6 Labour councillors on Oxford City Council have resigned over the Labour leadership’s refusal to condemn collective punishment of Palestinians.
At a meeting of the Oxford and District Labour party, Cllr Imogen Thomas outlined her reasons for leaving the party, and was joined by 4 other councillors: the Whip of the City Council Labour Group, Cllr Edward Mundy, Cllr Paula Dunne, Cllr Duncan Hall, and Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini.
In a speech announcing her resignation, Cllr Thomas said
“The UN has ruled that Gaza is still under Israeli occupation. Under international law, the occupying power is responsible for meeting the needs of its population. However, since at least 2007, Gaza has been under blockade; an act illegal under international law.
“The Labour leadership, locally and nationally, has sought to actively silence members and representatives who have acted to highlight violations of international law, banning motions, as we’ve seen, from branches, strongly advising councillors against attending demonstrations.”
A further shock resignation came at the end of the meeting, when the Chair of the Oxford and District Labour Party, Cllr Jabu Nala-Hartley also announced her intention to stand down with immediate effect. She will join the other 5 councillors who resigned on Friday evening in establishing a new independent group of opposition councillors.
The councillors also released a statement(below) further outlining their reasons for leaving.
In the statement, the 6 councillors said: “At a time when it’s been crucial to call for an immediate ceasefire and a de-escalation, and to insist Israel abides by international law, Keir Starmer and the shadow Foreign Secretary have instead endorsed collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties. As Starmer has said, “Israel has that right” to continue deadly attacks on Gazans. This is complicity in war crimes.”
The resignations take the total up to 8 in Oxford Labour city councillors this month and will mean at the City Council, Labour is now down to 24 councillors, versus 24 who are in opposition.
Cllr Jabu Nala-Hartley, former Chair of the ODLP who resigned on the night, said:
“I am deeply troubled by the leadership of the Labour Party’s stance on Gaza. As a woman who was raised under Apartheid it is even more troubling that labour leadership should choose this route.”
Resignee Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, said
Having spent my working life practising as a hospital doctor and having witnessed the impact of poverty as a councillor in Northfield Brook, I know that it is the environment in which we live, work and grow that determines our health and wellbeing. The people of Palestine and Gaza have endured the impact of occupation, siege and apartheid since 1948. It is time to end the cycles of violence and devastating inequity for the sake of all residents in Israel and Palestine.’”
Statement in full
We are six Labour councillors on Oxford City Council, and tonight we announced our resignation from the party whip at an all members meeting. We are leaving the Labour Party with immediate effect.
Each of us became Labour councillors as we believe in the values of social democracy and internationalism, justice and human rights for all. These are the values we hold dear in our communities in Oxford, as councillors and as Labour Party members.
Over the last few days, we have witnessed horrific escalations of violence unfold in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. In our twin city of Ramallah alone, in the West Bank, dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the last week, and we send our solidarity to their loved ones and the many more who have been injured. The cycles of violence against all civilians across Israel and Palestine need to stop, with an immediate ceasefire and end to the Israeli occupation in Palestine.
An understanding of the situation in Gaza cannot be achieved without situating the current violence within its historical and political context. The United Nations has ruled that Gaza is still under Israeli occupation and therefore, under international law, the occupying power is responsible for meeting the needs of its population. However, since at least 2007, Gaza has been under blockade – an act illegal under international law.
Collective punishment is strictly against international law under the Geneva Conventions. The cutting off of water, food, humanitarian aid and electricity is a clear war crime; the UN described ordering 1 million civilians to flee the north of Gaza as a ‘death sentence’ for those hospitalised; putting civilians in danger through indiscriminate bombardment of heavily populated areas – bombing of ‘safe routes’, mosques, ambulances, UN schools, residential blocks, are all considered crimes under international law. 3,800 people, including 853 children, have been killed in 12 days. It is the duty of the international community to bring war criminals to justice.
At a time when it’s been crucial to call for an immediate ceasefire and a de-escalation, and to insist Israel abides by international law, Keir Starmer and the shadow Foreign Secretary have instead endorsed collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties. As Starmer has said, “Israel has that right” to continue deadly attacks on Gazans. This is complicity in war crimes. This matters. The UK provides military and diplomatic support for the Israeli state and a call from the leader of the opposition to de-escalate and follow international law would have been heard. Instead, the green light was unambiguously given to Israel.
The Labour party leadership has sought to silence members and representatives who have sought to highlight these violations of international law, banning motions from branches, and strongly advising councillors against attending demonstrations. This is a direct threat to our democratic rights. This is at a time when more than ever calls for a ceasefire and ending the bloodshed are needed. This at a time when the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, when our sister organisations in Palestine, when the people of Gaza, are looking to us for solidarity.
In light of both the abdication of the Labour Party’s historic responsibility to stand for international law and human rights, and the typically authoritarian and undemocratic manner in which this position was enforced, we no longer feel we can serve as Labour councillors.
We have been proud to represent our communities and do not take the decision to resign from Labour lightly. In a choice between serving our parties or justice, we have chosen justice.
All six of us will remain as Independent councillors continuing to work tirelessly in our wards, and addressing the huge inequalities we see in Oxford with socialist principles at the heart of our work.
Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Northfield Brook Ward
Cllr Paula Dunne, Cowley Ward
(Resignation of Trade Union Liaison Officer for Oxford & District Labour Party)
Cllr Jabu Nala-Hartley, Barton & Sandhills Ward
(Resignation of Chair for Oxford & District Labour Party)
Cllr Duncan Hall, Northfield Brook Ward
Cllr Edward Mundy, Holywell Ward
(Resignation of Labour Group Whip at Oxford City Council)
Cllr Imogen Thomas, Holywell Ward
(Resignation of Labour Group Chair at Oxford City Council & Women’s Officer for Oxford & District Labour Party)