Is Keir Starmer really a friend to Palestinians?


Sir Keir was right to signal once again that there is no place whatsoever for antisemitism. But I was disappointed by other statements in his address to Labour Friends of Israel.

Originally published by the Independent, November 18, 2021

In his speech to the annual lunch of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) this week, Keir Starmer said “true friends will always be frank.”

He is right about that. So as a Labour member for over 40 years and having been a Labour MP for 27 of those, I want to be frank about what he said in that speech.

Labour’s leader was right to use the opportunity to signal once again that there is no place whatsoever for antisemitism either in Labour or in society as a whole. When he moved to talking about Israel and Palestine, however, the speech went rapidly downhill.

Sir Keir declared himself to be both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine. Fair enough. Unfortunately, few Palestinians reading the speech are likely to feel that there was much equality in the friendship he showed to them.

There was just one passing mention of the Israeli occupation. Yes, he said he wants to see a Palestinian state alongside Israel but there was no mention of Labour’s longstanding commitment to recognise the state of Palestine when elected to government. He declared himself opposed to illegal Israeli settlements, but there was no urgency in his words; no acknowledgement of how in changing the map of the West Bank, settlements are destroying any practical prospect of a two state solution being realised. He condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a response to Israel’s actions but he was silent about whether or not he thinks it is OK for British companies to trade with illegal settlements …

Read the full article here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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