Open letter to Keir Starmer about Israel-Palestine

Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign public meeting at St Pancras Community Centre on 25.03.15. Speaker Keir Starmer. Picture: Polly Hancock

JVL Introduction

We repost below an open letter from Cadfa, the Camden-Abu Dis Friendship Association addressed to Sir Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn & St Pancras where Cadfa is based.

He appeared supportive in the run-up to his election as an MP in 2015. Cadfa now find him almost silent on Palestine.

They call on him to speak out now.

Apartheid in Israel/ Palestine

Today [27th April 2021], Human Rights Watch issued a report ‘A Threshold Crossed,’ carefully explaining that the situation in Palestine/Israel can be called apartheid. This follows a report by the Israeli organisation B’tselem which came to the same conclusion in January. CADFA believes that the threshold to apartheid was crossed many years ago and the way that Palestinians are forced to live with on-going violations of their human rights is absolutely shocking –  but this acknowledgement by a respected international human rights organisation must be looked at.

We believe that you know a lot about what has been going on in Palestine. CADFA, a human rights charity that has been building links and reporting from the West Bank for more than 17 years, is based in your constituency and we have met you and sent you many reports and several times brought Palestinian visitors including children to meet you in the years since you became an MP in Camden.

However, it is now approaching four years since we last had a good conversation with you about the situation in Palestine, and about six years since we last brought a group of Palestinian children, here on an Erasmus+ exchange, to visit you in Parliament. At that time you were (we thought) as shocked as we were at their stories and in particular their wish to end child imprisonment.

For the past four years you have been almost silent on Palestine and have even objected to and distanced yourself from those who call out the apartheid situation there. As it is one of the biggest issues in the current world, as Britain has had a role since the beginning and as you are the leader of a major party and hope to lead the country, your silence has been shocking.

Your voice is needed. As these new reports illustrate, the situation is getting worse and worse. The Israeli take-over of land, building of settlements on the West Bank, confinement of the Palestinians in small areas of their country has been moving on. Among other chilling events this week has been a well-publicised march of Israeli fascists in Jerusalem, shouting “Death to Arabs” while around a hundred young Palestinians were arrested by the Israeli army and hundreds of demonstrators were shot or beaten by the army or settlers.

These scary developments are encouraged by the silence of those who should point out the wrongs as well as by the loud support of the right wing.

We hope that you as a lawyer will agree that international law is the peaceful way to try and sort things out. The International Criminal Court has agreed to look at the situation in Palestine. The Conservative UK government does not want Israel to be subject to the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court.  Yet reports like these discussed above, the information you have been sent from CADFA and the voices you have heard yourself from Palestine show there is an urgent case to answer.   We ask you to differentiate yourself from the government position and to publicly support the ICC in taking the case.

We ask you to raise your voice now on the side of human rights, equal rights and decency.


See the CADFA resources page here.

You can find a video about the Human Rights Watch report referred to below here.

We encourage you to write a letter to your own MP/ local paper on this subject please.

Comments (34)

  • Paddy O'Keeffe says:

    I’m a member of the Labour Party currently on my second suspension for supporting Palestine, criticising Israel and most recently criticising Starmer. I’ve criticised Starmer for his support of Zionism “without qualification” and his subservient attitude to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. His silence on the recently published evidence of Israeli apartheid is disgraceful. He directs his energies at pursuing the witch-hunt against anti-racists in the party who support Palestine and criticise Israel. Our local MP here in Brighton, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, does much the same. I wish you well in your dealings with Starmer, but I’m afraid the establishment within the Labour Party has disgracefully turned its back on the suffering of the Palestinian people.

  • Mumtaz Karimjee says:

    Starmer’s refusal to speak about Palestine, his unquestioning support of Zionism and unquestioning subservience to the Board of Deputies of British Jews amounts to his unquestioning support for apartheid and Zionist racism in its worst form. Instead of accusing others of being racist and antisemitic, he is just calling out his own racism.

  • Rob Bainborough says:

    I was a member of the Labour Party. Until myself and many other were wrongly accused of anti semetism. We left the party. And you took the vote. This will not be forgotten. I am not an anti semite. I am however, against the Israeli government. There is a difference. And you know it. I will not be voting Labour until you and your friends of Israel mates are gone. And the party is socialist again.

  • Linda says:

    Hi Paddy

    Would just like to offer my admiration for your principled behaviour; my sympathy; and my support. Sadly it’s all I can offer.

    If there is a chance to improve conduct at Labour HQ it’ll come sometime after 7th May.

  • Derek Taylor says:

    I recently brought up the subject of Palestine to my local MP – a good man – who was door-stepping prior to this week’s council elections. He vigorously defended Starmer and Lisa Nandy and I wish I’d pursued this, but after telling me he’d visited Gaza and the West Bank I was impressed enough to ‘half-believe’ him. I’ve written to Starmer about Palestine and received in response – nothing. Truly alarmed at this scared attitude of Labour, cowed by the previous leader’s awful treatment by the press I guess and feeling the need to distance itself from the previous caring, but somehow non profitable attitude. Who’s there to represent my feelings of anguish about the dreadful treatment of the Palestinian people?

  • Amanda Sebestyen says:

    The situation in Camden itself is worse than CADFA mentions in this very calm and humane letter. CADFA itself – a longstanding local organisation which Camden mayors and MPs have always supported in the past – has been subject to continual attacks and its usual venues have been forced to refuse space under threat of losing their council grants. I kept a careful tally of these incidents over several years and submitted them to Camden’s farcical ‘Review of antisemitism and the effects of adopting the IHRA definition’. Its findings have never been published and all the submissions which exposed the true state of affairs were never replied to. Several of those submission were made by Holocaust and Kindertransport survivors but were still ignored.

  • Philip Ward says:

    We should add that the pro-zionist media, so vociferous in their condemnation of Corbyn for his past campaigning on behalf of the Palestinian people, have been notably silent on Human Rights Watch’s designation of Israel as an Apartheid State. The Guardian has has a news report on it, but where are the actual arguments in defence of zionism in the light of this report that we would expect from Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Hadley Freeman et. al?

  • Totally agree with comrade O’Keeffe.
    In addition, it should be borne in mind that comrade Starmer (oops! Sorry. Sir Keir, that is) is also turning his back and Labour’s back on roughly half of the Israelis who truly seek to end the occupation and achieve peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people. Starmer’s current incarnation does not only serve the BOD but (or rather, consequently) is in tune with the racist policies of Israel’s PM Netanyahu and his far-right coalition. Starmer also serves the interests of those who apparently profit from keeping the conflict alive namely, the arms trade.
    An honest disclosure: I am an ex-Labour member. I was expelled from the Party in 2018 by a Kangaroo Court, having been accused of ‘Antisemitism’, following my criticism of Israel’s atrocious occupation of the Palestinian territories on Twitter. I also happen to be the son of Holocaust survivors, born and raised in Israel and a former Captain in the IDF. In other words, a risk – from the Labour pro-Israel contingent’s point of view.
    How Kafkaesque has the Labour Party become.

  • Unfortunately this letter to Starmer is too kind by half. It assumes Starmer’s actions are in good faith whereas nothing he has done since becoming leader is in good faith.

    All that is required is a campaign to drive Starmer from office. The Right had no hesitation about waging a campaign on those lines against Corbyn but the Left is reticent about making such a demand

  • A says:

    As his leadership campaign was funded by wealthy Israeli government supporters, he is unable to act appropriately

  • Martin Read says:

    Is Starmer actually silent or does he respond and, if so, what ‘justification’ does he cite for his seemingly blind support for Israel’s current trajectory? Presumably, if he so much as squeaks a positive response his house of cards anti-Semitism stance towards so many former colleagues simply falls apart.

  • David Aldred says:

    I too am a Labour member; I keep wondering why I remain so, but because I’m disabled I get a discount membership, so I can shelve my doubts. I don’t think our current leader is a bad person – nobody is a bad person really, they’re just forced – by “events” into boxes, out of which it is difficult to extricate themselves, whilst maintaining any dignity or hope of election. I do not dislike Keir Starmer: he’s small fry, when he really should be the dark brooding shape in the water beneath Johnson’s little pink flapping feet.

  • John Bernard says:

    I do admire your patience and tenacity JVL – Starmer at least cannot say he was not told – he has no defence. Paddy’s comment above says it all I think – Starmer and what was the Labour Party (in the sense of an Internationalist movement that stands for equality and justice) is after 120 years no more, but has been replaced by an entity with an entirely malleable leader, subservient to, and firmly in the grip of, the Zionist lobby. New party please!

  • Barrie Lambert says:

    As a lifelong socialist, I think I prefer the sleaze corruption and incoherent demagoguery of Boris Johnson (not least because the Tories will dump the chump well before the next election) to the moral squalor of Starmer’s overtly Zionist re-run of New Labour. I can’t see Starmer’s Labour ever getting a majority in England, simply because it has concentrated on Party witch-hunts rather than developing Part policy based on the last Manifesto, and Starmer’s widely published increasingly strange beliefs that supporting an overtly fascist Zionism intent on creating the condition for an American war on Iran is an English vote winner. The Tories might lose votes in the council election because of the government’s incompetence but Labour won’t win those votes because it doesn’t care about the issues which really concern ordinary people outside of the metropolitan areas. I am certainly grateful for the JVL as a balancing factor in UK politics to the Board of Deputies and the Israeli Embassy, and for the courageous and inspiring voices of B’Tselem reporting from within Israel: https://www.btselem.org/

  • Peter Reilly says:

    Being silent when you know, is being complicit, but Starmer is worse than silent; he shuts down legitimate criticism and expels critics of Israeli racist policies from the Labour Party. He knows under Israeli law, and in practice, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are treated differently in almost every aspect of life: housing, education, health, employment, family life, residence, freedom of movement and treatment under the law. He knows nearly every basic human right as defined by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is denied to Palestinians living in the occupied territories. He knows that Israel continues to violate international law. Yet Starmer claims to be against all forms of racism and injustice. One can only question he integrity as a politician and as a lawyer.

  • John Thatcher says:

    Highly commendable, and I suppose necessary to expose Starmer for what he is. Still, it must be dispiriting to know in advance you are going to be ignored.

  • David Townsend says:

    Of course Starmer is now silent. He did what he needed to do to get elected, and he is now doing what he needs to do to remain Leader and to have any chance of winning the next General Election. He is a chancer.

    Like many of our Westminster politicians, Starmer is only interested in that which promotes Starmer.

  • Brigid Benson says:

    Thank you CADFA, JVL of which I am a founding supporter and Paddy O’Keeffe for your courage & persistence. Those who defend human rights & esp for Palestinians, pay a high price, and find their own freedom curtailed in the UK. That in depth reports from international as well as even Israeli HR organisations, shows what a state we are in, with no Parliamentary opposition to stand up for such basic rights.

  • Lin Lobb says:

    I understood that Kier Starmer was pro-palistine when he first came in but he soon dropped this pretence. I fear he was either pretending or he has been, ‘got at’.
    I am ashamed to live in a country that approves of the aparthied in Palestine against the Palestinians perpetrated by the Zionist Israelis on the Palestinians in their own land.

  • Robin Vyrnwy-Pierce says:

    Once Starmer gets what he wants he abandons the principles he claimed to hold. Just look at the leadership election. His vow to work within the policies Jeremy Corbyn had introduced vanished within months. He had Jeremy’s membership of the party suspended and when that suspension was withdrawn Starmer still withheld the whip. He is s disgrace.

  • Jimmy Cooper says:

    I have no faith in Starmer to change his position. Indeed, his silence on the increasingly fascistic tactics of extremist colonists, in hand with the Israeli Army, represents a hardening of his stance against the Palestinians. His position is firmly entrenched in support of apartheid and complicity with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
    The more we see of this man and his “tactics” in the Labour Party, the more it appears he is the wrecking ball designed to destroy as much of its base and activists as possible. His apparatchiks [like David Evans] are the hammer head and the expulsions are nothing but part of the big jigsaw. His hiring of the Israeli Spy to gather intelligence on members, and his links to the Zionist regime, gives us no hope of change whilst Starmer is the poisonous head,
    What we must do is keep bringing the plight of the Palestinian children to the attention of the media and keep knocking on Starmer`s door. He avoids embarrassment by turning up in constituencies without warning and sidesteps awkward situations. Like a snake, he will fight when cornered. He has shed his political skin and I dont think he will be around at the next election or long after.
    Solidarity.

  • John Mclaughlin says:

    It’s because of thing like this, I now call the supposed labour party, the zionist party, because with starmer at the helm, they will never help the Palestinians.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    I am also a (still, by the tips of my fingernails) Labour Party member, and I feel deeply ashamed at the lack of speaking out and challenging the Israel government on the human rights violatipns against the Palestinian people. A human rights lawyer who is choosy about who gets to have human rights fails people on so many levels. He is not a person I would want to ask for help if I needed any.

  • Fred Read says:

    Why a leader of the Labour party refuses to speak out against apartheid, fascism and genocidal tendencies of Zionism to me is beyond belief

  • Ian Kemp says:

    totally agree . Starmer has a lot to answer for on this. He has been a big disappointment to many. I did not vote for him. But I expected him to keep his promise that his 10 pledges that he used in his election campaign for leader that he would at least keep. He said he would unify the party . He has divided it .
    Who is advising and directing. It appears There a range of possible groups people. bod CCA LFI Hodge Blair Mandelson Allen Johnson all come to mind.
    What has been going on in Israel is a disgrace to all humanity and the Labour party should be central to exposing this disgraceful behaviour By the Israeli Army.

  • Daniel Lloyd says:

    Everyone can see that the anti-semitism issue in the Labour Party was actually the Palestine issue. From the Balfour Declaration onwards British political parties have never taken the rights of Palestinians seriously. Opportunities for a two-state solution were not taken seriously and in recent years the Zionist lobby has been very effective. You would think that a socialist party adhering to socialist values might feel morally bound to take up the Palestinian cause and criticise Israeli apartheid. The current leadership of the Labour Party does not seem to care what this means. The majority of members of the party feel as I do. Maybe a Conference vote on the issue is appropriate.

  • John Bowley says:

    Hard on Socialism, Hard on Democracy, Tops at Autocracy, Soft on Johnson, Easy on Incompetence and Blaggardry, Supportive of New Colonialist Racism, Hard on Done Down Indigenous Inhabitants, Destructive of the Labour Party.

    Establishment Starmer, the Betrayer, Manipulator, Disappointment and Dud.

  • John Tilbury says:

    What on earth do pro-Palestine, pro-Socialist members of the Labour Party hope to achieve? At best they will secure a niche where they will be ring-fenced and rendered harmless, whilst enhancing the ‘broad church’ image that the Labour Party laughably wishes to promote.
    I am full of admiration for JVL, but I suggest that in this particular case they have got it very wrong.

  • Linda P says:

    This does not surprise me, I dreaded Kier Starmer becoming leader and left the party when he did. His complete lack of support for Palestinians is an absolute disgrace and the reason I am not voting Labour for the first time in 50 years and will not vote Labour again until he goes and this policy changes.

  • Keep spelling it out, Paddy. The more voices of dissent, at present, the better.

  • DJ says:

    Well said Cadfa. Keir Starmer along with the rest of the establishment supports the state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. If the Israeli regime requires a system of apartheid to maintain itself he is willing to go along with it.

  • James Dickins says:

    Paddy O’Keeffe: “I’ve criticised Starmer for his support of Zionism “without qualification” and his subservient attitude to the Board of Deputies of British Jews.”
    ___________________________________________

    1. Starmer has given the Board of Deputies oversight over ‘antisemitism’ cases in the Labour Party.

    2. Human Rights Watch has (along with Israel’s largest human rights organisation B’Tselem) declared Israel an apartheid state.

    3. The Board of Deputies has condemned the Human Rights Watch report as a ‘slur’ – with the implication that Human Rights Watch are antisemitic.

    4. If a Labour member agrees with Human Rights Watch that Israel is an apartheid state, the Board of Deputies will be able to expel to get them expelled from the Labour Party for ‘antisemitism’.

    Thus, in Starmer’s Labour Party those who oppose apartheid are to be condemned as racists (antisemites).

    No wonder Labour members are either leaving the party or downing tools until the current leadership is replaced. Hartlepool is likely to be a big shock for the Starmerites.

  • Jerry Headley says:

    Starmer’s hypocrisy on Palestine is astonishing. He cannot be entrusted to represent universal human rights anywhere given his moral turpitude.

  • Linda says:

    @ Amanda
    You mentioned pro-Palestinian voices were being effectively silenced because they couldn’t find public venues willing to allow them to meet. Would this information help?

    Organisers wanting to hire premises for their meetings may find local Quaker Meetings (Religious Society of Friends) helpful – some are, some aren’t.

    Some local Meetings have been subjected to external pressure not to hire out their premises to pro Palestinian speakers and have to think hard in each case what is morally right for them to do.

    There can be added “relationship” complications for the Meetings because most of them have individual members who are Holocaust generation or the descendants of Holocaust victims and are also active in supporting the Palestinian economy, schools and Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives.

    Quaker premises may only be hired if the sessions are intended to enhance what is socially or spiritually beneficial. For example, Meetings cheerfully accept bookings from groups trying to wean themselves off addiction to alcohol but they wouldn’t host training sessions on how to market a new whisky.

    There are different charging rates for hirers. Organisations wanting to meet to support the victims of mistreatment would pay the lowest rate. Even “commercial” rates are normally very moderate.

    Hope the above helps.

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