The Labour MP who apologised after saying Rishi Sunak had “blood on his hands” in Gaza has been recorded criticising his own leader Keir Starmer’s stance on the conflict at a local party meeting.
Jewish News has obtained audio of Tahir Ali, the MP for Birmingham Hall Green, boasting to a meeting of his local party that he was one of 56 MPs to defy Starmer in a Commons vote last November by backing an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Asked by a local member if Starmer might change his stance, Ali said:”Keir, despite 56 of us voting against him, came out with a statement last week that he isn’t going to change his position.”
In comments that will infuriate the Labour leadership, Ali urges his local party to rebel against a directive from general secretary David Evans calling for debate on Israel and Hamas to be held in a manner that will avoid it becoming a “flashpoint” at meetings.
The MP said:”In response, if David Evans is saying don’t talk about this [Gaza/Israel], he might as well be saying don’t talk about policing, don’t talk about the NHS, don’t talk about people with disabilities.
“Where does it stop? This is complete nonsense.
“There should be pushback, there should be discussion and as a CLP, write back to David Evans and say NO. We should not be censored.”
Ali entered Parliament at the 2019 general election in the safe Labour seat of Birmingham, Hall Green after sitting MP Roger Godsiff was deselected under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
He is a member of the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and has mounted repeated attacks on Israel during this time, both as an MP, and prior to this as a Birmingham City councillor.
After Corbyn lost the Labour whip over his response to the EHRC’s report into antisemitism in the party, Ali was among the 28 SCG signatories to sign a letter calling for Starmer to reverse the “wrong and damaging” decision.
Ali’s selection as a candidate for Labour at the next election under Starmer’s leadership has yet to be finalised.
In April 2020, he was given a formal warning by West Midlands Police after he broke government restrictions by attending a funeral with up to 100 mourners during the coronavirus pandemic
Elsewhere at the meeting last November the 23rd Ali can be heard bragging about his support for a hardline anti-Israel motion put forward in 2009 by Salma Yaqoob, former leader of the Respect Party founded by George Galloway.
Ali tells the meeting:”As you can see from my record going back to 2009, I’ve been calling for sanctions against Israel and boycotts.
“I was the only Labour councillor in the council at the time to support a cross party motion put forward by Salma Yaqoob [George Galloway’s Respect Party] seconded by Tan from the Lib Dems.
“Nobody from Labour would do it, despite being on the front bench of the shadow Labour team it was the right thing to do. So you can see from my track record…”
Asked for his own views on a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Ali repeatedly tells local members, in a confusing reply, that he believes in a return to “1948 borders.”
He says:”The two state solution needs to happen on the 1948 borders.
“The illegal occupation and expansion of settlements needs to be called out and can’t be allowed to continue.
“That is not being called out at all. You’re right, if you look at it, I don’t think even Israel want a two state solution…even it’s going to have to (go) back before the 1948 borders and I don’t think it’s prepared to do that.
“Even Netanyahu the reason they’ve agreed to the ceasefire is because of the demonstrations that are happening in Israel. There’s pressure on him from his own side.”
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Ali had sparked angerLabour MP provokes disgust with ‘blood on his hands’ jibe at Sunak over Gaza after he suggested the prime minister has “the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands”.
He accused Israel of committing “war crimes in Gaza” and suggested this would be confirmed by South Africa’s genocide case in the International Court of Justice.
But in a post three hours later on X, formerly Twitter, he issued an apology over his intervention. It is understood Labour’s chief whip Sir Alan Campbell spoke to him after PMQs and asked him to apologise.
Ali added: “While I do not resile from my strongly held views on the situation in the Middle East, I would like to apologise for the way in which I described the prime minister in my question”.
“We all have a responsibility to be respectful in the language that we use, even when discussing difficult and, at times, sensitive issues.”
I believe Israel has committed war crimes against the Palestinian people.
War crimes must be met by a robust international response, including imposition of appropriate sanctions.
I asked the Foreign Secretary whether the UK gov would consider sanctions. He refused to answer pic.twitter.com/O19YxfypeK
— Tahir Ali MP (@TahirAliMP) October 24, 2023
Last October Ali joined with other hard-left MPs, including Zarah Sultana and Jeremy Corbyn, in accusing Israel of being responsible for the bombing of a hospital in Gaza City. It later emerged the incident, which killed hundreds, was the result of a missile misfired by a Palestinian terror group.
Ali had also previously failed to back the IHRA definition of antisemitism – one of the few MPs not to do so, until he was made to sign it in front of Labour whips.
Asked about his comments made to local members at the meeting last November, Ali did not respond to Jewish News.
A Jewish Labour Movement source said: “It’s ridiculous to suggest that Labour setting out a well-thought through foreign policy position on this conflict is somehow censoring MPs just because they disagree with it.
“I’m not sure that supporting a motion from a then Respect party councillor is much to brag about either.
“This isn’t responsible advocacy for Palestinian rights and statehood. After his comments at PMQs this week, Mr Ali may well want to think about the words he uses and the impact on community cohesion when speaking on this.”
Jewish News contacted Labour for comment.
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