“Calls for a ceasefire are growing in the UK & internationally.”Jess Barnard, Labour NEC member
By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine
Thousands of activists joined or have since viewed an online event Why Labour should join calls for a #CeasefireNow hosted by the well-supported Labour & Palestine, which you can watch in full at the link below.
Chairing the meeting, Labour NEC member Jess Barnard opened by noting that “Calls for a ceasefire are growing in the UK and internationally,” and the disappointment of activists that whilst Israel’s attacks on Gaza are intensifying, Labour’s leadership is not joining international voices as diverse as the UN, Oxfam, the ITUC and Pope in calling for a speaker.
The first speaker Richard Burgon MP, who has tabled an Early Day Motion supported by almost 100 MPs in Parliament calling for a ceasefire said we had gathered “with one clear message to the Government,” to “Help stop the bomb, help save lives and help secure a ceasefire.”
He was followed by member of the House of Lords Christine Blower who focussed her contribution on the importance of joining Saturday’s national #CeasefireNow demonstration in London, pointing out that with regards to the ongoing attacks on the planned march from Suella Braverman, the “BBC hasn’t found a single colleague of hers to agree with her they are hate marches.” They are in fact marches for peace and hope, and, “we call for a ceasefire because what we see is clearly collective punishment”, ongoing in Gaza and we call for it be supported by the UK Government, and “we call for support for it from Labour’s leadership.”
Long-term Palestinian rights campaigner Beth Winter MP pointed out that calling for an immediate ceasefire was mainstream opinion in this country and the world, and that, “We are calling for Labour to join the ceasefire call.”
On this matter, the Labour Leadership’s position is increasingly isolated, with Mayors, members, councillors, MPs, the leader of Scottish Labour and others calling for support for a ceasefire.
As an MP this week, she had also written to Rishi Sunak calling for a, “ceasefire, release of hostages, delivery of aid, and compliance with international humanitarian law,” including, “peaceful political process for resolution of longstanding conflict”, and justice for the Palestinian people.
In a powerful speech, Young Labour Chair Nabeela Mowlana argued we now need a, “route to peace,” and that such a route must include lifting the blockade of Gaza, ending the occupation and the right to return.
As socialists, we need to be actively building for peace, not just condemning actions, and our duty is to press both our government and the Labour leadership to recognise the inviolable rights of Palestinians.
Labour NEC and Momentum NCG member Mish Rahman called out how as, “Biden refuses to act… Keir Starmer backs them.”
He argued that “Keir knows a war crime when he sees it in Ukraine, so why can’t he see it in Gaza?” and that whilst he was no specialist, “I can see when there are attacks on civilians we need to condemn.”
He backed the actions of trade unions in Belgium, Barcelona and elsewhere who are taking direct action in solidarity with the Palestinian people, sand said “Until we get peace, we will continue to march, our marches will get bigger and bigger, [and] their authority will get smaller,” before concluding with “my message to the party leader,” that his stance is “not what we want to see, we want peace.”
Newly-elected TSSA General Secretary Maryam Eslamdoust opened her contribution by saying that, “I’m the only Middle Eastern Gen Sec and I am calling for a ceasefire,” remembering the sound of bombs as a child in Iran, “a sound which scars children for life.”
Urging support for Saturday’s demonstration and other solidarity actions, she said, “We will not be silent whilst Gazans in firing line, lacking food, whilst their land under occupation,” and called the Labour leadership’s position shocking, arguing that we “should be standing on the side of oppressed.”
John McDonnell MP, a long-term supporter of both Labour and Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, argued that it was clear that both the Government and Labour party leadership have been “refusing to move” on the question of a ceasefire, meaning that “we need to build pressure” on all levels, and using all levers available to us, and remembering that the “overwhelming view of our country is a ceasefire as rapid as possible.”
Outlining elements of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, he said clearly that “If you don’t do everything to prevent it you are complicit in war crimes.”
Attendees went away determined to keep campaigning for a ceasefire and in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
- Read here about how to join Saturday’s demonstration and other actions on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website.
- ACTION: Add your name to Labour and Palestine’s call for Labour to back an immediate ceasefire
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