Gaza and the Left, Here and There

Something strange is happening in American and British politics this year.

According to a report in this week’s Sunday Times, the Labour Party under the leadership of Keir Starmer seems on course not just to win the next general election, but to win with a historic landslide. That poll is showing the Tories falling to below 100 seats, winning none at all outside of England. Many Tory cabinet ministers will lose their seats. Even Rishi Sunak is at risk of losing his. It will be the worst Tory defeat in more than a century.

Labour is on course to win nearly 500 seats. No party that has won a victory on this scale has ever lost power within the following decade. We appear to be heading not just for a Labour victory, but for Labour remaining in power until at least 2034.

And this is happening despite Keir Starmer’s position on the war in Gaza, which has been nearly identical to that of U.S. President Joe Biden. Starmer was quick to denounce the Hamas attack on 7 October and to defend Israel’s right to self-defence.

His statements, particularly one that defended Israel’s right to cut off water and power to Gaza, enraged many of the people who have been demonstrating on a regular basis in the streets of London and elsewhere.

The polls show that whatever reservations some people may have with Starmer’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war, support for Labour has continued to rise — not to fall.

Meanwhile in the United States, polls have indicated for some time that Biden and the Democrats are in big trouble. Former president Donald Trump seems to be on course to be re-elected in November.

Part of the reason why Biden is finding re-election so challenging is his position on the war in Gaza. There are large swathes of Democratic voters, including young people and Black people, who are turning against him, accusing him of indifference to suffering by Palestinians.

So why is this happening? Starmer is on course to win a historic victory, Biden is heading for possible defeat, despite both men taking nearly identical positions on Gaza.

Part of the reason may be that the United States has lagged behind the U.K. when it comes to pro-Palestinian sentiment. Here, 15 years ago it was common for trade unions to call for boycotts of Israel. In the U.S., such a thing was unthinkable back then.

The result here was the eventual election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader — one of the most outspokenly pro-Palestinian politicians in the country. Corbyn led Labour to its worst electoral defeat since the 1930s. One cause of that defeat was the feeling that Labour had become a comfortable home for antisemites.

The U.S. has not experienced anything like that. No political leader like Corbyn has emerged. There may be a lot of angry college students out there throwing around expressions like “Genocide Joe” — but there doesn’t seem to be far-Left, pro-Hamas faction gaining traction in American politics.

I don’t know if the American Left needs to go through something like what we’ve gone through here in Britain, learning the hard way what a dead-end Corbynism turned out to be.

Support for Labour and the Democrats seem to be drawing heavily on dislike of their opponents. No Democrat or liberal wants to see Trump back in the White House. No Labour voter can bear the thought of another Tory government any time soon. This is a cause for hope.

But the growing support in America for radical Islamist groups like Hamas is not good for the Democrats or the country. It must be reversed.

This article appears in this week’s issue of Solidarity.