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Editorial: The moment of truth is fast approaching for MPs over Gaza

WEDNESDAY is a fresh moment of truth for British politicians. For the second time, they will have the opportunity to vote in the House of Commons for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Since they backed the Israeli aggression by a majority last November, the genocidal assault on the Palestinians has only intensified.

More than 100,000 people have now been killed or wounded, nearly 5 per cent of Gaza’s total population. Of the dead, more than a third are children.

To date, the British government has not just acquiesced in this. It has enabled it — with arms supplies, logistical support, diplomatic backing and political indulgence.

It is complicit in genocide. So too is the Labour Party, which under Keir Starmer’s pro-imperialist leadership — it is the only issue on which he never wavers or changes course — has been hard line in its backing for the British and Israeli governments alike.

The last time the matter came before the Commons for a vote, Starmer was forced to endure the biggest rebellion by his own party of his leadership. Ten MPs quit front-bench positions to back a ceasefire, as part of a total of around one-third of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Now, Starmer is clearly desperate to avoid a repetition. He is aware that Labour is haemorrhaging support among British Muslim voters, young people and indeed all sections supporting the vast marches for peace held week-in, week-out across the country.

Therefore the Labour leader and his aides will be poring over the exact wording of the resolution tabled by the Scottish National Party. They are parsing phrases while civilians are being slaughtered.

However Labour MPs are instructed to vote tomorrow it will seem too little and too late to millions. It is plain that Starmer is not actuated by a sudden fit of conscience, but by a combination of political expediency and by the signals coming out of Washington that enough is now enough.

The US too has been paying a political price and enduring diplomatic setbacks because of its support for Netanyahu’s genocide. In the end, its backing for Israel is instrumental, and subordinate to the wider aim of maintaining US hegemony in the Middle East.

So now the Establishment is signalling that it could be time for some form of a pause. Why, we are even told that, four months in, Prince William is “deeply concerned” at the suffering in Gaza.

There is therefore a certain amount of political cover for a shift in Labour’s position. Even diehard Israel supporter Wes Streeting, facing a serious challenge from a peace activist in his Ilford North constituency, has opined that Israel has now “gone too far.”

Should Starmer try to whip his MPs against supporting a ceasefire once more he risks a massive eruption of discontent with his leadership.

The two recent by-election victories are insufficient to efface the problems caused by his abandonment of green investment pledges and his misguided support for Labour’s anti-semitic candidate in Rochdale.

He is walking on political eggshells. Should, however, he move to very belatedly back an end to the Gaza hostilities, he only opens the door to further questions.

If Israel continues to wage war, why sell it the arms to do so? If it scoffs at international law, why not impose sanctions?

At any event, both he and Rishi Sunak have left it far, far too late to pose as politicians for peace.

Every vote for a ceasefire on Wednesday is a tribute only to the mass movement of solidarity with the Palestinians which has been sustained at extraordinary levels.

Whatever the vote, that pressure must be maintained.

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