Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Sir Keir Starmer has disgraced himself once again by addressing Labour Friends of Israel to condemn the BDS movement and show solidarity with far-right Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotoveli who was in attendance.

During his speech, Starmer condemned "antizionist antisemitism", conflating two very different things. Antisemitism is essentially hatred of Jews, whereas antizionism is opposition to the colonisation of Palestinian land. It is simply not reasonable to suggest they are remotely the same and very much erases Palestinian suffering. You could argue Starmer's position is racist against Palestinians. You could equally argue the conflation of Zionism and Jewishness is antisemitic, because it erases any Jew who doesn't identify as Zionist - and many Jews don't.

Starmer insisted "every Jew would count" under his leadership, but he failed to mention he has purged a shocking number of left-wing Jews from the party, apparently for being the "wrong kind of Jew". He is not tackling antisemitism at all. He is actually siding with the Israeli far-right and ignoring or even condemning Jewish voices who disagree with him.

The BDS movement is not something I've ever actively participated in, but it's supported by Jewish former-ANC MP Andrew Feinstein who served in Nelson Mandela's government and lost 39 members of his family in the holocaust. Andrew is someone who knows a thing or two about apartheid and the effectiveness of boycott, divestment and sanctions. I would therefore suggest he would be a better voice to listen to than the current Labour leader.

Starmer said this of the BDS movement:

"Its principles are wrong, targeted alone at the world's sole Jewish state. We will fully oppose and condemn illegal settlements, annexation and the eviction of Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories."

Starmer acknowledges an illegal occupation is taking place, but falls short of calling out apartheid, mass murder, and other crimes against humanity, such as the imprisonment of young children. He insists it's wrong to boycott the state which is guilty of the terrible things he partly acknowledges, giving it a free pass on the basis it's the "world's sole Jewish state".

I'm not sure where to begin with the absurdity of this. Just imagine if he'd said BDS against South African apartheid was wrong, because his position is morally equivalent. I would pay to see him debate Andrew Feinstein on this one. He would be left floundering.

Starmer's eagerness to support the fascist ambassador Tzipi Hotovely comes in stark contrast to how he responded to two of Labour's Muslim MPs - Apsana Begum and Zarah Sultana - being subjected to horrendous racist abuse. In short, Starmer didn't respond. He completely failed to show any solidarity at all to these women.

Now, regardless of your political affiliation, it is just a human response to stand in solidarity with anyone who has been the victim of vile racist abuse, and this is something Jeremy Corbyn did repeatedly during his time as Labour leader. He regularly showed solidarity with people who were not in his political faction.

But what makes Starmer look particularly bad is how he immediately leapt to the defence of Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely when she was booed outside the London School of Economics. Hotovely is a person who denies the Nakba took place in 1947/48 when over 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed. She believes Israel has a right to take all Palestinian land. She is also a person who believes that interracial marriage is wrong, and as the father of mixed-race children, this really doesn't sit well with me at all.

Sir Keir Starmer had no problem telling us that booing a fascist would not be tolerated, and yet he fell into silence when his own MPs were the victims of Islamophobia. It seems rather worrying that he would prioritise imagined racism against an actual racist, over very real racism against his own MPs, almost as though he has a racism hierarchy.