Senior Labour MP John McDonnell urged supporters of the Palestinian people to “mobilise” to press for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel to prevent a possible “annihilation of civilians” in Gaza.
The former shadow chancellor told a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) event on the fringe of the Labour conference that the Middle East could be set “alight” in a way never witnessed before without de-escalation.
Labour leadership has been clear in condemning the wave of killings unleashed by Hamas and backing Israel’s right to respond to free its people taken hostage in Gaza.
But some on the left of the party have spoken up in support of the Palestinian people as Israel implements a full “siege” on more than two million people.
“I’m so fearful, I’m so worried that what’s happening in Gaza now is that we’re seeing almost an annihilation of civilians.
“And therefore everything we have to do now is to mobilise both within our own country, but internationally as well, to try and put pressure on the international community now to ensure that the attacks on Gaza end and that a form of dialogue is opened up to secure initially, at least some form of ceasefire, de-escalation, and then hopefully the first steps to a longer term solution.
“And I know, I know we’ve been here so often before but I’m not sure we’ve been here on this scale of the potential loss of life, civilian loss of life in particular.
“If this continues on in this form, it could set the Middle East alight again on a scale we’ve not seen, maybe, ever.”
Shadow exports minister Afzal Khan was forced to apologise after posing for a photograph in front of a Palestinian flag saying “end apartheid now” at the PSC stall at the conference.
Mick Whelan, the general secretary of the Aslef trade union, urged Labour supporters at the event to peacefully demonstrate in support of Palestinian people.
“If anybody in this room believes that this movement, this party, shouldn’t be on the side of everybody for a peaceful and just solution for self-determination, then we shouldn’t be in the Labour Party,” he said.
“I urge you to go out and call for the rights of self-determination for the Palestinian people, the most peaceful and best way possible, as quickly as possible.”
Ben Jamal, the PSC director, criticised Rishi Sunak and London Mayor Sadiq Khan for having “emblazoned” public buildings with the Israeli flag, arguing the symbol should be extended to “all civilians who will have been killed in the past few days and will be killed in the coming weeks”.
“It can only be interpreted as an endorsement of an ongoing military occupation, support for human rights violations and as a green light for the Israeli government to proceed with intended war crimes,” he added.