One month after Israel’s brutal reprisals against the Palestinian people for the 7th October attack by Hamas, during which 1,400 Israelis and other nationalities were killed and approximately 240 captured, the most Keir Starmer has been able to call for is a “humanitarian pause”. And this was forced from him as a result of slowly growing dissent within the Labour Party over his pro-Israeli stance.

So, while the number of Palestinian deaths has now climbed to more than 10,000, over 4000 of whom are children, with many more missing, presumably buried under their homes, Keir Starmer feels that all that is necessary is a ‘pause’ in the onslaught to allow some aid in, so that the whole brutal process can start again.

Let’s be clear; the death toll and the consequent suffering is not all that the citizens of Gaza are facing. Israel has blocked off all power and fuel supplies and allowed in only a trickle of food and medicines, which has resulted in operations being carried out without anaesthesia.

Over one and a half million people are now homeless. The infrastructure is broken.

A surgeon on Channel 4 News on Monday said that thousands of children will face years of repeated surgery to try and heal their terrible blast injuries. He was certain that some of the injuries he was dealing with were caused by white phosphorus. He reported multiple fractures and the flesh being burned from their faces. He said that, even if surgeons were able to heal their bodies, their minds would never recover.

Despite 18 UN agencies and aid agencies saying “enough is enough” and calling for a ceasefire, Sunday saw the heaviest night of bombardment, with all communication being switched off. To date, one in 240 innocent people in Gaza has been killed, and the Israelis, emboldened by the support of the West, have said this is just the start. But all Keir Starmer, along with most Western leaders, feels able to call for is a “humanitarian pause.” When will they be satisfied? When one in 100 people has been massacred, 1 in 50, or when the whole population has been wiped out?

The Secretary General of the United Nations said at a press conference on 6th November: “It is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity.”

It is not just the people of Gaza that Western leaders are turning their backs on. Hamas is said to be holding over 240 captives from babies to 80 year olds. Hamas has said that over 50 of the captives have been killed by Israeli air strikes to date. Little has been made of the report that the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said on 28th October that the group was ready for an immediate swap of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in return for Israeli captives in Gaza. Israel responded by increasing its assault on the civilian population, whilst at the same time putting the lives of the captives at risk.

Starmer’s mealy-mouthed defence of Israel’s position is even more worrying because, as a human rights lawyer, he will be aware that Israel’s assault on civilians in Gaza meets the criteria of war crimes and these are the gravest crimes in international law. Through international treaties the UK has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute those who have committed international crimes. When asked during a TV interview recently, he said he didn’t think “it was wise for politicians to adjudicate on a day to day basis whether certain actions fell outside international law.” However, he was not so reticent in an earlier interview when asked about the Hamas attack. In his view that was clearly a war crime.

This stance shows a catastrophic failure of leadership. This is not a surprise. Throughout his tenure as leader he has exhibited none of the attributes generally recognised as essential in transformative leaders such as trust, integrity, bringing people on board through the creation of a vision and guiding change through inspiration. Instead he has chosen an autocratic style, ruling by fear and putting his own career above the needs of fairness and justice.

The cracks are starting to show.  Starmer has become a ‘hate figure’ for large sections of people who would once have voted Labour. About 50 councillors have resigned, including two council leaders Afrasiab Anwar from Burnley, with ten other Burnley councillors, and Asjad Mahmood from Pendle. They say that Keir Starmer should also step down and allow a leadership election. Asjad Mahmood said: “He should allow someone else to lead the party who has compassion and speaks out against injustice and indiscriminate killings.” This is unprecedented so close to a General Election. An Early Day Motion, (EDM) – tabled by Labour MP Richard Burgon – backing calls for the government to “urgently press all parties to agree to an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” has so far been signed by 95 MPs, including 39 Labour MPs.

Starmer is clearly not going to resign. Labour is still ahead in the polls as a result of 13 years of Tory failure, but Starmer’s personal ratings have dropped by 12% (from + 7 to – 5),  in the past week, according to DeltaPoll.  

The incomprehensibility of this approach is reflected in the hundreds of thousands who march every week across the world. As John Connolly wrote in his novel ‘The Infernals’: “But don’t they say that all is fair in love and war?” “They, who are they?” “That’s what the victorious claim, not the defeated; the powerful, not the powerless.”

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