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Keir Starmer’s failure to call for an immediate ceasefire gives the green light to Israel’s grave violations of international law.

  • Labour leader Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza in his speech at Chatham House this morning is morally indefensible and an abdication of political leadership
  • His reliance on the strategy of “humanitarian pause” fails to grasp the scale of loss of civilian life and destruction of infrastructure in Gaza
  • Whilst stating that all parties must abide by International Law, Starmer continues to fail to address the issue of Israel’s egregious ongoing violations of it
  • The Labour leader’s position is in stark contrast from public opinion, as well as large numbers of elected representatives in his own party

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) condemns today’s comments by Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in which he refused to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. With over 8300 Palestinians killed in the most recent Israeli military onslaught, two-thirds of them women and children, and with many more unaccounted for under the rubble, this is morally unacceptable and a grave failure of leadership.

Starmer’s call for a “humanitarian pause” is a wholly inadequate response to address what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has referred to as an “humanitarian catastrophe” and a “totally unacceptable” number of civilian casualties. Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the entire population of Gaza is “being dehumanized.” He added, “An immediate humanitarian ceasefire has become a matter of life and death for millions.”

Without a full ceasefire and lifting of the siege the critical restoration of supplies of essential goods, including food, water and medical supplies, cannot be achieved. The basic infrastructure of life in Gaza has been deliberately decimated by Israel’s bombardment.  1.4 million people have been displaced. 45% of Gaza’s housing has been damaged or destroyed. 21 hospitals have been damaged, one third are no longer operational and 13 are under threat from Israeli forces. In this context, to call for a “humanitarian pause” as Keir Starmer does, allows for the resumption of Israel’s bombardment and gives the greenlight to further destruction of the essentials of human life for millions of Palestinians.

Keir Starmer has notably refused to say that Israel is breaking international law with its war on Gaza, despite all the evidence that emerges on a daily basis. During an interview on LBC, Keir Starmer was asked if “a siege is appropriate? Cutting off power, cutting off water?” Starmer responded: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.” Today he tried to distance himself from these remarks, but he has not withdrawn or apologised for them, despite the furore they have caused. And when questioned by journalists, he refused to offer an opinion on the legality or morality of Israel’s actions.

The Labour leader’s position is in stark contrast with public opinion, as well as large numbers of elected representatives in his own party. 500 000 people marched in London last Saturday, with MPs and trade union leaders representing millions of British people, calling for a ceasefire as a moral and political imperative. In a recent poll, 76% of people favoured a ceasefire. At least 12 Labour Shadow Ministers, Labour’s Scottish leader, and the Mayors of London and Manchester have refused to back Starmer’s line.

PSC calls on all people of conscience, inside and outside the Labour Party, to continue to pressure our political leaders to finally do the right thing and call for an immediate ceasefire, and to lift the siege on the Gaza .

Ben Jamal, PSC Director, said:

“Keir Starmer’s remarks today show a blithe disregard for the implementation of International Law. His position that he cannot decide whether Israel is violating International Law until told so by a lawyer, in the face of Israel’s imposition of a siege that cuts off all essential supplies and is killing of thousands of Palestinian children, is extraordinary. He has also consistently failed to condemn statements by Israeli leaders that dehumanise Palestinians, referring to them as “animals”. His words and actions render him complicit in Israel’s ongoing commission of war crimes. Those who believe in the primacy of International law and respect for all civilian life, both inside and outside of the Labour Party, should condemn his remarks and demand a reversal of the Labour party position.”