Starmer to LFI: “Labour stands with Israel”

Keir Starmer addressing LFI’s vigil at Labour conference

Keir Starmer strongly backed Israel and condemned Hamas at LFI’s reception on Tuesday evening, at which some 1,000 people turned out to show support for the Jewish state.

The Labour leader addressed LFI supporters during a vigil for the victims of the terrorist attacks, during which there was a memorial prayer and a minute’s silence.

Starmer was joined at the LFI event by the shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, and shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Rachel Reeves. Reeves is a vice-chair of LFI and Lammy a long-standing LFI parliamentary supporter.

The Labour leader said: “I am appalled and shocked by events in Israel. I utterly condemn the senseless murder of men, women and children in cold blood by the terrorists of Hamas and condemn any act of violence or intimidation towards the Jewish community in Britain.”

Starmer was speaking hours after receiving a standing ovation during his keynote speech for reiterating his support for Israel. The Labour leader told conference – which held its own minute’s silence on Monday afternoon – “Israel must always have the right to defend her people.”

In his address to LFI, Starmer said Labour still believes in two-state solution, adding: “This action by Hamas does nothing for Palestinians.”

He continued: “In this dark hour, Labour stands with Israel”.

“Our message is clear: Hamas and those states who back them are determined to destroy any hope of peace through missiles, bullets and bombs. We cannot, we must not, let them.”

“This act of terror was designed to destroy any hope of peace. A hope we cannot and will not give up on,” Starmer added.

Starmer also used his speech to praise Israeli Labor leader, Merav Michaeli, and laud the relationship between the two parties which he labelled: “long-standing, deep and stronger than ever”.

He also paid tribute to LFI, saying it was “an invaluable source of energy and ideas for me and my team” and thanking it for “the work you have put in to help rid our party from the scourge of antisemitism”.

Lammy, who left Liverpool on Monday to return to London to speak at a vigil for Israel outside Downing Street, told the reception: ”We stand here as Labour Friends of Israel – but I have to say I am proud to live in a country where it doesn’t matter if you are Labour, Liberal Democrat or you are Conservative to stand with the people of Israel.”
He referred to the guidance that school children at some Jewish schools had been given not to wear their blazers so as to not identify their religion. He said: ”We as a movement play our part to make sure that no-one can make us live in a country where you people have to not wear their own school uniforms.”

In her speech, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves praised LFI for the event, and said: ”Thirteen years I’ve been vice chair of LFI, but never have I stood here with such pride and emotion.” She continued: ”I know that many of you are not able to account for all your friends and family. I know some of you have loved ones who’ve been taken hostage, I grieve with you.”

With regard to the slaughter of Israelis, Reeves declared: ”We should call it out for what it is, it is barbaric, it is terrorism. We will condemn it and we will do everything we can to stand alongside you, and hunt down the people responsible for all this. This is our pledge to you.”

In his speech, LFI chair Steve McCabe likened the terrorist attacks to a pogrom, saying: “The State of Israel was established 75 years ago this year to provide the Jewish people with a safe haven after centuries of persecution – persecution which culminated in the Nazis’ attempt to annihilate European Jewry. When Jews are butchered in the streets, children torn away from their mother’s arms, the elderly carted away, prisoners paraded through the streets, jeered and humiliated, then we know that Israel is not yet the safe haven that the Jewish people have a right to expect.” He continued: “The world has failed the Jewish people for centuries.”
McCabe called Saturday’s assault “a brutal and sadistic terrorist attack”. “It’s no different and no more readily excused than 7/7, the attacks on Manchester arena or the assault on the Twin Towers,” he argued.

“Those who can’t see that – those who celebrate or seek to justify it – do so for one reason: they think Jewish lives don’t matter. That’s an abhorrent position and we should say so.”

LFI’s chair had earlier criticised the BBC’s coverage of the attacks, which has included a refusal to describe Hamas as terrorists – the corporation is regularly using terms such as “militants” instead – and a controversial interview with a Palestinian academic on Saturday which called the assault “legitimate and moral”. McCabe told the Jewish Chronicle: “The BBC must cover the outrageous and horrible events in Israel in an appropriate and respectful manner. Those who defend or justify terror attacks should not be given a platform to propagate their hatred on our public service broadcaster.”

At an LFI fringe event on Monday, LFI board member Louise Ellman praised Starmer, saying: “He is determined that the party does not go backwards and has given very firm and equivocal response to the crisis.”

Ellman, a former chair of LFI who quit Labour over antisemitism before rejoining two years ago, also attacked those who defended Hamas: “There should be absolutely no tolerance for groups who, even at this very moment and even at this conference, are supporting the idea that there should be no state of Israel. Let’s not forget that is the background to this and it has to be addressed as well.” She described a two-state solution as still “the only way forward”.