56 UK Labour MPs including 8 front-benchers defied the Leader and the Whip and voted for a SNP amendment to the King’s speech calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.
Karma for Starmer, who previously had to row back from saying Israel had a right to refuse food and water to Gaza.
Revulsion against Israel’s actions is world-wide, with huge demonstrations for peace in Palestine in London last week. One of the rebel MPs said her inbox was full. The biggest name to leave the front bench was Labour-to-the-core Jess Phillips, who said in her resignation letter to Starmer:
“On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine. … I can see no route where the current military action does anything but put at risk the hope of peace and security for anyone in the region now and in the future.”
Starmer issued a statement in his defence:
“Alongside leaders around the world, I have called throughout for adherence to international law, for humanitarian pauses to allow access for aid, food, water, utilities and medicine, and have expressed our concerns at the scale of civilian casualties.
“Much more needs to be done in this regard to ease the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza.
“And in addition to addressing the present, every leader has a duty not to go back to a failed strategy of containment and neglect, but to forge a better and more secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
“I regret that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood, and where I will stand.
“Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”
Wish-list weasel words in my view: “more needs to be done,” “forge a better future.” And definitely not leadership – no calling to account. Many more innocent civilians, women, children and babies will die if the Israeli killing does not stop.
But the pot is starting to heat up. the UN Security Council just passed a similar resolution 12 -0. The US, UK and Russia all abstained; the former two because it did not condemn HAMAS, and Russia because it did not call for a ceasefire. Dissent from the official view is also showing up in the US government, Israel’s main supporter and armourer. 500 officials from across 40 agencies sent a letter to President Biden:
“We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” the letter said, according to New York Times.
What is different in this day and age is that as the killing is not hidden, all the world can see, and is increasingly expressing its revulsion in protest. That is only going to grow.