The Labour Party has derailed a Scottish National Party motion calling for ‘an immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza. Their attempt to undermine the SNP motion was based on a recognition that constantly abstaining was unpopular with 75% of the population, but supporting an unequivocal ceasefire was unpopular with the Zionists who now decide Labour policy.

The story, however, became not whether Israel should be pressured into abiding by the ruling of the ICJ, but rather whether Labour had pressurised Speaker Lindsay Hoyle into breaking the convention of the House and allowing Labour’s amendment to be put.

Labour MPs, the majority of whom had abstained in November, as they were instructed to do, could have simply accepted the SNP motion. Assuming, that is, that they were sincere in their stated aim of wanting an “immediate ceasefire”.

The problem for Labour was always going to be how to bridge the divide between two irreconcilable positions. On the one hand, the Zionists, who control everything Labour does, insist that Israel is simply ‘defending itself’. On the other, those MPs who are in constituencies with majority Muslim populations needed to be able to say they had voted for a ceasefire.

The compromise was an amendment that clearly blames Hamas for Israel’s murderous genocide and which, rather than calling for an immediate unconditional ceasefire, as ordered by the ICJ, called instead for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’.

The problem with the Labour amendment was precisely that it put all the emphasis on the victims of the bloodshed to cease from defending themselves. Labour and Conservative front benchers have repeated the line “Israel has the right to defend itself” ad infinitum since 7th October. Nobody denies that, but Palestine, as an occupied country, has the right under international law, to oppose their occupiers.

The legal position was established unequivocally on 3rd December 1982 at the United Nations General Assembly: “The legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

The British parliament, along with most European parliaments (with the honourable exceptions of Ireland, Scotland, Catalonia and Wales) have failed to acknowledge this simple fact of law since 7th October, because it is inconvenient for their continued support for Israel.

The Labour Party’s bullying of Speaker Lindsay Hoyle meant that, although their motion passed, no vote was taken, as Conservative and SNP MPs walked out of the House in disgust. Not that Hoyle needed much bullying. He showed where his sympathies lie with a trip to Israel last November.

This piece of political manoeuvring was tied to a call for a 2-state solution, which the Knesset was simultaneously rejecting out of hand. It was designed to allow Labour MPs to say they had, indeed, voted for a ceasefire but also to ensure that the Zionists within the party would not be offended. It was clearly never going to work.

My own MP, in what I assume is a standard Labour response dictated by central office, started a letter to me by declaring she would vote for an immediate ceasefire. But went on to add: “Hamas cannot be allowed to regroup, rearm, and repeat the atrocities of 7th October in the hope of realising their central aim of destroying Israel.” And then in bold: “This time we need an enduring solution which does not end in yet more bloodshed.” 

She had been an abstainer in November and seems not to realise that the bloodshed is being caused disproportionately by one side – the side her party has given, up to this point, uncritical support. 

So my MP, along with all the others looking for political cover for their total disregard for Palestinian lives, cannot claim to have voted for a ceasefire. Even if they had, the ceasefire they were prepared to vote for was one where the victims had to submit to their aggressors, and the ceasefire itself was conditional upon their doing so. 

The wording of their motion, in opposition to the SNP motion, started with the statement that they “unequivocally condemn the horrific terrorist attack and murder of civilians by Hamas” but noted only “far too many deaths of innocent civilians and children, over the past month in Gaza”. You will note the language. Palestinians who defend themselves are terrorists and murderers. But those who die are simply deaths with no condemnation at all for those terrorising and murdering ‘innocent civilians and children’. How do Labour think these people are dying?

The SNP motion was clear about why they are dying when it called for “an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. Starmer has previously endorsed this clear breach of international law by Israel. So 142 MPs signed the Labour amendment to prevent a vote on a motion which condemned their own complicity in genocide.

Don’t be fooled by Labour’s attempts to pretend that they actually care about the Palestinians. If they did, they would have voted for a ceasefire in November. The only thing Labour MPs care about is their own careers, and that has become clearer and clearer as time goes on.

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