Two more councillors have resigned from the Labour Party in protest over the party’s stance on the Israel-Gaza war.
Blackburn councillors Saj Ali and Mustafa Desai posted resignation messages on Facebook late on Thursday evening and have said that they will continue as independents.
In a LBC interview on 11 October – when asked if it was appropriate for Israel to cut off water and power to Gaza, Starmer said: “I think Israel does have that right.”
Councils to have seen resignations include Cambridge, Gloucester, Haringey, Islington, Kensington, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and Stroud.
Eight councillors in Oxford have resigned from Labour over Starmer’s comments on Gaza and Israel, leaving the party without a majority for the first time in over a decade. Six of these resignations came at a meeting of Oxford and District and Labour Party on October 20.
Mr Ali and Mr Desai decided to quit Labour after a virtual meeting held by the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner to discuss Starmer’s and the Labour Party’s position, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
In a letter, however, Mr Desai wrote that the conflict “continues to claim many, many innocent civilian lives”.
“Yes I condemn the attack by Hamas.
“However I also condemn the disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on innocent Palestinian people and civilian infrastructure, the displacement of millions and the many breaches of international law – all lives are valuable.”
He said previous letters to Sir Keir Starmer “seeking appropriate responses” had led to “nothing forthcoming”.
He described his latest requests as “straightforward”, adding that he thought Sir Keir should call for an immediate ceasefire and “condemn the atrocities being committed by Israel”.
“I cannot continue being a member of a party whose leadership [is] unwilling to callout atrocities against a civilian population,” he said.
Mr Ali said: “I had to follow my conscience. I was not happy with the response from the leadership.
“I cannot stand by and watch innocent lives being massacred.”
Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern, who recently called on the government to work for a ceasefire, said she was “very sad” about the pair’s departure from the party, adding “I fully respect their decisions at this difficult time”.
The Labour Party’s Blackburn branch has often been engulfed in scandal and cases of antisemitism.
Earlier this month, a senior Labour councillor from Blackburn was suspended after VoteWatch exclusively revealed that he had shared pro-Hamas posts on social media and supported a call for the Pakistani army to help Palestine fight Israel.
Hamas is an Islamist group proscribed as a terrorist organisation by multiple nations, including the US and UK. For carrying out numerous terrorist attacks and promoting Jihad, the group is proscribed in its entirety in the UK, following Parliament’s approval of an Order which was laid in Parliament on 19th November, 2021. Hamas has carried out multiple terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in Israel.
Members of Hamas or those who invite support for the group can legally be jailed for up to 14 years.
Last weekend the terrorist organization carried out a series of war crimes against innocent Israelis, storming into Israel, executing civilians, and kidnapping a number of men, women and children.
Labour councillor Salim Sidat, who represents Audley and Queens Park ward, appeared unhappy with the BBC’s reporting of the incidents, which are still ongoing, and shared a meme condemning the broadcaster for what he perceived to be bias in their reporting of the murder of innocent civilians.
Joining him was Labour councillor Mohammed Irfan, who shared a post by a constituent downplaying the terrorist acts and falsely claiming that they only took place over ‘a few hours’.
“Wall-to-wall coverage of Israelis experiencing for a few hours what Palestinians have continuously experienced decade after decade is incredibly telling about the discrepancy in the value of human life in our corporate news,” the post read.
Shockingly, going one step further, Cllr Irfan, who represents Billinge and Beardwood, then shared and ‘liked’ a post calling for the Pakistani army to join Hamas/Palestine in fighting Israel.
VoteWatch found that Cllr Irfan had previously posted other controversial comments on social media, including one Facebook post calling for someone to be shot in the head.
Suella Braverman said this month that she expects the police to “use the full force of the law” against displays of support for Hamas after an escalation of attacks on Israel’s borders, she wrote on Sunday morning.
The home secretary’s comments came after videos emerged of people in the UK appearing to celebrate after Palestinian militants from the blockaded Gaza Strip launched a surprise attack and seized dozens of hostages.
Metropolitan police patrols have been increased in areas of north London where many members of the UK’s Jewish community are based, with some people already coming under fire by pro-Hamas protestors for their support of Israel.
Cllr Irfan has now been suspended while the Labour Party carry out an investigation into his conduct.
Last year, a Labour Councillor who called Jews ‘murderers’ and claimed Israel created ISIS, was readmitted into the party despite continuing to share anti-Jewish comments online, VoteWatch exclusively revealed.
Councillor Tasleem Fazal from Blackburn and Darwen Council was suspended in 2020 after a video emerged on social media in which he was heard hurling a barrage of abuse at Jewish protestors.
In May of last year, another Blackburn Labour Councillor was suspended after spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories, including that Israelis were ‘kidnapping children and harvesting their organs’.
Councillor Yusuf Jan-Virmani, who represents the constituency’s Audley and Queen’s Park ward, was suspended from the Labour Party after using his slot at a council meeting to make stereotypical claims about Israelis.
Calling Israel’s elected officials a “right-wing extremist government”, Cllr Jan-Virmani went on to say:
“Mr Mayor, councillors – I am not aware of any animal that is so cruel as the Israelis. Not even crocodiles. They bomb schools day and night… hospitals, they bomb them – they flatten them.
“They kidnap the kids and harvest their organs… that’s been proven. That’s from the United Nations.”