Keir Starmer hints at Labour retreat on Israel sanctions

“The Labour Party is under new management,” UK opposition leader Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson, the prime minister in Parliament on Wednesday.

It was the regular political sparring match officially known as Prime Minister’s Question Time and the discussion that day centered around Russian TV channel RT.

In a pretty blatant swipe at his left-wing predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer stated that “no Front Bencher of this party has appeared on Russia Today since I have been leading this party.”

The very same day, Starmer also met with Labour Friends of Israel, a front group financed and directed by the Israeli embassy in London.

Starmer’s jibe that the party “is under new management” could have been just as much a reference to Labour’s increasingly right-wing approach towards Israel as much as it was about Russia.

According to Labour Friends of Israel, Starmer thanked them “for the crucial role they play in the Labour Party” and for “contributing to a balanced debate on the Middle East.”

They also discussed the BDS movement, the Palestinian-led global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in support of human rights.

The group did not explain exactly what they discussed about BDS, but it is clear that the pro-Israel lobby group opposes it.

Their chairperson Steve McCabe said, “I made it clear that in relation to Labour’s current policy position the LFI does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against the Jewish state.”

Neither Starmer nor the Labour press office replied to requests for comment, asking if he supported current Labour policy on sanctions against Israel.

Human rights abuses

Current Labour Party policy, inherited from the Corbyn years, is that a Labour government would implement sanctions against Israel in the form of an end to the two countries’ arms trade.

In party conference motions almost unanimously passed in 2018 and again in 2019, members voted to “freeze” arms sales to Israel due to its human right abuses.

Sanctions were also incorporated into Labour’s December general election pledges.

The 2019 manifesto said that there would be an immediate suspension of sales to Saudi Arabia of arms “for use in Yemen and to Israel for arms used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians.”

Labour Friends of Israel has habitually defended Israeli killings of Palestinians.

In 2018 it posted an infamous tweet in which appeared to blame Palestinians for killings of protestors in Gaza who had in fact been shot by Israel.

“Hamas must accept responsibility for the events,” they tweeted, before deleting the posting after a wave of criticism.

At Labour’s 2016 party conference, the group’s then chairperson Joan Ryan was caught fabricating anti-Semitism claims.

In undercover footage shot for Al Jazeera’s 2017 film The Lobby, member of Parliament Joan Ryan reported a Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist to the Labour Party, falsely claiming she had invoked “classic anti-Semitic tropes.”

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Isn’t referring to the state of Israel as the “Jewish state” racist? The LFI, CAA et al are fundamentally racist which is surely incompatible with the values of the Labour Party - or you’d have thought.

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The real question is what does a Jewish state mean? A state is a metaphysical entity or in Marx's words a body of armed men. How can it have a religious complexion? A state can't worship or pray. It is meaningless other than a description of the state as an ethno-supremacist state. In other words Israel is a state of Jewish supremacy.It's not racist to say that Israel is a Jewish state it is however meaningless unless understood in the above terms

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Any backdown on Labour's campaign promises regarding Israel (sanctions and the freezing of arms sales) is a violation of a pact made with those of us who voted for Labour. This will not be taken well (or lying down).

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“The Labour Party is under new management,” UK opposition leader Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson, the prime minister in Parliament on Wednesday." Perhaps Starmer meant that the Labour Party is now under the new management of LFI and that he is their puppet. Just like Trump is AIPACs puppet.

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In a democracy all citizens are equal under the law. This is not the case in Israel where the 20% non-Jewish citizens of Israel are treated as Second Class Citizens as everybody knows

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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.