Starmer: I’m not prepared to sit in LBC studio and judge Israel genocide claims
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Starmer: I’m not prepared to sit in LBC studio and judge Israel genocide claims

Labour leader says 'Israel, like every country, should be held to account' over Gaza genocide claims 'in the court of international law'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Keir Starmer appears on Nick Ferrari's LBC radio show
Keir Starmer appears on Nick Ferrari's LBC radio show

Keir Starmer has said it is not possible to conclude that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza without proper scrutiny of all the available evidence.

The Labour leader has also said that on the issue of UK arms sales to Israel the recent missile strike by Iran was a clear situation when the Jewish state had the right to respond for “defensive reasons.”

Appearing on Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show, where he answered listeners questions for an hour, the Labour leader was pressured into confirming that he did take the view that genocide had been committed in the war with Hamas.

But citing his own experience as a lawyer, arguing that genocide had been committed in the former Yugoslavia, as he represented Croatia in the International Criminal Court, Starmer said he was not prepared to judge Israeli actions now “sitting looking at clips, bits of footage here and there.”

After presenter Ferrari, and a listener who called in to the programme both pressed Starmer to confirm that Israel was committing genocide, he said Israel had to “exercise a right to self defence within inter national law.”

But he continued:”I’m not prepared to sit in an LBC studio and pronounce that something is either genocide or not.”

Starmer said that during the war in the former Yugoslavia “all sorts of atrocities were committed.”

“I represented Croatia at the ICC where we argued about genocide and reviewed the evidence,” he added.

“At the end of that, the court had to make a decision based on all of the evidence. That is how it works.

“Not politicians sitting looking at clips, bits of footage here and there, and committing to decisions based on that.”

He continued:”Israel, every country, has to be properly held to account in the court of international law. 

“But the body that does that is the international court, set up to do that. Having literally argued at the court for three months over the meaning of genocide … I am very, very aware that you need to have the evidence in front of you to come to a final decision.”

Starmer was also asked for his view on a UK arms sale ban to Israel in response to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza.

He replied:”said: “So far as arms are concerned, there are a number of licences that allow arms to be sold to Israel, they need to be reviewed. 

“The Government has in fact got legal advice on this in relation to what’s being sold and what it’s being used for.”He added: “It depends what is actually being exported. 

“Let me give you an example, if something is being exported for purely defensive reasons, you’ve seen the Iran attack on Israel, that is materially different to something which is being used, let’s say, in a Rafah offensive.”

Building of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague in 2019. (Wikipedia/Author OSeveno/ Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0))

Starmer committed a future Labour government to reviewing the legal advice on arms sales to Israel.

He added:”Each license is reviewed one by one. This is taken very seriously. and in the past decisions have been made not to sell arms to Israel. 

“Where that is necessary that is a decision we would take. I know how the process works. 

“I know how carefully it is worked through. I don’t have access to the licenses.  I don’t have access to the details. “We will review it.”

Asked about the need for a ceasefire in Gaza, Starmer added:“We need that to stop. We need the hostages to be brought out and we need that humanitarian aid to come in at speed and at volume because it’s such an awful situation.” 

He continued: “If we are able to form a government it will be important to me and to a Labour government that we play our full part in resolving this for the long-term and that means a two state solution. It means a political process.”

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