Image Credit: Anders Sandberg

Oxford Labour councillors resign after Starmer’s comment on Gaza

Two councillors in Oxford have resigned from the Labour Party following Sir Keir Starmer’s comments on recent attacks in Israel and Gaza.

Shaista Aziz and Dr Amar Latif, both on the Oxford City Council, resigned from the party following a comment made by Starmer on Wednesday. He stated that Israel “has the right” to defend itself when questioned about a blockade restricting necessities from civilians in Gaza. 

Ms Aziz, who has served on the council since 2018, told the Oxford Mail that she was “appalled” at these words. She emphasised that whilst she was “devastated” by Hamas’ attack on Israel, politicians must “evok[e] humanity” and “put an end to collective punishment in Gaza”. 

She also condemned Israel’s response because it “contravenes international law”. Sir Keir Starmer, when contacted again by the LBC regarding his comments, stood by his previous statement, but added that “everything should be done within international law”. 

Mr Latif, who has served in Cowley since 2021, also expressed his disappointment in Starmer’s response to a crisis “unlike any other”. He said that he expects Starmer has done this “because he’s afraid of losing votes”. 

Both councillors had contacted national and local leadership for “urgent clarification” of the issue, given their concerns over the “direct contravention of international law”. They did not hear back, so immediately resigned, viewing Labour’s response as one which demonstrated “the lack of humanity and regard for the rights of the Palestinian people”. They will remain in their seats as independent councillors. 

The Oxford City Council Labour leader Susan Brown expressed that the party “fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself from the indefensible actions of Hamas… in line with international law”. This was to be balanced with “humanitarian access to Gaza”.

Sajjad Malik, Independent councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor of Oxford, analysed the situation as “a wake up call” for Labour. Malik anticipated that Oxford Labour would “lose a big chunk of Muslim votes”.

Image Description: Oxford town hall

Image Credit: Anders Sandberg