Former Luton Labour councillors quit while current council members join call for ceasefire in Gaza
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Three former Luton councillors have now quit the Labour party over the leadership’s stance on the current conflict in the Middle East.
Waheed Akbar this week announced he would be joining former Luton mayor Sameera Saleem, saying he found Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s comments “disturbing”.
He said: “I have decided to resign from the Labour Party due to Keir Starmer’s stance on Palestine crisis and his recent statement on the current situation. In fact Keir Starmer has endorsed Israeli government actions unequivocally i.e siege of Gaza – cutting off power and water – as appropriate.
“I think Keir Starmer’s statement is very disturbing and he has endorsed illegal actions of Israeli government. I cannot associate with the party whose leader is so biased and has no regard to human rights as to date over 5000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed.
“I condemn the acts of violence and the targeting of innocent civilians. I also condemn the crime of collective punishment that has led to the deliberate denial of basic human necessities such as food, water, electricity and medicines to an already desperate civilian population.”
Former mayor Tahir Mahmood Malik also resigned yesterday. In a statement, he said: “Today, I have made the decision to no longer remain a member of the Labour Party and resign from my Labour membership, as well as all other positions I hold within the party.
“As a member of the Labour Party since 2000 and a former Labour councillor for 12 years, I am deeply troubled by the Labour Party's stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
“As we are all aware, on the 11th of October 2023, the Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, in an interview on LBC, stated that "Israel has the right" to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians. These comments were later supported by the Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry. Both of these politicians are human rights lawyers and should be well aware that "collective punishment" is illegal under international law.
“In Palestine, where more than 5,000 innocent people have been killed, with over 14000 wounded, a majority of whom are women and children, and where infrastructure has been completely destroyed, there is no sign of a ceasefire yet. This situation is unbearable and unacceptable.
“The killing of 500 innocent people at the Al-Ahli Arabi hospital in Gaza brought tears to my eyes. It was a horrific and devastating event that cannot be justified in any way. It's clear that these 2.3 million Palestinians are being collectively punished, and this should be unequivocally condemned by Keir Starmer and other politicians.
“Palestinians are facing some of the worst times they have ever seen, and I am horrified and disgusted at the lack of compassion and regard for the innocent people suffering by our Labour Leadership. We have also failed to stop this genocide, which is the world's collective responsibility.
“Today, I truly believe that the Labour Party no longer upholds the values that initially attracted me. I have been promoting the values of "Equality, Social Justice, and Fairness" all my life. It's no longer a socialist or democratic party. I can no longer morally support the party in its current state. I hereby resign immediately and demand that Keir Starmer condemn the atrocities in Gaza by Israel, declare them as "war crimes," and apologize for the statement that has upset many and divided our community both locally and nationally."
Their move follows that of former Mayor Sameera Saleem last week.
In a social media post, she said: “As a former Labour councillor for eight years, I’m appalled with the Labour Party’s actions.”
Councillor Saleem wrote on Facebook: “Today I’ve made the decision to no longer stay a member of the Labour Party. There are 2.2m Palestinians in Gaza, of which almost half are children, who had absolutely nothing to do with the actions of Hamas and are being punished collectively.
“We’re watching such tragic atrocities unfold, yet the world remains silent. The targeting of all civilian life should be condemned.
“The Labour Party that I was once proud to be a part of and represented is no longer consistent with the basic values of human life and equality.
“Gaza faces some of the worst times it has seen, and I’m horrified and disgusted at the lack of compassion and regard for the innocent people suffering. How can you justify cutting off Gaza’s water, food and electricity?” she asked. “Please note that the Labour Party has justified this.”
The former Leagrave ward councillor lost her seat at the local elections in May.
A letter today signed by more than 150 Labour Muslim councillors countrywide, including several from Luton, has called on the Labour Party to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday Sir Keir said: “There must now be clear humanitarian corridors within Gaza for those escaping violence. Civilians must not be targeted. And where Palestinians are forced to flee, they must not be permanently displaced from their homes. International law is clear.
“It also means basic services including water, electricity, and the fuel needed for it, cannot be denied. Hamas may not care for the safety and security of the Palestinian people, but we do.”