Starmer and Labour shadow cabinet attend hugely emotional LFI Israel vigil

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Starmer and Labour shadow cabinet attend hugely emotional LFI Israel vigil

Keir Starmer led the speeches at a Labour Friend of Israel vigil at party conference in Liverpool, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also saying of the actions of Hamas in Israel: 'We should call it out for what it is, it is barbaric, it is terrorism'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

LFI vigil for Israel at Labour conference in Liverpool
LFI vigil for Israel at Labour conference in Liverpool

Keir Starmer along with senior members of his shadow cabinet have all given speeches at a highly emotional vigil for Israel organised by the Labour Friends of Israel group at the party’s conference in Liverpool.

At an event that saw conference attendees queuing around the block to attend on Tuesday night, the Labour leader expanded on the condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation, made in his leader’s speech earlier the same day adding he “condemned any act of violence here towards the Jewish community in Britain.”

Starmer added:”This action by Hamas does nothing for Palestine.  And in this dark hour Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel. And Israel must always have the right to defend her people.”

Speaking to an audience that included representatives from the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council along with Baroness Merron, Margaret Hodge, Baroness Anderson, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman, Starmer continued:”Our message is clear, the terrorists of Hamas and those states who back them are determined to destroy any hope of peace…. We cannot, we must not let them.

“This action was designed to destroy any hope of peace… we will not and cannot give up. As we come to terms with this attack. I urge all responsible partners in the Middle East to speak out against terror.”

More than 1000 people had packed into the room, including most of the shadow cabinet, for an event that saw lay chair of LFI Adrian Cohen begin proceedings with a rendition of Kel Maleh Rachamim and the Chief Rabbi’s prayer, before concluding with Oseh Shalom Bimromav.

Next to Cohen was an Israeli flag on which memorial candles to mark the slaughter of over 1000 Israelis were placed and lit.

LFI vigil attended by Labour shadow cabinet

Many attendees to the conference were unable to get into the event because of the huge demand to attend, including from many party members and delegates from outside of the community.

In her speech shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves praised Michael Rubin, LFI’s chair for organising  the event, and said:”Thirteen years I’ve been vice chair of LFI, but never have I stood here with such pride and emotion.”
She then said:”I know that many of you are not able to account for all your friends and family.  I know some of you have loved ones who’ve been taken hostage, I grieve with you.”

Reeves said of the reports of the slaughter of Israelis:”We should call it out for what it is, it is barbaric, it is terroism. We will condemn it and we will do everything we can to stand alongside you, and hunt down the people responsible for all this.

“This is our pledge to you.”

But reflecting on the rise of incidents against the Jewish community in the UK, Reeves said:”The antisemitism, the anti-Zionism and anti-Israel feeling that is allowed to flourish in communities in Britain.. we stand alongside you at home as well and will ensure the police do everything within their powers to hold responsible those who behave that way here at home.

“We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community here in Britain, not just today, but everyday.”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy also addressed the event saying:”We stand here as Labour Friends of Israel – but I have to say I am proud to live in a country were it doesn’t matter if you are Labour, Liberal Democrat or you are Conservative to stand with the people of Israel.”

The Tottenham MP also referred to the guidance that school children at some Jewish schools had been given not to wear their blazers so as to not identify their religion.

He said:”We as a movement play our part to male sure that no-one  can make us live in a country where you people have to not wear their own school uniforms.”

Earlier Lammy had addressed a fringe event held by the Labour Friends of Palestine group. in which he lamented the deaths of more than a 1000 Israelis and at least 700 Palestinians.

He said:”I think of the children in Gaza, facing the reality of war in a place already bereft of hope.”
Multiple sources told Jewish News that in the same speech Lammy stressed Israel’s right to defend itself and called for the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas.

Also speaking at the LFI vigil were shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and LFI parliamentary chair Steve McCabe.

Cooper said:”I wanted to reiterate our solidarity with British Jews across our country and our commitment to work with the Community Security Trust, who we have been speaking to this week, and whose work we have supported for many decades and how important it is now.”

She added:”No-one should have to worry about their children going to school in Britain, no-one should have to worry about going to synagogue… we will always be with our Jewish communities, standing up for people’s rights to be safe in Britain.”

Turning to Hamas she added:”There can never be any place in Britain for a proscribed organisation like Hamas.” Cooper also repeated Labour’s call for the banning of Iran’s IRGC.

In his speech McCabe said:”The world has failed the Jewish people for centuries. When we look at the images and reports coming out of Israel, it’s easy to feel helpless andpowerless.

“Expressing our solidarity and offering our thoughts and prayers somehow seems inadequate. For many of you – with friends and family in Israel – this will be very painfully personal.

“I  know, and you know, that Israel has a special place in the hearts of Jews around the world. And rightly so.”

Others attending the event included Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, and Jewish Leadership Council chief exec Claudia Mendoza, along with shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, Bridget Philipson, the shadow education secretary, Lisa Nandy, shadow minister for international development,  Peter Kyle, shadow science secretary and Jon Ashworth, shadow paymaster general.

Others at the event included Christian Wakeford MP, Lord John Mann, shadow leader of the commons Lucy Powell, Barry Gardiner MP and Adam Langleben and Mike Katz of the Jewish Labour Movement and Barnet council leader Barry Rowlings and councillors Anne Clarke and Sara Conway.

Jeremy Newmark, leader of Hertsmere council, also attended along with other councillors from the borough, as did Brent councillor Neil Nerva.

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