UK Labor leader denounces ‘anti-Zionist anti-Semitism’

The UK opposition leader and head of the British Labor Party, Sir Keir Starmer, on Tuesday denounced what he called the “anti-Zionist anti-Semitism” that had taken root in his party, insisting that the Labor Party does not support the campaign. of boycott of divestment sanctions against Israel.

Starmer spoke at an annual event held by lobbyist Labor Friends of Israel, where he also praised Labor’s historic support for Zionism and Jewish self-determination; he said his party was shedding the anti-Semitism that gripped his previous leadership; praised Israel’s fundamental principles of equality for all citizens; and reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, who led the party from 2015 to 2020 and took it in a far-left direction, anti-Semitism ran rampant among Labor ranks, often expressed alongside anti-Zionist sentiment, with Corbyn himself indicted. to make anti-Semitic comments.

Starmer’s Labor, which won the party leadership in April 2020, has made several institutional changes to the party to eradicate anti-Semitism and anti-Semites from among them, while Starmer has also moderated its position on Israel.

Speaking at the Labor Friends of Israel event, Starmer noted that his wife is Jewish and that his family has therefore “always observed” some Jewish traditions, and that he and his wife are eager for their children to grow up knowing their history.

Jeremy Corbyn, Keir Starmer, and Laura Pidcock at a campaign rally in Harlow on November 5, 2019 (credit: HANNAH MCKAY / REUTERS)

He also noted that on his first day as Labor leader he had apologized for the anti-Semitism that had taken hold of Labor, and he apologized again, saying it was “a stain” on the party, going on to list the steps he has taken. to combat the phenomenon.

“The changes we have made to our procedures allow us to address the symptoms of anti-Jewish racism,” he said.

Anti-Zionist anti-Semitism is the antithesis of the Labor tradition. Denies the Jewish people only the right to self-determination; He equates Zionism with racism, obsessively focuses on the only Jewish state in the world and holds it to standards that no other country is held to. “

He noted that the Labor Party had “supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine” even before the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and said that his party “will continue to support Israel’s noisy democracy, its independent judiciary and its commitment to the rule of law. . “

Starmer praised Israel as “a nation with vibrant media, free unions and a living tradition of debate, dissension and disagreement,” but also said that the Labor Party will always speak up when it believes the country is not upholding its fundamental principles of equality. and freedom.

“The most precious characteristics of Israel are its Jewish and democratic identity. To retain both, we must have a two-state solution, ”he continued.

“And to respect and honor the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, they must have a democratic and viable state of their own. This is an aspiration that I know is shared by many millions of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Starmer said, however, that “the Labor Party does not and will not support BDS,” which he accused of singling out “the only Jewish state in the world,” adding that Labor “is opposed.[s] and condemn[s] illegal settlements, annexation and eviction of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories ”.

The Labor leader continued, “But a BDS policy would be counterproductive. It would separate people when we should bring them together. “

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