Letter to Editor: Labour’s “tacit approval” of Israel’s “war crimes”

Your Say / Wed 18th Oct 2023 at 04:09pm

Dear Editor,

A LETTER sent to Labour leader Keir Starmer on October 17th by 39 academics and international law experts, regarding the collective punishment of Gaza has explained how this is a war crime, yet he and most other politicians in Britain look the other way.

Let me be clear, Hamas cannot justify its actions and should be roundly condemned. As a socialist, I know from history that acts of individual terrorism do nothing to advance the interests of the working class. Instead, they help governments to justify repression. History also shows that many socialists don’t understand what constitutes an “armed struggle”, which does not include targeting civilians.

The letter to Keir Starmer, quoted in the Guardian newspaper, makes plain that recent Labour Party press statements “does nothing to rescind your tacit approval of Israel’s collective punishment of the population of Gaza.” The letter goes on to explain that collective punishment is a war crime as follows:

“The right to self-defence is not unqualified, it is bound by longstanding laws that form one of the pillars of a rules-based international order. International humanitarian law, including the fourth Geneva Convention and additional protocols, prohibits collective punishment in all circumstances.

The imposition of collective punishment can be considered a war crime under customary international law. The cutting off of food, water and electricity to the population of Gaza is a clear case of collective punishment.

“Indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, the use of white phosphorus, as documented by Human Rights Watch on 12 October, and the forced transfer of a population are incompatible with international humanitarian law. The atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October and its slaughter of Israeli citizens do not abrogate international humanitarian law; on the contrary, these laws were designed for precisely these circumstances.

“We request that you immediately issue a public and detailed clarification of Labour’s legal position on collective punishment and on the forcible transfer of civilians. We request that you confirm that you and your party oppose the commission of war crimes, wherever and whenever they may occur.”

Labour appear to have learned little from the Iraq war and will later regret their unbounded support of Israel’s actions. Even sadder, it has taken a Conservative MP to embarrass Labour by condemning collective punishment. Crispin Blunt, former chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs select committee has been doing a succession of media interviews on this point. His informative interview with the BBC is replayed on Guardian journalist Owen Jones’ YouTube channel.


David Forman

Sumners Farm


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