Lammy: ‘October 7th was so awful it feels like a shiva we have still not got up from’

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Lammy: ‘October 7th was so awful it feels like a shiva we have still not got up from’

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy confirms in LFI lunch speech that if elected into power a future Keir Starmer government would appoint a new Middle East Peace envoy

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

David Lammy speaks to LFI annual reception
David Lammy speaks to LFI annual reception

Labour’s David Lammy has described the impact of the October 7th Hamas massacre in Israel as being “so awful, it feels like a shiva we have still not got up from.”

In an impassioned speech delivered to the annual Labour Friends of Israel lunch, the shadow foreign secretary and Tottenham MP also accepted that the prospect of a resolution to the deadly conflict between Israel and the Palestinians at this moment looked “bleak.”

But confirming that a future Labour government would, if elected into power, appoint a new Middle East Peace envoy,”embodying our new resolve and focused on where we can make the greatest impact”.

Lammy, who gave the keynote speech at the packed eventSunak accused of ignoring letter from British family of Hamas atrocity victims added:”I am realistic about Britain’s influence.  We hold no illusions. This is hard. 

“But do not doubt my and Keir Starmer’s determination. We will be dedicated to a just and lasting peace based on two states in which all enjoy security, dignity and human rights.”

But recalling the horrific news that emerged from Israel as Hamas terrorists carried out their atrocities last month he told the audience at the LFI lunch:” Over the course of my adult life It has been my honour to have been invited so many times, to come to a shiva, with you, for your loved ones. 

“What happened that morning in Kfar Aza, in Be’eri, in Ofakim, and elsewhere…was so awful, it feels like a shiva we have still not got up from.

“I want us to remember them. Musicians and dancers. Scientists and farmers. Holocaust survivors… and babies. ”

Referencing the famous words of Rabbi Hillel – ‘Whoever destroys one soul, it is as though he destroyed the entire world’ –  Lammy added:”Words, I learnt from you that have always marked me.

“Thirteen names out of over twelve hundred killed. And these are only the British citizens killed on October 7th.”

Steve McCabe MP speaks at LFI annual lunch

Reading out the names of those murdered he said:”Mothers and fathers. North Londoners and Glaswegians.”Arsenal and Spurs fans. Families and ravers. Their names are crying out to us. This was not only an attack on the music festival and the kibbutzim.

“It was the worst day the Jewish people have suffered since the Holocaust. The darkest hours in the State of Israel. And an attack on Jews everywhere.”Saturday, October 7th, was a day of horror.  Not just for Israel, or for the Jewish communities spread around the world. But for us, for Britain, and for the whole Labour movement. ”

Lammy said that every attack on a Jewish person, a synagogue, every chant of hate “is an attack on Britain, is an attack on all of us.”But he continued: “And I know everyone in this room condemns the rise in Islamophobia we have also seen in recent weeks.” 

In a lengthy, and considered speech, Lammy also turned to his familiarity and obvious warmth for the Jewish community he had grown up with in north London, emphasising what he said was “a proud tradition of Black and Jewish antiracism.”

“Friends, for me, this is personal,” he said. “I want to take you back to London, in the 1960s, when Oswald Mosley, stood as an MP in East London, and fascists would come for blacks and Jews on Ridley Road up in Dalston.

“My dad, he was there and with the antifascists, Blacks, Jews, everyone, they pushed them back.  

“This is not just a family story this a proud tradition of Black and Jewish antiracism. from Hackney, to Johannesburg, to Washington DC. ”

Admitting growing up in Tottenham was not alway easy, he also paid tribute to three partners of the legal firm DJ Freeman, who were at Tuesday’s reception, who had helped support him after he gained entry into the prestigious Harvard Law School as “the first Black Brit to study there…but it would cost 45 thousand dollars.”

“Of course, I didn’t have the money,” added the politician.”Then I was put in touch with the partners of DJ Freeman. One afternoon they took me to lunch and offered to support me.

“They are here today Tony Leifer, Jonathan Lewis, Colin Joseph
“Please stand up. Without you, I would never have made it to where I am today.” 

Lammy returned to the current bleak situation in Israel and in Gaza, noting that one of those murdered by Hamas was  Vivian Silver, the 74 year old Canadian-Israeli activist. 

“That morning, even from her safe room, as the sirens blare she still gave an interview in which she said only a political agreement between Israelis and Palestinians can bring about peace,” he recalled.

“I reject those who say this is hopeless idealism. Hamas sought to close the path to peace. Which is why Israel must not  fall into their trap. ”

He said he welcomed the five principles that Antony Blinken has brought back from his round of shuttle diplomacy, but added that in  his first visit to Ramallah in his current role last JuIy he “met young Palestinians, a generation in despair.

“These people “were as impressive as they were eloquent”, he added, but  “their lives told a bitter story of diplomatic failure. ”

He also gave “full support” to the push for the International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace initiative.

“I champion the fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace – it has labour’s full support, as Rachel Reeves said last year, ” said Lammy.

“If elected, we will work with our partners around the world to help turn it into a concrete reality.”

Lammy ended by saying “we must take away the hopelessness and frustration which gives Hamas its power. ”

He added:”Rabbi Hillel once said: ‘If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am not for others what am I? And if not now when?'”The Labour frontbencher continued:”I would like to build on it. If we are not for peace, who will be? And if not now, when?”

In his speech Steve McCabe, LFI’s outgoing parliamentary chair, told how he had “led the long campaign in Parliament to persuade the government to fully proscribe Hezbollah and Hamas.”

McCabe, who leaves to LFI to become shadow veterans minister on the Labour frontbencher, added:”We will keep up the pressure for the government to tackle the threat posed by Iran both here at home and in the region.

“Let’s ban the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps without further ado.

“Expel Khamenei’s personal representative in the UK.”

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