FOA strongly opposes Labour leader Keir Starmer’s position on anti-Zionism and the BDS movement, as outlined in his address to Labour Friends of Israel on 16th November.
Starmer’s conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is highly alarming, but given his unreserved loyalty to Israel it is not surprising. The ability to criticise the actions of the state of Israel is vital to ending Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine. Starmer’s labelling of anti-Zionist sentiment as anti-Semitic is a further attempt to shut down legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. Starmer’s pro-Israeli position is an obstacle to achieving peace and an attack on free speech.
In democracies, boycotting has been a powerful method of political protest. Starmer’s opposition to the BDS movement is hugely concerning. The international community’s boycott of South Africa played a crucial role in ending South African apartheid. A recent poll has also shown that the majority of Labour members support BDS.* FOA stands by its commitment to boycotting companies complicit in the oppression of the Palestinians, specifically Coca-Cola, Puma and Hewlett Packard (HP).
2021 has seen significant developments in understanding what is taking place in Palestine and Israel. In April 2021, Human Rights Watch deemed Israel an apartheid state. And in September 2021, the UK Labour Party conference passed a motion calling for sanctions on Israel as an apartheid state.**
However, the label of apartheid was noticeably absent from Starmer’s address. Instead, Starmer pledged to ‘reinforce’ and ‘strengthen’ ties between Britain and apartheid Israel. By making these pledges, Keir Starmer severs the links with his own party that calls for sanctions against Israel as well as the people he represents.
FOA remains committed to the right to criticise Israeli violations and considers boycott as a legitimate method of political protest.