Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is set to meet with Muslim MPs to address the tensions within the party regarding its stance on the Israel-Gaza war.
This meeting comes after an Islamic centre, which Sir Keir visited on Sunday, expressed dissatisfaction with a statement he released following the event, stating that it had “gravely misrepresented” them.
Sir Keir has faced criticism for his comments suggesting that Israel had the “right” to cut off water and energy to Gaza. He later clarified his position, stating that he only meant that the country had a right to self-defence.
The controversy surrounding his remarks has led to the resignation of 19 Labour councillors and criticism from some MPs.
Last week, more than 30 Labour MPs, including former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, called for a ceasefire in the region. However, Sir Keir refused to support this position, instead asserting that Israel has the right to defend itself.
The consequences of this disagreement have already been felt in Oxford, where Labour has lost its majority on the council after eight councillors resigned from the party.
Amidst the growing concerns, Sir Keir has scheduled a meeting with his Muslim MPs on Wednesday to address the issue. This meeting aims to foster dialogue and find a common ground within the party.
In an interview with LBC on October 11, Sir Keir was asked about Israel’s decision to cut off power and water supplies to Gaza. He stated that he believed Israel had the right to do so within the boundaries of international law, emphasizing that he stands by Israel’s right to self-defence.
On Sunday, Sir Keir visited the South Wales Islamic Centre in Cardiff, where he met with members of the Muslim community. In a statement posted on social media, he expressed his deep empathy for the suffering of civilians in Gaza and clarified that he had never supported Israel’s actions to cut off essential supplies.
He reiterated his calls for the release of hostages, increased humanitarian aid, the restoration of water and power, and a renewed focus on the two-state solution.
However, the Muslim Council of Wales, responding on behalf of the Islamic centre, expressed dismay at Sir Keir’s statement and apologized for any hurt and confusion caused within the Muslim community. They emphasized their unwavering support for a free Palestine.
Labour has experienced further resignations from councillors in Cambridge, Nottinghamshire, Gloucester, and other areas, further highlighting the need for clarity and unity within the party. Councillor Imogen Thomas, who recently resigned from Labour, stressed the importance of the party’s leader being unambiguous on this issue.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s comments also diverge from Sir Keir’s position, as he accused Israel of a clear breach of international law in Gaza and condemned the withholding of essential supplies.
While Sir Keir has not explicitly stated that Israel has broken international law, he has consistently emphasized the importance of adhering to it.