Keir Starmer speaks at a Labour Friends of Israel event at the party’s conference (Picture: Keir Starmer/Flickr)

Keir Starmer’s backing for Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza has sent tremors through the Labour Party. He is a co-conspirator in mass slaughter—and anyone who backs him over it shares the bloody responsibility.

For a small number of its councillors, this is the final straw. A councillor from the West Midlands in England who is considering leaving the party spoke to Socialist Worker. “The people who elected me are appalled at what Keir Starmer has said. They cannot understand why we sound nearly as bad as the government,” they said.

“One of the most active party members asked me what is the point of Labour if it completely fails the Palestinian people. And I didn’t have an answer.

“It’s coming to crunch time—I’ve been worried for a long time over several issues that affect poorer people. Perhaps the leadership is beginning to appreciate the depth of the crisis around Palestine. The questions are strong in Muslim areas, but not just Muslim areas.

“I want to stay in Labour, and I will keep working to change the position. But I don’t know if that’s possible. Lots of people will say it’s time to go, and I’m a coward for not letting you use my name.

“But I am not sure though that I want to walk away from the prize of helping to turn round Labour’s stance on Palestine.”

Some have gone further. At least 23 councillors have resigned from the Labour Party. Six Labour councillors on Oxford City Council resigned at the end of last week, joining two others who had already said they were off.

Imogen Thomas, Edward Mundy, Paula Dunne, Duncan Hall, Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini and Jabu Nala-Hartley issued an angry statement denouncing Starmer. They slammed Starmer and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy for endorsing “collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties”.

“Starmer has said, ‘Israel has that right’ to continue deadly attacks on Gazans. This is complicity in war crimes,” they said.

The resigning councillors also deplored the crackdown on those who’ve “sought to highlight these violations of international law”. “The Labour Party leadership has sought to silence members and representatives, banning motions from branches, and strongly advising councillors against attending demonstrations,” they wrote. “This is a direct threat to our democratic rights.”

Councillors Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif had previously left the party. Aziz said, “I thought of my late dad who was a trade unionist and lifelong Labour Party member. When I had to resign, I thought about my dad. He would be saying you have to do what’s right. This is like Iraq again, they treated us like fools and now they’re treating us like fools again.”

Amna Abdullatif, the first Arab Muslim woman elected to Manchester city council, has also left Labour. 

Abdullatif said she was opposed to Starmer and “a number of the senior front bench”. They are “endorsing a war crime” after advocating for “Israel having the right to withhold fuel, water, food and electricity” from over two million people in Gaza.

“I’m appalled by the lack of humanity being shown to Palestinians by the party I have been a member of for the past ten years,” Abdullatif said.

West London councillor Lara Parizotto resigned saying Labour was “no longer aligned with her values”. She cited specifically the Labour instruction not to take part in the march for Palestine on 14 October.

She has been a member of the party since she was 18 years old. In her resignation letter, Parizotto said, “I find my values and my work unaligned with the party”. She cited “racial justice, migrants’ rights, allyship with queer and trans people, decolonisation and global liberation movements of oppressed people unaligned with the party”.

In Scotland nine members of Glasgow Kelvin Constituency Labour Party (CLP) resigned from their local roles—but not the party.

The branch had intended to debate a motion on Gaza at its monthly meeting. But members then received an email from Scottish Labour, saying the situation should not be discussed under any circumstances.

Subsequently, six members of Labour’s Edinburgh Northern and Leith executive committee decided to step down over the same issue.

Mike Cowley, one of the Edinburgh six, said the group was open to working with others now on issues like Palestine because “the crisis is so serious”. He said, “People of good faith and good spirit should be looking to work with each other irrespective of our views on the constitution for example”.

Labour left leaders won’t openly attack Starmer  

Labour has 6,348 councillors. The number of resignations at present—0.003 percent of the total—is hardly a flood. And senior figures on the left are deadly quiet about Starmer.

The noteworthy point about the opposition to Starmer is presently how small it is. Many Labour members think Starmer is wrong, but they are not organising against him.

Just two Labour MPs spoke at the rally on the London Palestine demonstration last Saturday. That’s an improvement on the week before—and such voices are welcome.

John McDonnell said, “75 years ago a whole people were driven off their land, and that injustice has been the cause of three generations of human suffering. We’re here for justice for the Palestinians. In the years to come the children of Gaza will ask us—where were you when we needed you?”

For those who have the necessary code book, that’s probably an attack on Starmer. It implied the Labour leader would have to tell the children of Gaza he was accepting their starvation and extinction.

But if you don’t make that clear, it doesn’t have the same punch. McDonnell’s speech was the sort made when you are worried about being expelled.

East London MP Apsana Begum told the rally, “The entire world is witnessing in real time, the crimes against humanity being committed against innocent Palestinian civilians. Today we said, ‘Not in our name’.

“We demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to the total siege of Gaza. Nothing, nothing can justify these crimes being committed against humanity.”

She demanded “an end to the violence and the ongoing dispossession and oppression imposed on the Palestinian people by the state of Israel”. “The illegal occupation must end, the forced evictions must end. The settlement programme must end,” she said.

These are powerful points, but they are totally opposed by Labour’s leadership. And from the Nakba of 1948—which occurred during Labour’s most reforming government—to now, Labour has always backed Israel.

Starmer will be anxious that he doesn’t lose votes over Palestine. But his commitment to imperialism, Zionism and keeping in with the right wing come first.

If Labour MPs, councillors and members want to wipe away the shame of their leadership’s position, they have to openly rebel. Statements and resolutions will not be enough. It means being in the streets, urging on resistance to the Tories and Starmer and encouraging revolt. And the conclusion should be to leave Labour and help to build a socialist alternative.

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