Israel war: panellist at Labour conference says responsibility for Hamas attack ‘rests with our politicians’

A panellist at a Labour conference fringe event has said that the responsibility for what is happening in Israel and Palestine "rests heavily with the failures of our politicians”
Solicitor Tayab Ali, a director at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (right) at the Labour Party ConferenceSolicitor Tayab Ali, a director at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (right) at the Labour Party Conference
Solicitor Tayab Ali, a director at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (right) at the Labour Party Conference

Solicitor Tayab Ali, a director at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), has criticised the Labour leadership’s response to the conflict, and said the “recent attack is not a surprise attack”. At least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel and more than 400 have been killed in Gaza over two days, after Hamas launched its unprecedented attack. Israeli armed forces have intensified their bombardment of Gaza after declaring war and vowing to destroy the “military and governing capabilities” of Hamas, the Islamist group which controls the strip. Ali was speaking at a Labour conference fringe event, entitled ‘What should Labour mean for Palestinian rights?’ The event started with 30 seconds of silence for those that have lost their lives, after chair Chris Doyle - from the Council for Arab-British Understanding - said: “When the organisers of this event put this together, we did not know the horrors and loss of life that has happened over the past couple of days. We are very determined to run this discussion today in a respectful manner mindful of the huge loss of life.”

Ali was one of the speakers, and sits on the ICJP with Tory MP Crispin Blunt. He started by saying the violence “was not what anyone wants to see”, before putting the blame for the conflict on international leaders who have failed to find a peaceful solution. He told the audience: “What has happened to the world’s leaders, that they’ve got this so, so wrong. The responsibilities to what is happening, and what has happened, rests heavily with their failures, the failures of our politicians.” Ali described the violence as “a sliver of what Palestinians have been feeling on a daily basis, in the West Bank and in Gaza”.

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He blamed the UK and US governments over the last 20 years for failing to solve the crisis. He said: “For two decades, the UK, the United States and world leaders have overlooked and ignored the two million people in Gaza. Innocent Palestinians have been imprisoned, injured and killed with impunity. Some of what has been seen over the last two days in Israel is what has been reality for Palestinians for decades.” He argued: “Around the world, leaders have condemned the actions of Palestinians, while they have championed the rights of Israel to defend itself.” And he criticised people who described Hamas’ attack on Israeli soil as a “surprise attack”.

Ali told the audience: “The recent attack has been described as a surprise attack, a monumental failure of the Israeli intelligence and security agencies. It’s not a surprise attack, for Gaza it did not come out of nowhere, Palestinian advocates have been asking for the world to stop ignoring the plight of Palestinians for decades.” And he hit out at Labour figures who have defended Israel’s “right to defend itself”. Ali said: “I’m really disappointed by what I’ve heard over the last few days from the Labour Party, of its position, of the position it’s taken on the conflict in Gaza.”

Sir Keir Starmer said in a statement on Saturday: “Labour stands firmly in support of Israel’s right to defend itself, rescue hostages​ and protect its citizens. The indiscriminate attacks from Hamas are unjustifiable and have set back the cause of peace.” Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves pushed back against suggestions Israel’s “occupation” of Gaza was to blame. She said she had “no time” for people cheering for the Palestinian cause on the sidelines of Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool. Today (9 October) she said Israel has “every right to defend itself” after Hamas’s deadly surprise assault, which provoked a furious response from Israel, leaving more than 1,100 dead on both sides.

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