Labour’s Self-Inflicted Quagmire: Starmer Silences Israel Dissent

Rochdale labour

Labour suspends second parliamentary candidate over Israel comments

Labour withdrawal backing for Graham Jones, candidate for Hyndburn, follows Starmer’s action against Azhar Ali in Rochdale

Let’s be blunt: the Labour Party finds itself in a tangled mess of its own making. Sir Keir Starmer, once hailed as the steady hand, now appears to be dancing with two left feet and a tin ear. The suspension of two parliamentary candidates over their comments on Israel is more than just a PR disaster; it exposes the festering wounds of factionalism and muddled thinking beneath the surface.

Antisemitism is abhorrent, and any comments that fuel it deserve condemnation. However, Starmer’s handling of this situation reeks of political manoeuvring, not principle. He initially backed Azhar Ali, the Rochdale candidate, only to backtrack under pressure, revealing a leader more concerned with optics than substance.

Two candidates for Labour Party parliamentary seats meet with a group of counsellors in October 2023, which sources have told the Guardian was held between Ali, Jones and a group of Labour councillors who were threatening to quit the party over its stance on Gaza.

From that meeting, recordings were taken. In these recordings, antisemitic statements were allegedly made.

Jones and Ali’s comments, however controversial, reflected a wider unease with Israeli actions in Gaza. While their language might be clumsy, the concerns are legitimate. To dismiss them as “antisemitic” is a lazy and dangerous oversimplification.

The crux of the issue lies not just in Ali’s and Jones’s words, but in the broader narrative surrounding Israel.

Ali’s claims, based on Egyptian accounts, raise serious questions about Israel’s role in the conflict. Questions that deserve impartial investigation, not reflexive dismissal.

Mr Ali is alleged to have told a Labour party meeting that Israel had “allowed” the deadly attack by Hamas gunmen on 7 October.

Mr Ali made his initial remarks at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party soon after the attacks, claiming that the Israeli government had removed its border security to give the Hamas terrorists free rein.

He told the meeting: ‘The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten days earlier… Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening… They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.’

After someone suggested Sir Keir was ‘held in high regard’, Mr Ali replied: ‘Can I disagree with you… A lot of the MPs I’ve spoken to, non-Muslim MPs, feel that on this issue, he’s lost the confidence of the parliamentary party.’

Ali repeated reports from media outlets including the BBC and the Guardian that now seem to be deemed conspiracies.

Immediately after the 7th of October attack Media outlets around the world reported that Israel had intelligence forewarning about the 7 October attacks.

A senior US politician said Israel had received an official warning from Egypt of a possible attack from Gaza three days before Hamas launched its deadly cross-border assault on Saturday.

Michael McCaul, the chair of the US House foreign affairs committee, speaking after an intelligence briefing to senior members of Congress, said it was not clear at what level the warning was given.

“We know that Egypt has warned the Israelis three days prior that an event like this could happen,” McCaul, a Republican, told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t want to get too much into classified [details], but a warning was given. I think the question was at what level.”

Of course, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denied Israel had received any advance warning from Cairo, when reports first emerged that an alert had been passed on from the country’s intelligence services.

Netanyahu said such claims were “fake news” in an address to the Israeli people that week. Earlier his office said “no early message came from Egypt” and denied that the prime minister had recently met with the head of Egyptian intelligence to discuss any such warning.

That had followed the first reports of a warning from Egypt. An Egyptian official told the Associated Press that Egypt, which often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, had spoken repeatedly with the Israelis about “something big”.

The unnamed official claimed Israeli officials were focused on the West Bank and had played down the threat from Gaza. “We have warned them an explosion of the situation is coming, and very soon, and it would be big. But they underestimated such warnings,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cairo did not comment officially on suggestions that it may have offered an early warning to Israel. However, Egyptian media with close ties to intelligence services on Wednesday quoted senior security sources denying Israeli press reports that such a warning was issued.

Despite the denials, McCaul appeared confident that some sort of warning was passed on, and indicated he had been told that attack planning may have been going on for as long as year – without Israel or its allies noticing.

“We’re not quite sure how we missed it. We’re not quite sure how Israel missed it,” he told reporters, acknowledging that US and Western intelligence had also failed to foresee an attack that has been described as the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

Egyptian officials claimed they passed intelligence to Israel about attack plans. Given the extensive preparations in Gaza, it seems implausible Israel’s sophisticated intelligence services were completely unaware.

But here is when we get the conspiracy… it makes you wonder where he came up with it… Ali allegedly claimed Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 of its citizens to be massacred on October 7th 2023 in order to give it the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza.

Some posit Israel underestimated the scale of attacks or thought they could contain them, wanting a small assault to rationalise bombing Gaza. Hamas and other groups did joint military drills for months before 7 October near the Israeli border, evidence indicates.

The question arises, either Israel was negligent in preventing a known threat, or deliberately enabled attacks for political aims despite the risk of civilian deaths. This is effectively what Labour candidate Azhar Ali claimed based on Egyptian accounts before his suspension.

It raises serious questions about Israel’s narrative that require impartial investigation. Ali’s critiques, however controversial, reflect wider doubts about Israeli conduct that should not be reflexively dismissed.

Criticising Isreal is not Antisemitic

Is the Labour Party to remain a democratic party in which the right of free criticism & free debate is not merely tolerated but encouraged?
Or are the rank & file of the party to be bludgeoned or cowed into an uncritical subservience towards the leadership?”

Michael Foot, Leader of the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983.

The real issue here isn’t just about antisemitism, it’s about Israel, and the silencing of dissent. Starmer, desperate to appease moderate voters and woo back Jewish donors while pandering to the zionist lobby means throwing anyone who dares question the status quo under the bus.

This isn’t just factionalism, it’s a betrayal of the very ideals of social justice and international solidarity that the Labour Party once championed. Daring to criticise Israel and Zionism isn’t antisemitism no matter how they try to muddy the waters.

The left will never be at home while Starmer leads the Labour Party. His authoritarian rule only allows for his sanctioned narrative, gone are the days when arguments were won by rigorous debate and free speech.

Keir Starmer, Azhar Ali
Keir Starmer, Azhar Ali

During the meeting, Graham Jones, the candidate for Hyndburn appeared to try to defend the Labour leader, but did so by expressing views that were condemned by Jewish Labour supporters as “appalling”.

Jones said during the meeting: “I’m sure when [world leaders] go home, like me, pardon my French [they say] ‘fucking Israel’ again.”

He went on to criticise British people who chose to fight for the Israel Defense Forces, saying that doing so was against the law.

“No British person should be fighting for any other country at all, full stop,” he said. “It is against the law and you should be locked up.”

In fact, there is an obscure piece of legislation still on the statute books – the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 – which ostensibly makes it illegal for British citizens to join the armed forces of a country fighting a state at peace with Britain. However, this proved to be embarrassingly ineffective when prosecutors attempted to stop British volunteers from fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

The leaked recordings reveal both Jones and Ali criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza and why not, most people with any amount of humanity in their hearts would criticise what can only be called genocide. While their language might be clumsy, their concerns are legitimate. What we now see is that any criticism of Israel is now verboten within Labour. This is McCarthyism disguised as wokeness, and it’s a dangerous path to tread.

Starmer’s claim of ignorance about the recordings rings hollow. His own party is riddled with leaks, and his “slow decision-making process” speaks volumes about his political acumen. This is the same man who dithered over green investment, leaving Labour’s environmental credentials in tatters.

By silencing dissenting voices, Starmer opens the door to Galloway who should take full advantage and dip his bread while the gravy flows, he deserves it.

This isn’t just about two candidates, it’s about the soul of the Labour Party lost in the purgatory of centrism. A now dead Party that once championed social justice and spoke truth to power, even when it was inconvenient. It has become a pale imitation of the Tories, more concerned with electability than integrity.

So, where does this leave us? With a Labour Party in tatters, a leader devoid of credibility, and a by-election victory for Galloway almost certain. And while Starmer may claim the moral high ground, from where I stand, his words and actions surrounding the people of Gaza look suspiciously like a political graveyard.

The Labour Party is left rudderless, adrift in a sea of its own making. It’s time for soul-searching, not scapegoating. The left needs a leader who will stand up for its principles, not one who throws them under the bus at the first sign of trouble.

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