Labour leader Keir Starmer slammed for speech against BDS

Keir Starmer slammed for Labour Friends of Israel speech against BDS
2 min read
18 November, 2021
Sir Keir Starmer said Labour does not support BDS, despite 61 percent of party members declaring support for the movement earlier this year.
The Labour leader reportedly received a standing ovation after delivering his speech [Getty]

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has been slammed for a speech at a Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) event on Tuesday where he condemned any boycott of Israel.

Starmer took to the stage at an annual lunch organised by the lobby group, which supports strong bilateral relations between the UK and Israel, saying "anti-Zionist antisemitism" denies Jewish people "a right to self-determination", according to LFI.

The Labour leader said his party does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) - which "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians" - despite a 2021 YouGov poll showing 61 percent of Labour members support the pro-Palestine boycott movement.

"The Labour party does not and will not support BDS... it would cause huge damage to the relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom," the Labour party leader said.

Starmer also said he opposes "illegal settlements, annexation and the eviction of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian territories", calling himself "both a friend of Israel and... Palestine".

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The speech received a standing ovation but has sparked fury among activists.

"Starmer repeats the notion that links anti-Zionism to anti-semitism... does Starmer realise the difference between a political ideology and a religion/ethnicity?! Failing to distinguish between both... just shows their desire to silence opposing views!" Jordanian Palestinian student Monjed Al-Tarifi told The New Arab by message.

Many others condemned Starmer's speech for "supporting apartheid".

Others said Starmer no longer holds true to the traditional Labour Party values of international solidarity.

"Starmer’s pro-Israeli position is an obstacle to achieving peace... in democracies, boycotting has been a powerful method of protest," Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa, told The New Arab.

"In September 2021, the Labour Party passed a motion calling for sanctions on Israel as an apartheid state... the label of apartheid was noticeably absent from Starmer's address," Patel continued

He said Starmer's speech "severs the links with his own party" and "the people he represents".