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Editorial: Over Palestine, it is time to stand up to Starmer – or face another era of war

SOCIALISTS had limited expectations of New Labour when it won in 1997. But they did not anticipate Tony Blair’s bloody record in foreign policy, expressed above all in the word which will haunt him to his grave — Iraq.

International affairs were scarcely on the political radar in the years before the Blair landslide.

Labour supporters today have no such excuse. It is now clear that any government led by Sir Keir Starmer will be in the vanguard of international aggression and will be marked by the same indifference to international law and insouciance regarding war crimes as characterised the Blair administration.

Starmer himself has put the question beyond doubt with his comments regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

He signalled his firm approval of the Israeli decision to cut off supplies of water, food and power to the besieged millions living in the Gaza Strip. He was indifferent to the fact that such collective punishment drives a coach and horses through international law.

Preposterously, Labour shadow attorney-general Emily Thornberry was persuaded — against what one can only hope is her better judgement — to endorse this green light to war crimes.

Thornberry seems to be fitting herself up for the role of Lord Goldsmith, New Labour’s court lawyer who obligingly adapted his opinions on international law to suit Blair’s war drive.

This outrage by Starmer and his acolytes comes on top of fawning on Israel and its far-right ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotovely, since the start of his leadership, disregarding any notion of justice for the Palestinian people.

And of course it aligns with his servile backing for the Tory government over the Ukraine conflict, a posture that has left Labour aligned with the most bellicose forces in the world today in seeking to prolong that war and obstruct any prospect of peace.

So the question now is: are Labour members and affiliates going to acquiesce in another warmongering Labour government aligned with international reaction?

Signs of dissent are multiplying. Councillors in Manchester, Oxford, Stroud and elsewhere have resigned from Labour, as has Young Labour’s national BAME officer.

Such resignations are entirely understandable but will not on their own deflect Starmer any more than losing half of Labour’s individual membership in 2003-4 threw Blair off his warmongering stride.

Indeed, one of his acolytes described members leaving over Labour’s Gaza policy as “fleas” needing to be shaken off. The racism here is repugnant.

However, the only plausible alternative to resignation is resistance.

A number of Labour MPs have issued statements condemning Israel’s conduct in Gaza, as well as the Hamas attacks on Israel. That is welcome.

On the other hand, they have been browbeaten by Starmer’s whips into not attending solidarity demonstrations, and none has actually criticised the party’s war-crimes position directly.

Civilians in Gaza today have a right to be afraid. Labour MPs do not. If they are invested in avoiding a re-run of the wars of the Blair years, never mind challenging the approach to the existing crisis, the time to find their political courage is now.

The imperatives of international solidarity with the suffering Palestinians demand it.  So too does peace in the Middle East, which will never be attained through Starmer’s “Israel, right or wrong” approach.

It is said that those who fight and run away live to fight another day — yet in practice those who run usually never actually get around to the subsequent fighting. Running becomes the habit, alas.

It is a habit to break now, lest resignation from the Labour Party become the only option consistent with human decency.

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