Labour denies Starmer justified Israel’s water and electricity blockade of Gaza

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A Labour spokesperson has denied that Keir Starmer said Israel ‘has the right’ to cut off power and water in Gaza, saying the Labour leader’s comment had been in response to a previous question on Israel’s right to defend itself.

Starmer’s comments in an interview last Wednesday with LBC presenter Nick Ferrari have sparked growing controversy over the past week, including prompting several Labour elected representatives to resign.

Asked whether cutting off power and water was “appropriate”, Starmer said: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.” He added: “Obviously, everything should be done within international law.”

Asked today whether Starmer had misspoken during the interview, a Labour spokesperson said: “If you listen to the tape, it was one of those things where there were overlapping questions and answers based on what had been being said before.”

They continued: “The specific question beforehand was about Israel having the right to defend itself, which is something that we have repeatedly said and stand by.

“In terms of the situation that we want to see all parties stick to, that is to adhere to international law, and that is what he said on LBC as part of that same interview and same answer.”

Asked specifically whether the first part of Starmer’s response was in response to the question about Israel’s right to defend itself rather than to cut off food and water, the spokesperson said: “Correct, and what you saw was Keir say that… everything had to be done in accordance with international law.”

During the interview last week, Starmer told Ferrari: “I’m very clear, Israel must have that right, does have that right, to defend herself and Hamas bears responsibility.”

Ferrari pressed him: “A siege is appropriate? Cutting off power? Cutting off water?”

Starmer replied: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation. Obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has right to defend herself, and Hamas bears responsibility for these terrorists attacks.

“And I would call on all responsible states, particularly Middle East responsible states, to call this out for what it is, and to stand with the world in condemning, utterly condemning, these actions by Hamas.”


Today Starmer wrote to all Labour councillors setting out his stance in a bid to quell party unrest.

The message seen by LabourList includes greater emphasis on Palestinian suffering and Islamophobia than some of his more recent statements, focusing on Israeli suffering and antisemitism.

He said that “millions of innocent” Palestinians and Israelis had been affected, and Gaza needed humanitarian access including water, electricity, food and medicine. The world needs to act to stop a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

He said he was acutely aware of “shocking rise” in Islamophobia and antisemitic attacks and praised councillors for their work to “kick out hate” and for promoting community cohesion.

Labour has “zero tolerance” for hate, “no matter whose name or what cause it is committed in”.

Many Labour MPs have backed the party’s line over the escalating conflict, but a small number have spoken out too. More than 35 MPs from several parties are backing an early day motion by left-wing MP Richard Burgon calling for a ceasefire.

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