Thursday, 11 November 2021

Sir Keir Starmer has sunk to a new low by expressing solidarity with Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely who was loudly booed, following a speech she made at the London School of Economics.

Starmer said the following on Twitter:

And Starmer's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds went even further:

There are a few problems here:

Firstly, the video footage shows no evidence of threats of violence. We see Hotovely leave the building and make it to her car without any threat of violence taking place. If a threat of violence took place separately to this protest, it would be wrong to equate these protesters with such a threat, but I've seen no evidence such a threat was made.

Secondly, Hotovely is the ambassador for an apartheid state (as defined by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations) and as such is a perfectly legitimate target for peaceful protest. We are not talking about people standing outside her home here. We are talking about Hotovely leaving an event in which she made a 90 minute political speech. It's worth noting Boris Johnson was booed in a similar manner at COP 26 and absolutely nobody called this racist. You can't just lazily throw around the word antisemitism whenever someone calls out the crimes of Israel. Doing so undermines the fight against antisemitism and is highly irresponsible.

Thirdly, Hotovely holds some truly abhorrent views. She believes Palestine has never existed, that Israel should therefore annex all Palestinian land, and denies the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1947/48) ever took place. She also believes miscegenation (interracial marriage) is wrong. I am in an interracial marriage. My four kids are mixed-race. Imagine telling me I couldn't boo a person who believes my family is illegitimate, or even worse that booing would make me racist and deserving of a criminal record.

The Labour leader has not only sided with a member of the far-right with unquestionably fascist views, he has essentially stated peaceful protest will not be tolerated. In his desperation to defend the free speech of a fascist (which was not under threat), he has threatened the free speech of those who oppose fascism. And honestly, I'm not even sure he realises this himself, because I don't think he thought any of this through, but rather offered a knee-jerk reaction to show he is tough on antisemitism.

This is what happens when you tie yourself up in knots for short-term political gain. Starmer sided with some of the most dishonest people in politics to oust Jeremy Corbyn and become Labour leader, and now he has found himself in a position where he is dependent on their support. He effectively has no choice but to side with the far-right, because he has burnt his bridges with the left, and his allies are keeping his leadership afloat.

Just imagine for a moment that someone booed the ambassador for North Korea. Imagine how laughably absurd it would be to suggest that booing them would be a racist thing to do, and that anyone who booed should be arrested. This episode suggests that if Starmer ever did become prime minister, he would lead us in a very authoritarian direction.

Picture the scene:

"I got sentenced to three years."

"What you in for?"

"Booing a fascist at a peaceful protest."

It's not just ridiculous, it's terrifying.

We live in an upside-down world in which the protesters of the most extreme example of racial segregation of our time - an actual apartheid - are the ones who are called racist. And if you disagree with my use of the word "apartheid" in this context, here is what Nelson Mandela had to say on the matter:

"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

Israel/Palestine is the great human rights issue of our time, and if you support the actions of the Israeli state, you are no different from those who supported South African apartheid and called for Nelson Mandela to be hanged. By taking the position he has, by effectively wanting to prevent the peaceful protest of apartheid, Sir Keir Starmer is the moral equivalent of such people, just with a respectable facade. 

The Israeli state has killed at least 60 Palestinian children so far this year and many more adults. Year after year, it keeps annexing Palestinian land, destroying Palestinian infrastructure and trapping the Palestinians in the world's largest (but ever-shrinking) open-air prison. Anyone who leaps to the defence of the perpetrators is on the wrong side of history.