Muslim groups demand explanation from Keir Starmer over iftar withdrawal

Keir Starmer. Editorial credit: ComposedPix / Shutterstock.com

Muslim groups MEND and Friends of Al Aqsa are demanding an explanation from Labour leader Keir Starmer after he pulled out of an iftar last week following complaints from two pro-Israel organisations.

Starmer withdrew from the virtual iftar on Wednesday organised by the Ramadan Tent Project after the pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle and the pro Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews highlighted how its CEO Omar Salha had backed CAGE, MEND and Friends of Al Aqsa on Twitter.

But the Muslim groups are now accusing Starmer of discrimination against Muslims.

Friends of Al Aqsa has launched a protest petition which reads:

“We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned that Keir Starmer, the Labour Party Leader, pulled out of a public iftar (breaking fast) with Muslims during Ramadan. It is reported that this happened because the Jewish Chronicle and Mr Ofer of the Jewish Board of Deputies ‘highlighted a tweet’ shared by an organiser of the iftar, to boycott dates from Israel. The fast in Ramadan is traditionally first broken with dates, which has ritual significance for Muslims. It is important that these dates are ethically sourced.

“It is the double standards of the Labour leader that are deeply disappointing. Over 60% of Labour Party members support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel. Keir Starmer is happy to engage with these Labour members, yet when a Muslim calls for BDS, he considers this unacceptable. In this selective disengagement, the Labour Leader is discriminating against Muslims, which feeds into the systemic Islamophobia that is rife within the Labour Party.

“In demonising BDS, Keir Starmer is sending a clear signal of his unconditional support for Israel and its continued occupation of Palestine and its violation of Palestinian rights. We demand a clarification from the Labour leader as to why he is undermining Muslims and any one else who is seeking justice and redress for the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, MEND said: “MEND, Muslim communities, and Palestine activists across the country are deeply concerned by Sir Keir Starmer’s reported decision to withdraw from his scheduled attendance at the Ramadhan Tent Project iftar, allegedly following concerns that one of the organisers retweeted a tweet supporting boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli dates grown on occupied Palestinian land.

“If true, this would be in direct contradiction to the Labour Party’s traditional claim to advocate for justice in foreign affairs, as well as a seeming departure from the interests and values of the party membership at large.

“Numerous UN resolutions have affirmed that settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are in breach of international law. Meanwhile, support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against goods grown on illegal settlements or through other means deemed in contempt of international law are a legitimate form of democratic activism to promote peaceful change, regardless of where in the world such acts are being committed.

“Furthermore, a recent YouGov poll showed that 61% of Labour members support BDS, while only 8% were in opposition. As such, the Labour leader’s decision to withdraw from the event may be seen as a unilateral shift in party policy that is in direct contradiction to the views of its own membership. So close to the upcoming elections, this will particularly damage the relationship between the party and its Muslim and Palestinian activists who have traditionally found a home in the party.

“We therefore call on Sir Keir Starmer to clarify his position and reaffirm his commitment to support international justice.”

So far the Labour leader has yet to elaborate on the exact reasons why he withdraw from the Ramadan Tent Project Iftar.

But since becoming Labour Party leader last year he has reoriented the party firmly towards a pro-Israel stance.

During the Labour leadership campaign Starmer said: “I support Zionism without qualification.”

And in his victory speech he said: “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party… I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”

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