Keir Starmer became a barrister in 1987. The job of a barrister is to put his client’s case as clearly as possible. Starmer’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel demonstrates the barrister’s art.
The full speech is here. There is a complete conflation between the Jewish community and Israel. He says “Anti-Zionist antisemitism is the antithesis of the Labour tradition: It denies the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination”.
Here he uses the straw man strategy. Anti Semitism is a crime. Nobody who believes in justice can be anti Semitic. Everyone who believes in justice should fight against the form that Zionism has taken over the last seventy plus years. Starmer does not recognise Jews and other anti racists who oppose Zionism as it is practiced.
There is the appeal to Israeli leaders as his brothers and sisters in struggle “from Golda Meir to Chaim Herzog, Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres –as comrades in the international struggle for equality, peace and freedom. “Social democrats who made the desert flower,” as Wilson put it”.
A history lesson focussing on the flaws of each of them would take too long. I will mention that Peres offered Apartheid South Africa nuclear warheads, was active in support of the illegal settlements, and was President of Israel 2007 to 2014, when Apartheid was being fully established. Not much of a struggle for “equality peace and freedom”. Then there is the lie that “Social democrats who made the desert flower”. No mention of Palestinians who had a thriving agriculture for over a thousand years. No mention of the water thefts from the River Jordan nor the planting of unsuitable pines over the ethnically cleansed and destroyed villages. When they burned they revealed the Palestinian terraces.
Starmer makes an appeal to Israel’s progressive policies.
“ Three years after the liberation of the camps, Israel’s Declaration of Independence committed the new state to Freedom, justice and peace; Complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; And freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”
The issue is not “self determination of Jewish people.” The issue is how do we establish a regime(s) between the river and the sea that gives all people the right to a peaceful life where they can practice their religion with equality under the law, and social justice. Starmer says he believes that the establishment of a democratic in Palestine provides that solution. Nearly a decade ago Manuel Hassassian was speaking in Sheffield. He said something like “As a diplomat from Palestine our position is that we want a Palestinian State based on the pre 1967 borders.” He paused took two paces to the left and continued “As an academic, Israel has created facts on the ground that make a two state solution impossible.” Since then the embedding of Israeli oppression of Palestinians has become deeper and wider.
Human Rights Watch stated “that the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. In the OPT, including East Jerusalem, that intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid”.
It is not enough that Starmer does not comment on this, nor the other reports that preceded it. He says “Israel herself is the first to acknowledge that at times she falls short of these [equality and social justice] goals”. And continues “That is why I am both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine.”
In summary Starmer refuses to acknowledge the reality of Israeli Apartheid, refuses to acknowledge that Israel has almost certainly destroyed a two state solution. He opposes peaceful BDS efforts to pressurise Israel into recognising basic human rights of Palestinians (right of return, right to equality, end of occupation).
He happily repeats myths “Israel embodies progressive values” and “[Israeli]Social democrats who made the desert flower,” He opposes BDS because it would “hurt the people of Israel and Palestine” and damage trade between the UK and Israel.
He looks at oppressor and the oppressed and says “That is why I am both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine.” But everything he proposes weakens the Palestinians and strengthens Israel.