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By Bishop of Leeds
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Keir Starmer Urged To Distance Labour From "Islamophobic" Israeli Ambassador

Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's ambassador to the UK, has rejected calls for a Palestinian state. (Alamy)

4 min read

The Labour Muslim Network has written to Labour leader Keir Starmer warning that representatives of the party should not share a platform with Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, accusing her of holding "extreme" and "Islamophobic" views.

The intervention from the group follows Hotovely rejecting calls for a Palestinian state in an interview on Sky News.

Hotovely, who previously served as a minister in the Israeli government, told the broadcaster "absolutely, no" when asked if Palestinians should have their own state earlier this month – a view she has expressed publicly previously.

"The right of self determination for Palestinians and an independent Palestinian state has been a long standing position for the Labour Party, for the United Kingdom and for the international community," the letter by the Labour Muslim Network reads. 

"To deny the right of Palestine to exist as an independent state is not only an extremist position, but also completely contrary to international consensus.

"Furthermore, denying the right of self determination for Palestinians and millions of Muslims is clearly Islamophobic."

Labour's official position on Israel and Palestine supports a two state solution, something which shadow foreign secretary David Lammy reiterated following Hotovely's recent remarks on a Palestinian state. 

"The Labour Party is steadfast in its longstanding support for a two-state solution. A viable and independent Palestine alongside a safe and secure Israel, where all can enjoy security, dignity and statehood," said Lammy on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

"This is the only credible basis for long-term peace."

The letter from the Labour Muslim Network also said there is a "worrying trend" of senior Israeli politicians making "statements that are genocidal in nature towards the Palestinian people", and that the "ambassador is no partner in peace". 

"Associating with such individuals or endorsing their views in any way is not only Islamophobic and morally reprehensible but also poses a significant risk to the Labour Party's
integrity and our commitment to human rights and international law," the letter reads.  

The group say Labour representatives who share engagements or platforms with Hotovely are "legitimising her extreme positions" and potentially "violating" Labour's code of conduct on Islamophobia. 

Responding to the letter, a Labour spokesperson said: “A political solution, with hard and continuing diplomacy, is the only way to achieve an end to this conflict. We must address the urgent and catastrophic situation in Gaza. That means working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other governments in the region to deliver a new cessation of hostilities to protect civilians, unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza, the release of all the remaining hostages.

“Diplomacy requires engagement even – and sometimes especially – with those we disagree with. The whole international community must reaffirm its support for a two-state solution as the only route to long term peace.”

In November, Hotovely was hosted at the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) annual lunch attended by Lammy. Starmer has also met with the ambassador on various occasions in the past. 

The Israeli embassy has been approached for comment. 

It is not the first time in recent months the Labour Muslim Network has expressed concern with Labour's approach on Israel and Palestine.

In October, the group called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas shortly after the latest war began when Hamas militants entered southern Israel from Gaza on 7 October and killed 1,200 people, the worst attack in Israel's history. 

Israel's subsequent bombing campaign and ground invasion in response to the attacks has triggered a humanitarian crisis in Gaza – with the Hamas-run health ministry reporting almost 20,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed since the war began. 

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