Leading communal figures defend record of ‘pro-Palestine’ justice secretary

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Leading communal figures defend record of ‘pro-Palestine’ justice secretary

Shabana Mahmood, who took part in a 2014 protest against the sale of West Bank settlement goods, has been given the senior role in Keir Starmer's first cabinet

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Shabana Mahmood, at anti-Israel protest in 2014 (Photo: X)
Shabana Mahmood, at anti-Israel protest in 2014 (Photo: X)

One of the community’s leading experts on antisemitism has defended the record of the new justice secretary Shabana Mahmood after she was criticised over her involvement in a 2014 protest against the sale of West Bank settlement goods.

Mahmood was appointed as Lord Chancellor and secretary of state for justice by Labour’s new prime minister, Keir Starmer.

The announcement prompted the recycling of evidence that Mahmood, a barrister educated at Oxford University, had taken part in a protest a decade ago that forced the branch of Sainsbury’s in Birmingham to close for several hours. She was also photographed carrying a Free Palestine placard said at the time of her involvement.

Mahmood said: “I was with 200 activists outside Sainsbury’s in the centre of Birmingham.

“We lay down in the street and we laid down inside Sainsbury’s to say we object to them stocking goods from illegal settlements – and that they must stop. We managed to close down that store at peak time on a Saturday. This is how we can make a difference.”

As the MP for Birmingham Ladywood since 2010, her involvement in the protest was condemned by the Jewish Leadership Council, and the then Finchley and Golders Green parliamentarian Mike Freer at the time.

Her appointment into Starmer’s cabinet prompted renewed criticism on grassroots community social media groups last weekend.

But Danny Stone, director of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, intervened to counter criticism posted on X that Mahmood “has been kind, thoughtful, and supportive in all of my dealings with her, including on serious issues of conspiratorial antisemitism. She has been relentlessly abused and deserves some kindness”.

Stone added that she has “taken direct action against antisemitism”.

After she was re-elected as an MP last Thursday, Mahmood launched an outspoken attack on the intimidation she faced, mainly from those claiming to represent an independent pro-Palestine candidate standing against her.

She said at the count: “British politics must wake up to what happened at this election” and added “masked men” had disrupted a community meeting “terrifying those present.”

The chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Mike Katz, also criticised the resurfacing of Mahmood’s decade old involvement with settlement boycott protests.Katz added the new cabinet minister “understands antisemitism and has taken action against it.”

He continued:” She’s shown enormous strength and resilience in the face of serious and personal attacks since October 7 simply because she is a senior Muslim Labour woman.”

Days after the October 7 Hamas terror attack Mahmood also wrote to her constituents.

She said: “I unequivocally condemn the despicable actions of Hamas, who targeted innocent Israeli civilians. The hostages must be returned.“These atrocities were committed by terrorists who do not seek peace and have set back the just cause of Palestinian freedom and statehood, which I have supported my whole life.”

In September 2015, following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, Mahmood stepped down from the role, saying she “strongly disagreed” with him.

One year later she was offered a place in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, but declined, telling him: “I’ll be miserable, and I’ll make you miserable as well.”

Previously, as Starmer’s shadow justice secretary, she worked closely with the Labour leader on tackling antisemitism in the party, and countering Islamophobia.

One communal figure, who asked to remain anonymous, added: “I’ve worked with Shabana on community issues in the past.

“She has done more to tackle antisemitism than most the keyboard warriors now attacking her have done in their lives.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: