JUST days after sacking a senior MP from his shadow cabinet for sharing an “antisemitic conspiracy theory”, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer has reportedly backed a proposal to boycott products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank if Israel goes ahead with its planned annexation of parts of the territory.
MP Lisa Nandy, who is shadow foreign secretary, said that Britain cannot be “a silent witness” to Israel’s planned extension of sovereignty to some 30 per cent of the West Bank.
“The proposal to unilaterally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is an illegal act which will undermine the prospect of a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and has serious implications for the stability of the Middle East,” Nandy said, according to The Guardian.
“It is a shameful proposition.”
Stating, “This is now urgent,” Nandy added, “The government must be clear with the Israeli coalition government that concrete action will follow, including a ban on goods entering Britain from the illegal settlements in the West Bank.”
According to The Guardian, her boycott proposal is backed by Starmer, who is working to repair the image of the party, which was seen as antisemitic and anti-Israel under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Nandy admitted that a ban on goods would be “a major step, but such a blatant breach of international law must have consequences. It will take a level of courage that so far ministers have not been willing to show”.
International human rights lawyer and Middle East analyst Arsen Ostrovsky described Starmer as “Corbyn-lite, only more savvy”, and said with shadow foreign secretary Nandy he is “still just as hostile towards Israel”.
“In as much as some things change, nothing changes,” Ostrovsky said of the UK’s Labour Party.
The boycott proposal comes days after Starmer was praised for sacking Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey for sharing an interview with an actress who accused Israel of complicity in George Floyd’s killing.
In the interview with The Independent, actress Maxine Peake said, “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
Long-Bailey hailed Peake as “an absolute diamond”.
Following condemnation from Jewish groups, a spokesperson for Starmer said he had asked Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet.
“The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an antisemitic conspiracy theory. As leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Antisemitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it,” a spokesperson for Starmer told British media.
Long-Bailey tweeted that her endorsement was of Peake’s “significant achievements” and not “of all aspects of the article”. She added that she had meant to explain this to Starmer but that he “sadly had made up his mind”.
Starmer’s decision was welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which thanked Starmer for “backing his words with actions on antisemitism”.
“There can be no space for this sort of action in any party and it is right that after so many challenging years Labour is now making this clear under its new leader,” Marie van der Zyl, the Board’s president, said.
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) said Starmer’s “timely sacking of Long-Bailey, without hesitation or equivocation” was his “first major credibility test with the Jewish community”.
He passed, AIJAC said.
With Times of Israel, JTA