Conflicts divide people and dissolve partnerships. The war in Gaza is doing much more. The Middle-East conflict is splitting politicians and sinking alliances in other continents. As old wounds are reopened in Europe, political relationships nurtured with love for long are crumbling. On October 24th, British prime minister Rishi Sunak was asked to respond to a Gaza constituent’s email, which was a litany of wartime woes.
The Slamming Shadow Minister
As members sat spellbound, poignant statements on the plight of Gaza’s children reverberated in the house. The pensive parliamentarians were told that the Israeli attacks on Gaza civilians and innocent children were undeserved “collective punishments.” The slamming shadow development minister, obviously a Palestinian-sympathising left-winger, was urging Mr Sunak to issue a clarion call for a ceasefire in Gaza at once. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/keir- starmer-labour-gaza-ceasefire-israel-b2437689.html
Despite Mr Sunak’s discomfiture, his diplomatic replies affirming Israel’s right and his assurances to help embattled Palestinians, the storm in the house raged on. As the situation was more uncomfortable for the shadow minister’s centre-left Labour party and its leader Sir Keir Starmer, the demand for ceasefire in Gaza ended dividing the Labour. This is emblematic of what is happening across much of the world.
Video Courtesy: Youtube/Sky News
Set to Split the Labourites
The discomfiture of the left has been on full display ever since the terrorist Hamas ignited the war with its attack on Israel on October 7th. Politicians from Britain’s left have been squirming in their seats for over three weeks, unable to offer unifying statements on the war in Gaza. Mr Starmer has been in the eye of a political storm unleashed by his own Labour party. The party is firm on backing pro-Palestine politicians in Europe. https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-keir-starmer-fragile-labour- party-unity-collapse-over-israel-hamas-war/
The storm is set to split the opposition Labour further. Already, the Scottish Labour leader and the Labour mayor of London have called for a ceasefire in Gaza. As the split threatens to polarise Britain’s Conservative and Labour politicians more seriously, Mr Starmer is under immense pressure to join them in their pro-Palestinian chorus. The chorus will convulse British politics in all directions.
British MPs are Growing Divided
Undeniably, Mr Starmer is in a dilemma, his political life’s worst. While he would like to stand with his pro-Palestine colleagues, he may not be prepared to forfeit the backing of his partymen who are dead against Islamic terror. Frozen by this dilemma, Mr Starmer is hoping fervently that internal rifts do not grow into a major storm. Most Labourites like and love him. Mr Starmer is astute enough to take care not to forfeit this goodwill. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-man- who-would-be-britains-next-prime-minister-keir-starmer-labour
The divide within Labour may get more serious. As Labour MPs counter irate constituents, who are angry over Israeli attacks in Gaza, they are shocked to find anger among their colleagues too. The angry Labourites firmly believe that Israel is violating global laws while dealing with Hamas’s terror. Like the rapidly-rising number of pro-Palestinian politicos in France, British MPs too are growing divided on the issue of war in Gaza. Divided, they are standing together.
Absent in Solidarity Shows
Yet, Mr Starmer is in agony to convince his Labour colleagues that he believes in Palestine’s right to get global aid and Israel’s lack of right to suspend essential supplies to Gaza. The Labour rebels are not believing him though. As they continue to hold Mr Starmer too responsible for war crimes, the chances of Labour politicians getting irreconcilably divided are rising. Such divisions are becoming rampant among the left in Europe. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/10/29/sir-keir- starmer-labour-gaza-ceasefire-peter-kyle-shadow-ca/
This is the case in France too. While left-wing rallies backing Gazans roll across France, many key pro-Palestine politicians do not turn up for these solidarity shows. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the populist left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), was a lone exception among leftists, which include the Socialists, the Nupes, the Greens and the Reds (Communists). This shows how deeply divided is Europe over Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Rising to Defend the Euphemism
Mr Melenchon’s reluctance to refer to Hamas as a terrorist group has earned him the displeasure of left parties, liberal groups and rights activists in France. Among the unhappy, the Nupes are the most aggrieved. The Faure socialists and the French Communist Party have already withdrawn their support to the coalition. The dissidents are getting bolder and more strident enough to demand the formation of a new union. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/27/je an-luc-melenchon-french-left-israel-france
As left-wing politicos in France are adamant that Hamas is a ‘resistance movement’ and not a ‘terrorist organisation’, their insistence is triggering a storm within Mr Melenchon’s populist left party. Hardcore left-wingers are rising like waves in France, defending the euphemism. Anyway, Nupes has always been a politically convenient ally, programmed to bring together disparate parties with varied stand on Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and the Middle East.
Israel is Accusing Spain Now
Divisive ideologies like these are making the French parliament notoriously obstructive. Worse, they are polarising the French right and the left further. Partly because Mr Melenchon is trying to earn the goodwill of Muslim voters. Historically too, his party has always been pro-Palestine. This tilted stand is preventing socialist parties in Europe from taking a middle path. Little surprising that Gaza is driving a deep wedge in Europe. https://www.meforum.org/64952/in-sharp-turn-after-hamas- attack-french-rightist
If the war in Gaza can divide politicos in Britain and France, Spain cannot be far behind. As Spain is the incumbent president of the European Union council, polarisation is spreading rapidly across Europe. Prime minister Pedro Sánchez did condemn Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7th. However, Israel is accusing Mr Sanchez of backing Hamas in retaliation for three of his ministers holding Israel responsible for the Gaza attacks and killings.
The Politics of Double Standards
Tragically, in these polarised times, there seems to be different laws for Ukraine and Palestine. Though double-standard politics is dividing much of Europe, Germany is a bit different. As there is broad agreement, among politicians of all hues, on Germany adopting a pro-Israel position, its politicians are not as badly divided as those in Britain or France. Chancellor Olaf Scholz backs Israel and makes no bones about his pro-Israel bias. https://www.dw.com/en/scholz-germanys-only-place-now-is- at-israels-side/a-67072963
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
Sadly, a divided Europe is mired in swamps of charges and counter-charges. While the European Summit on October 6th in Granada voted unanimously for humanitarian assistance to Gazans, Britain and its allies are not for it. Enraged, peace activists and non-profits around the world are slamming Britain and France for being insensitive to human suffering in Gaza. Yet, top European Commission officials continue to back Israel. A clear sign how the war in Gaza has divided the continent.