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Labour suspends councillors for backing calls for Gaza ceasefire

LABOUR councillors in two London boroughs have been suspended and face disciplinary action for backing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Lambeth Council’s Labour administration suspended four of its councillors today, including Jewish councillor Martin Abrams and a Hindu representative, for supporting a motion calling for a ceasefire.

Mr Abrams is an outspoken Jewish pro-Palestinian activist and spokesman for the left-wing Momentum campaign group.

He said: “My vote for the ceasefire motion was a matter of conscience for me.

“My great grandparents were persecuted and driven from Eastern Europe over 100 years ago in the pogroms of Kiev and came to this country as refugees with nothing, leaving and losing many close family in the process.

“It is exactly this history of persecution of my close ancestors in Europe over the ages that meant I was brought up to always stand with the oppressed and against oppression and when I say never again, I mean never again: for everybody.”

A Momentum spokesperson said:“This is an outrageous attack on a Jewish Labour councillor for having the temerity to stand up for the people of Gaza.

“Martin is a principled socialist and internationalist — and it is shocking that he has been forced out for standing up for a position endorsed by the majority of voters. This anti-democratic decision should be immediately reversed.”

It comes after four Victoria ward councillors in Hackney were suspended last Tuesday after backing the Green Party’s motion to discuss a ceasefire. The motion has not yet been heard.

Councillors Penny Wrout, Claudia Turbet-Delof, Clare Joseph and Fliss Premru have been described as “some of the most dedicated, hard-working” members of the council by former Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP chairwoman Dr Coral Jones.

Hackney North MP Diane Abbott had the whip suspended by Labour last year amid an apparent purge of MPs who do not comply with the leadership’s views.

More than 100 councillors have resigned since the start of the Gaza crisis and the scandal caused by party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s overt support for Israeli war crimes.

Last week, Labour proposed an amendment to the SNP call for an immediate ceasefire, indicating a relaxing of its stance against the position.

But campaigners have expressed outrage at the suspensions.

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Mike Cushman said that the group is “shocked and disappointed but not surprised” at the decision to suspend the councillors.

He told the Star: “It is sad that Lambeth Labour insisted on doing this even after the national party has moved much closer to calling for a ceasefire and on the same evening as Worthing Council voted unanimously, including all its Labour councillors, to support a call for an immediate ceasefire.

“This shows a narrow-mindedness among parts of the Labour Party that cannot endure any dissent and wants total obedience to a party line — even after the party line seems to have changed.

“It is clear that in today’s Labour Party even being a Jew does not allow you to have a considered opinion about Israel's actions and the appalling level of killing and destruction in Gaza.”

Dr Jones, who resigned from the Labour Party in November over its stance on Gaza as well as the policy of further use of the private sector in the NHS, said that as a resident of the Hackney ward, she was “really shocked that such active, caring” councillors were suspended.

She told the Star: “Residents in Victoria ward will be disadvantaged by their suspension as they will not be able to continue their roles on council committees [nor] in [the] Labour group to influence council policies.

“Labour members are very distressed by the factional control which London Labour and the Hackney Labour group impose on councillors, irrespective of the benefit such councillors bring to the ward and the borough.”

Local councillors who have quit Labour over its stance on Gaza are meeting in London this weekend to co-ordinate their work and develop their positioning as an alternative to their former party.

A statement from organisers said: “Disciplinary sanctions on Labour councillors wanting to speak out against the Gaza genocide will only drive more local representatives out of the party. 

“Starmer's opposition to a ceasefire, only recently modified, is destroying the party.”

Speakers will include Andrew Feinstein, reportedly considering standing against Sir Keir in his Camden constituency, and former Birmingham councillor Salma Yaqoob. 

There will be a follow-up conference in Blackburn in April.

The Labour Party did not respond to a request for comment on the Lambeth suspensions.

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