Keir Starmer’s unilateral attempt to rewrite Labour’s Conference policy on Kashmir


David Rosenberg on his Facebook page and the Jewish Socialists’ Group in its latest issue draw the parallels between Modi’s  India and Netanyahu’s Israel.

As the editorial concludes: “For our part, we will continue to link our progressive struggles against both Hindutva and Zionist ethno-nationalist ideology, and encourage the anti-racist and anti-fascist movements here to broaden the scope of their interest beyond Europe and America.”

David Rosenberg, Facebook, 3rd May 2020

The brazen attempt by Keir Starmer to unilaterally rewrite Labour’s Conference policy on Kashmir shows contempt for Labour members. His statements, which appease those both within and beyond the Labour Party supporting Modi’s Hindutva forces in India, are perfectly consistent with the way he has moved to align himself with certain right wing Jewish organisations here: organisations that see one of their key tasks as a general defence of Zionism. For many years now that defence has effectively translated into apologias for Netanyahu’s right wing forces in Israel.

Proponents of Hindutva and right wing Zionism have been working diligently in their efforts to corral diaspora Indian and Diaspora Jewish communities into supporting such politics. We saw it on display at the last General Election when Labour canvassers struggled to win Jewish and Indian votes for Labour on the doorstep.

This has happened in a period when both India and Israel have expressed their unity in philosophy and ideology with much greater practical ties, not least through Israel selling India arms for use in repression.

The task of the Labour Party is surely to support progressive forces within Jewish and Indian communities here and within Israel/Palestine and India. You can find more detailed arguments around these themes in the current editorial of Jewish Socialist magazine, below.

Jewish Socialist 73 Editorial

Jewish Socialist 8 April 2020

When a representative of the Jewish Socialist’s Group was invited to join other speakers in addressing a lively and angry demonstration in London about events that were unfolding in India at the end of February, her input was more than a gesture of anti-racist solidarity with Muslim communities who were feeling the full fury of Narendra Modi’s murderous nationalism. It was also an acknowledgement of how matters of Jewish state nationalism have become enmeshed with this issue too, right here, right now.

Progressive forces within both Indian and Jewish diaspora communities are engaged in resisting determined attempts to corral them into upholding reactionary political views which provide a cover for nationalist hatred, violence and discrimination both in India and in Israel/Palestine.

Most of the participants in that London demonstration at the end of a week during which vast areas of North East Delhi were ablaze, were themselves from South Asia or of South Asian heritage, and their comments principally addressed people from the Subcontinent. But the word they used on several placards to describe that devastation in which, suddenly, dozens of Muslims lost their lives, hundreds were displaced, homes were burnt and livelihoods destroyed, was a Russian word probably very familiar to many of our readers: “Pogrom”. Our diaspora Jewish community in Britain comprises many descendants of those who fled antisemitic pogroms in the Russian Empire. Another speaker made a powerful reference to the brutal and murderous assault on German Jews during Kristallnacht in Germany in the late 1930s, in which many lives were lost and synagogues were ablaze.

There are indeed historical parallels with current events that our community should be particularly aware of and sensitive to, but there are also very real contemporary links. When Modi became India’s Prime Minister, he sought to reshape it according to the Hindutva ethno- nationalist ideology of the far right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which he is a lifelong member. The ambition of the RSS is to transform India’s secular state into a hierarchical “Hindu First” state, in which the position and rights of minorities are downgraded, curbed and circumscribed; a state in which Kashmiris remain subjugated. Modi encourages Hindu Indians to purchase property and settle in Kashmir under military protection in order to alter the demographic make-up there. This is akin to the support and encouragement Netanyahu has given to Jewish settlers to expand their illegal outposts in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank.

Modi has drawn inspiration, friendship and practical support from Benjamin Netanyahu. He was the first Indian premier to visit Israel. Until 1992 India had shown empathy with the Palestinians, and like many other members of the global non-aligned movement, had not recognised Israel as a state. Today Israel is India’s largest arms supplier. The Indian purchase of weaponry, tried and tested on the Palestinians, comprises 46% of Israel’s global military sales.

It is hard not to see in Modi’s widely condemned new citizenship law – the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and its accompanying registers of citizenship, which threaten to leave Indian Muslims disenfranchised – a first step towards ethnic cleansing. It is also an echo of Netanyahu’s openly discriminatory Nation State Law of 2018 which also provoked a great deal of anger and strong protests. We salute the bravery of the protesters led by the women at Shaheen Bagh who, at the time of writing, are continuing their sit-down protest against Modi’s CAA, though now taking precautions to create more physical social distance because of Coronavirus.

But it is also important to acknowledge the way both Modi and Netanyahu seek to influence the political positioning of Hindus and Jews in the Diaspora. In the recent British General Election, Hindus were urged to vote Tory because a Labour Conference Emergency Motion had criticised Modi’s policies in Kashmir. Labour was characterised as “anti-Indian”. This message was pressed home in the Gujarati Hindu heartlands of Leicester, Harrow and Brent. With just over two weeks left till election day, a spokesperson for the Hindu Council in Britain issued a statement in support of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s claim that the Labour Party is antisemitic, adding that it was “anti-Hindu” too. The tendency to view political criticism of far right Indian nationalism as “anti-Indian” and “anti-Hindu” has obvious parallels.

In this issue of our magazine, though, we look at some of the positive ways that progressives within Jewish, Indian and other minority groups organised during the General Election (p8), and we also reveal some home truths about Rabbi Mirvis (p3).

For our part, we will continue to link our progressive struggles against both Hindutva and Zionist ethno-nationalist ideology, and encourage the anti-racist and anti-fascist movements here to broaden the scope of their interest beyond Europe and America.


Comments (2)

  • RC says:

    Kashmir is not a matter solely for the Indian Parliament – it is also a matter of the Indian constitution and the Indian Supreme court. Nor is Kashmir a matter solely for India and Pakistan; the ‘settlement’ of the Kashmiri question in 1947 involved a commitment by India to the UN to hold a referendum in Kashmir – a commitment which has been flouted ever since.
    Starmer has therefore misdirected himself in law, as well as given support to the nazistic Modi government (this is not the first pogrom Modi has overseen, if not arranged – remember Gujerat when Modi was state premier). But Ian Lavery committed the same error promptly after the Conference emergency resolution. It is high time Labour notables and spokespersons ad some respect for Conference resolutions, not to mention elementary humanity, socialism and democracy.

  • DAVID EATOCK says:

    This does not bode well for the role of conference in shaping Party policy.

Comments are now closed.