“Starmer needs to choose a side and stick to it”

Finchley Church End councillor Eva Greenspan says calls for a ceasefire in Gaza show Labour hasn’t changed on antisemitism

A poster of a child hostage of Hamas that has been removed from a post
A poster of an Israeli child taken hostage by Hamas – (Credit – Barnet Conservatives)

I was born in Poland; born after the war but close enough to experience the gut-wrenching effect the holocaust had on many – including my family. 2,800,000 million Polish Jews were killed during that horrific and dark time (accounting for 85% of Poland’s Jewish population) and at the time of my birth, Jewish survivors had begun their Aliyah to Israel as their place of birth was no longer what they knew, and Israel became that place of refuge for a people who had been near exterminated.

Fast forward some years I’ve found myself as a councillor in Barnet where we have Britain’s largest population of Jews. I’ve had the immense pleasure of being elected as a councillor since 1990 and in that role doing all I can for Barnet’s Jewish residents alongside every resident of the borough. I’ve seen Barnet change a lot over the years, but one thing remained constant; it’s a place where the Jew in Britain would feel somewhat at home and unafraid. That was until the events following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on the 7th of October.

I’ve never seen this amount of anxiety and fear within our community in all my years of being a councillor; parents having to fetch their children from school gates to prevent them from facing swathes of abuse in their own neighbourhoods, men having to wear baseball caps to hide their kippahs and worst of all schools being closed because of the fear of some antisemite masking as a Palestinian sympathiser attacking our young. This is a horrific situation, a situation we, who have lived and survived, never thought we’d see again.

As a Barnet Conservative councillor, I can emphatically say that we stand with Israel now, we stand with Israel in the future and will always stand with Israel’s right to defend herself in the face of a barbaric terrorism and antisemitism that will happily sacrifice innocents in its sickening quest to eradicate the Jew from the middle east.

For many of us here in Barnet who have had and have family in Israel, thoughts, fears, and the worst of scenarios are popping into our heads. For those of us who were born in the aftermath of the war and had to leave Europe, it feels as if we can never find peace wherever we go. 

In these moments of anxiety, one naturally looks towards political leaders to seek reassurance of protection and guidance. So far, I have been impressed by the nature of Rishi Sunak’s support, especially his numerous visits to Barnet to reassure our community that he is doing all he can to both protect us here and protect us abroad.

I was equally supportive of Sir Keir Starmer’s approach and language in dealing with this issue. I saw him speak in the Commons and was thoroughly pleased to see a Labour leader once again seemingly on the side of Jews. It made one wonder if his statements about rooting out antisemitism from the Labour party were true. Had he finally managed to root out the rot in his once great and proud party? Is the Labour Party now not intrinsically anti-Israel? Do they understand and accept the precarious position Israelis are in? 

It seemed from all his press releases that he had indeed achieved his aims of changing the party. That was until I read in various papers that 250 Labour councillors demanded that Sir Keir call for a ceasefire.

Now, if one looks plainly at a call for a ceasefire it seems harmless. A ceasefire of course is a stop of military action between two warring parties therefore for there to be a meaningful ceasefire both Israel and Hamas must lay down their weapons. One can trust Israel to do so but we have seen countless times that Hamas are not in the business of peace.

If Israel lays down her arms, Hamas will continue its campaign of terror and destruction, its campaign of pogroms to put fear in the hearts of the Jewish people. To call for a ceasefire is to call for Israel to surrender and give in to Hamas and these Labour councillors know that. They know that Hamas will not stop its campaign of terror if Israel lays down her arms, they inherently don’t believe that Israel has the right to defend herself because they do not believe Israel has a right to exist.

This shows that the old rot in the Labour Party has not been pulled out. It is still an ever-present stream in the blood of the British Labour Party. They have not changed, not really nor will they ever.

One might argue that although the rot remains in Labour, Sir Keir is an ally who is trying to make the change I’m calling for. I would argue back that if he was such an ally, so opposed to the horrid antisemitism in his party, why did he stick with Jeremy Corbyn when others around him resigned knowing full well the extent of his antisemitism? 

His allyship, like his supposed reform of the Labour Party, is nothing but smoke and mirrors. I find it impossible to believe anything Sir Keir says especially when it comes to his party’s stance on antisemitism. 

What is apparent, however, is that he is trying to ride both horses; trying to appease two sides of his party and that is not effective. If he stands by his convictions when it comes to dealing with antisemitism, he needs to choose a side and stick to it – the 250 Labour councillors be damned. 

Barnet’s Labour group has been offered an opportunity to reply to this comment piece which has been accepted – and their response will be published later this week.

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