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Gaza and Local Elections

From Allan Keep

Friday 19 April 2024

There is no doubt that the situation in Gaza and the Palestinian question generally is polarizing and often divisive while for many it is just complex and difficult to understand. I believe it essentially comes down to a simple principle if you are, like me, a socialist. You support the oppressor against the oppressed. Always. That's why I am a pro-Palestinian and an anti-Zionist and why that principle is simply not reducible to supporting any particular political party unconditionally.

In that context, I will not support Starmer's Labour Party at the next election. I will not give my vote to a party who are absolutely complicit in the genocide taking place in Gaza and led, frankly, by a war criminal.

That is not to say I do not have respect for Labour Party members, including many in Calderdale who are fighting for change and justice and some who have taken an active and principled sand on Gaza. But all socialists outside and particularly inside the Labour Party should not lose sight of their principles and face up to this test. I believe this issue (and of course there are others) has led to a seismic shock within the Labour Party. Membership, is falling, good socialists are leaving in disgust, front bench MP's have resigned from Government, councillors up and down the country are deserting and standing as independents. Meanwhile, the climate of fear that the Starmer has instilled around the issue has seen many Muslim socialists feel betrayed and marginalized and people from the magnificent Jewish socialist tradition disproportionally censured and attacked for being anti-Semitic. Starmer is prepared to see Labour Councils lose control and Parliamentary seats abandoned, depriving ordinary people of their right to have Labour representation. That is how bad it has got.

I am standing with those people who have left or been driven out of Labour in order to fight for justice for Palestinians and oppose genocide and those people are coming together with people already outside of Labour to form a movement. I will therefore not vote locally for Labour unless the candidate for Calderdale here, Josh Fenton Glynn stands up and voices his opposition to Starmer's position on Gaza. It's not personal, Josh is a stand-up guy and I was particularly grateful for his excellent work in Calderdale during Covid. Of course, people will argue that this is a local not a national election. But Josh is also our parliamentary candidate (albeit that he was chosen while other perfectly good socialist candidates were blocked) so his position matters. In any case, the genocide in Gaza is relevant and important to us all, at every level, and it should be on the ballot paper everywhere. I therefore make no apologies therefore and I hope others will take the same position in May.

I've had this argument publicly on our community Facebook page and privately with Labour Councillors and supporters. The response has been, mostly, extremely hostile. For some, this is simply heresy and I am seen to be somehow supporting the Tories. Others have seen this as a reason to issue extremely unpleasant smears and personal attacks rather than take on an argument in a serious and fraternal manner. The more usual slur is that of "virtue signaling" and "attention seeking" while some have accused me of being a "friend of Hamas" and an anti-Semite which at lease is based on a political understanding, absurd though it is. But just as I have no apologies, I also have no intention of being silenced. Pro-Palestinians should not stop and will not stop.

On our Facebook page, I have suggested Labour supporters come and have a discussion and debate here away from cheap shots and puerile emojis, but all views are welcome. We can talk about this issue or we can pretend it isn't happening and it's not our problem.

Silence however, is complicity.