Amid growing turmoil surrounding his stand on the Israel-Gaza conflict, Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer is set to convene a meeting with the party’s Muslim MPs. This comes on the heels of an Islamic centre, which the leader visited, categorically stating that Sir Keir’s post-visit declaration grossly misconstrued their position.
Strains continue to erupt within the Labour party due to Sir Keir’s alleged comments proposing Israel’s “right” to blockade the provision of water and energy to Gaza. Much to his own damage control endeavour, he later attempted to clarify his stance by stating that his point did not extend beyond the country’s right for self-defence.
His muddled position led to the resignation of at least 19 Labour councillors while some MPs have also voiced criticism about the leadership’s controversial stand. A count of over 30 Labour MPs, including former party leader turned independent Jeremy Corbyn, have voiced their support for a ceasefire in the region.
Despite the mounting internal conflict, the Labour leader defended Israel’s right to protect itself while refusing to back the ceasefire.
The party has suffered a blow in Oxford, with the resignation of eight councillors leading to the loss of the council’s Labour majority. Insiders confirm that a discussion will be held between Sir Keir and his Muslim MPs on Wednesday concerning the contentious issue.
On a radio interview held in mid-October, Sir Keir had ambiguously agreed to the appropriateness of Israel’s siege on Gaza’s supply of power and water. However, post heavy criticism, he re-visited his stand during his Sunday visit to the South Wales Islamic Centre where he met the Muslim leaders and congregants.
Following this, Sir Keir profusely conveyed his emotional resonance with the pain of the Gaza civilians while reaffirming his disagreement with Israel’s blockade. He reiterated the urgency of releasing the hostages and allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, and emphasized the need for a renewed focus on the two-state solution.
Subsequently, the Muslim Council of Wales issued a retraction on behalf of the Islamic Centre, expressing their apologies to the Muslim community for the confusion caused by their decision to facilitate Sir Keir’s visit. Significantly, they affirmed their stand on a ‘free Palestine’ and conveyed their misrepresentation in Sir Keir’s social media post.
To counter the backlash, Sir Keir sent a letter to all Labour councillors reinforcing his view that Israel must abide by international law and facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza.
Following the public scrutiny, voices of opposition within the Party’s ranks have emerged, including from former Labour Party member, councillor Imogen Thomas, and the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar, both pointing out their respective concerns about the position Sir Keir has taken on the contentious issue.