues are traditionally not a high priority for voters.

But he will be forever associated with the UK’s complicity in Israel’s mass murder of civilians, the imposed starvation of an entire population, and the pulverization of Gaza.

As Starmer, a former human rights lawyer, surely knows, there are no moral bars lower than genocide. He has failed to clear it.



"the UK’s 4 million Muslims are feeling increasingly disenfranchised, with neither of the main parties speaking for them."
I think 90% of the UK population, if they really looked at the policies of the main parties, would find that neither party speaks for them. A wake-up moment for me was Boris Johnson's gaffe, in a TV interview, when he described a salary of £250,000/year as "chicken feed". Obviously his party doesn't care about the plebs who never earn more than "chicken feed".
Then there's freedom of speech. The 2 parties are in lock-step over Julian Assange, Craig Murray, and Graham Phillips. You might not like any of these people, but trying to silence them makes a mockery of Britain's claim to be any kind of democracy.


Israel keeps twisting the law to frame lawfull into illegal and Unlawful into legal. And people keep falling for that projection, making a nonissue into a dialog. there is non.
Netanyahu is lying and manipulating. if he says "we have the right to defend ourselves". Not only is he ignoring the fact they have occupied Gaza. The moment Hamas pulled back into Gaza, this is no longen defense its offense out of revenge and with the intent of genocide


Similar defections, though so far not as numerous, have hit Canada's NDP,
whose leader seems to be following Keir Starmer's lead. And a major Muslim
business group has dissociated itself from UNWRA-defunding Trudeau.


Nothing to add. Only total agreement with everything you say and those interviewed.
As a Muslim Labour supporter they have lost my vote.

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Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.