Labor must sack David Lammy for backing this absurd ICC warrant

Law enforcement has frequently been used by activists to support their causes.

How often do we see vexatious complaints made to the police about this or that politician’s behavior, when it’s pretty clear that Plod has no role in whatever argument is being fought?

As the world’s only Jewish state continues to frustrate its critics by refusing to be wiped off the map, anti-Israel activists have increasingly resorted to the same tactic. Until now, the attempted arrests of Israeli officials when they arrive in foreign countries has been little more than performative activism, aimed at generating publicity for the cause rather than serving the demands of international justice.

But the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek arrest warrants for both the Israeli prime minister and Hamas leaders has stepped up this tiresome little game to dangerous levels.

As President Joe Biden has said, to draw any sort of moral equivalence between the Islamist terrorists, rapists and murderers of Hamas with the leader of a democratically-elected government in the midst of a war that was initiated by those self-same terrorists is outrageous . It is virtue-signalling on a global scale and it is completely unjustified.

So naturally, David Lammy has backed it.

The shadow foreign secretary has not only supported the move by the ICC to seek arrest warrants, but he used his contribution in the House of Commons yesterday to score party political points over the government. This is itself a worrying departure; the international fight against terrorism has, until now, been a cross-party affair. Each side had its own priorities and emphasis, but there was a unified strategy, and the international community knew where Britain stood: against Islamist terrorists and in support of democracy.

Lammy chose to make his points slowly – perhaps to allow for applause? – and with portentous solemnity, perhaps hoping that he was coming across as a serious-minded statesman. I’ve waited in vain.

What came across instead was the culmination of the rather transparent political predicament into which the Labor Party appears to have fallen. Keir Starmer took the initial lead on behalf of his party when, in the wake of the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, he struck an uncompromising stance in Israel’s favor. Naturally this infuriated much of his party, whose analysis of the Middle East has not moved on much since its senior common room days and its distillation of the historical and political complexities of the region into handy, bite-sized slogans to be repeated, loudly and With unwarranted confidence, at the weekly anti-Israel demonstrations we have been forced to witness since Israel dared to defend itself.

The local elections earlier this month confirmed Labour’s fears that at least a section of the Muslim vote, on which the party could previously rely, had defected it as a direct result of its support for Israel. Lammy’s absurd response to the ICC’s actions must be interpreted in light of his party’s response to this plight.

It is, regrettably, as a consequence of long-term opposition that political parties, on certain issues, forget that it is not necessary to pursue policies that are popular, only policies that are right. Indulging the anti-Israel sentiments of the kind of people who enjoy singing the genocidal ditty, “From the river to the sea”, may serve to blunt those people’s criticism of you for a time, but they will return – they always return – with more, and even less reasonable, demands which, if you reject them, will only intensify their hatred of you.

It would have been possible for Lammy to grant the ICC’s right to pursue its stated course of action while decrying its conclusions. He certainly should have taken issue with the court’s implication that Hamas and the Israeli government are somehow equivalent in terms of moral culpability for the current conflict. For they are not. Criticize Israel’s military strategy by all means, but do not assume for even an instant that they are anything other than thousands above the moral cesspit in which Hamas and its supporters dwell.

Why didn’t Lammy say any of this? We are left with the unappetizing conclusion that he was playing to the gallery, appealing to his own party and to his supporters – and, of course, his recently lost supporters of him. The man who aspires to be this country’s next foreign secretary was turning his back, not only on two of our closest international allies (for in failing to challenge the ICC’s broken moral compass, he has shunned President Biden too) but on a political consensus that has been integral to this nation’s fight against the evil of international Islamism.

As Prime Minister, Keir Starmer will have to think seriously about who he puts in charge of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. There are many better – and better qualified – candidates than David Lammy.