“Disastrous moral abdication” – Labour’s refusal to back Gaza Ceasefire challenged by leading UK climate groups


“If Labour’s leadership cannot even show moral and legal clarity and courage over this clear-cut humanitarian catastrophe, what hope do we have of a global effort to protect the future of people and planet?” 

Farhana Yamin, international climate lawyer and activist

By Labour for a Green New Deal

Twenty-five of the UK’s leading climate and environmental justice groups have called the Labour Party leadership’s refusal to support a ceasefire in Gaza a “disastrous moral abdication.” They added that the “notion of a ‘humanitarian pause’ to such an unspeakable crime is insulting”, for it would fail to stop the mass killing of Palestinians by Israel, as the death toll exceeds 10,000.

The comments were made in a letter sent to Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. In it, groups call on the former Labour leader to “immediately speak out for a ceasefire,” declaring that his reputation for leadership on the climate crisis “will be irreparably damaged” if his “silence on Gaza continues.” 

The list of signatories includes leading climate groups such as Green New Deal Rising, Extinction Rebellion, UK Youth Climate Coalition, War on Want, and Friends of the Earth Scotland. 

The letter recalls that, as Labour leader during Israel’s onslaught against Gaza in 2014, Miliband both spoke up for a ceasefire and condemned then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s “inexplicable” silence on the mass killing of Palestinian civilians.

In the letter, groups highlight their work with Miliband in the fight against climate change and his belief in justice. Noting the links between climate justice and the cause of freedom for the Palestinian people, the letter goes on to point out that independent United Nations experts have warned that the Palestinians of Gaza are at “grave risk of genocide” at the hands of Israel.”

The letter – an unprecedented foreign policy intervention by leading climate justice groups in the UK – adds to growing pressure on the Labour Party leadership from across British civil society to speak out for a ceasefire to stop the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, said: “The climate movement stands with the Palestinian people. Not just because they face the sharp end of the same politics that fuels wars, extracts resources, and destroys our planet – but because our commitment to humanity is what defines us.”  

“We demand that those who claim to represent progressive values stand up for them. The shameful complicity of both Labour and the Conservative government in this moment will be remembered – by the climate movement, and by a whole generation who are watching the horror of Israel’s crimes unfold, and wondering why politicians who pose as defenders of human rights and international law refuse to demand an end to the killing.”

Chris Saltmarsh, co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal, said: “There can be no politics as usual while Israeli forces wage a genocidal campaign in Gaza with consent from both sides of British politics.” 

“The UN Secretary-General, Human Rights Commissioner, and General Assembly, not to mention countless respected international humanitarian agencies and rights watchdogs, have demanded a ceasefire. Yet Labour, a party led by a human rights lawyer and supposedly committed to a rules-based international order, continues to drag its feet. There is no excuse for it.” 

“Ed Miliband has made much of his internationalism and commitment to climate justice, and shown leadership on Palestine in the past. Climate justice means peace and security for all – including Palestinians. We urge Ed to make a principled stand again.” 

Farhana Yamin, leading international climate lawyer and activist, said: “We demand a ceasefire in Palestine for the same reason we demand climate justice; because preserving life comes first.” 

“My own work on international climate law is about safeguarding all people’s right to thrive in a safe environment. As Israeli shells, bombs, and white phosphorus rain down on Gaza, killing people, choking basic supply lines, and destroying the environment that sustains them, those rights are being violated daily.” 

“If Labour’s leadership cannot even show moral and legal clarity and courage over this clear-cut humanitarian catastrophe, what hope do we have of a global effort to protect the future of people and planet?” 

You can read the full text of the letter and the list of signatories below:

The Rt Hon. Ed Miliband MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

Dear Ed,

We are writing, as campaigns and organisations dedicated to fighting for climate justice, to urge you to publicly call for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Colonial violence and dispossession lie at the root of the climate crisis. Climate justice therefore cannot be separated from the cause of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. 

Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people has stark ecological aspects, from the denial of clean water, to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of olive trees, to the dismantling of Palestinian agriculture. More fundamentally, Israel’s regime of domination is part and parcel of the catastrophe facing many peoples around the world as the climate crisis worsens.

As the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has powerfully written: “The life of humanity… depends on the way in which humanity chooses the path to overcome the climate crisis produced by the wealth of the north.” Current approaches to the climate crisis, he added, “seek to defend the consumption bubble of the rich on the planet and not save humanity, whose majority is disposable, like the children of Gaza.”

We appreciate that you, as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, have pushed to stop the Labour Party’s decarbonisation plans being further diluted. But your position of leadership on the climate crisis, and your reputation in the climate movement across the world, will be irreparably damaged if your silence on Gaza continues. 

As Israel bombarded Gaza in 2014, killing at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians, you demanded a ceasefire, expressing your horror at “the death, destruction and mayhem resulting from the escalation of violence.” In that year, you also attacked David Cameron’s inaction: “his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent of Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally”. 

Yet today, with at least 11,000 Palestinians including more than 4,000 children killed by Israel in Gaza in the past month, you are inexplicably silent. We find this silence even more unconscionable given the unprecedented scale of the catastrophe facing the Palestinian people in this moment. Last week, a group of independent United Nations experts sounded the alarm that the Palestinians of Gaza are at “grave risk of genocide” at the hands of Israel. 

Many of us have worked with you over the years in the fight against the climate and ecological crisis. We know you believe in justice, and a world in which people and the planet thrive. The Labour leadership’s refusal to back a ceasefire is a disastrous moral abdication. The notion of a ‘humanitarian pause’ to such an unspeakable crime is insulting: it will not end this mass killing. That’s why we support those frontbench Labour MPs who have publicly called for a ceasefire.

For the Palestinian people, for the planet, and for the sake of your ethical standing and legacy as a political leader, we implore you to immediately speak out for a ceasefire. 

  1. Labour for a Green New Deal
  2. Green New Deal Rising
  3. Extinction Rebellion
  4. People & Planet
  5. Friends of the Earth Scotland
  6. UK Youth Climate Coalition
  7. War on Want 
  8. Stop Rosebank 
  9. Feedback Global
  10. Tipping Point
  11. Greener Jobs Alliance
  12. Platform
  13. Positive Money
  14. The Democracy Collaborative
  15. London Mining Network
  16. Medact (Health for a Green New Deal)
  17. Campaign Against Climate Change (Trade Union Group) 
  18. Extinction Rebellion (Scotland)
  19. Fridays for Future Scotland
  20. Parents For Future Scotland
  21. Glasgow Community Energy
  22. Walking Forest
  23. Brazil Matters
  24. Bolivia Solidarity Campaign
  25. Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America

Featured image: Palestinian flags held by demonstrators at the Ceasefire Now demonstration held on November 11th 2023. Photo credit: Labour Outlook

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