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David Lammy’s speech disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters

David Lammy has said he backs US calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state when the war in the Middle East ends, and branded Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the plans “unacceptable”.
David Lammy has said he backs US calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state when the war in the Middle East ends, and branded Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the plans “unacceptable”.

David Lammy’s speech calling for a ceasefire in Gaza was disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary was addressing the Fabian Society conference on foreign policy when flag-waving demonstrators mounted the stage shouting: “When will you condemn the genocide? How many more children need to die?”

After they were escorted away by security, more people in the audience stood up to launch verbal attacks on the party’s stance on the Middle East conflict.

Once Mr Lammy returned after being temporarily rushed backstage, he joked: “I was born in Tottenham, don’t worry.”

Amid repeated heckling, the Labour frontbencher told the audience in London’s Guildhall: “We all want to see a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.

“I want change through power, not through protest.”

The Free Palestine Coalition said some of its activists infiltrated the think tank’s gathering to “call out” the politician’s position on Gaza.

“As a former lawyer, Lammy should know better than to falsely claim that an occupying power has the right to ‘defend itself’ against a territory it occupies,” the network of grassroots groups said in a statement.

“It is difficult to see how Lammy is upholding any commitment to human rights or international law as we enter into the 106th day of Israel’s unrelenting assault on Gaza.”

In his speech, Mr Lammy went on to express support for a Palestinian state when the war ends and branded Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the plans morally and practically “wrong”.

“The peaceful quest for a Palestinian state is a just cause and the only path to guarantee a just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

“The Israeli government must immediately change their approach. From the pain and despair, new will and a new political process must emerge to make two states a reality.”

Mr Lammy also said a Labour government would start urgent diplomatic talks on the creation of a new International Contact Group to take over from the defunct Quartet – the UN, US, EU and Russia – to coordinate with western and Arab partners over peace in the region.

Labour will revive “preventative diplomacy”, he said, adding: “A decade of diplomatic indifference has enabled the enemies of peace, security, and two states.”

Earlier, the senior Labour MP told the BBC the Israeli prime minister’s opposition to a state for the Palestinians would mean “occupation and siege continues” in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll is approaching 25,000, according to local health authorities.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with the offensive in Gaza for many months despite mounting pressure on Israel to rein in its military action as the scale of death and destruction intensifies.

In a press conference earlier this week, he also said he opposed US calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as part of any post-war plan.

But US president Joe Biden voiced hope that it was still possible even while Mr Netanyahu remains in office, following a call with the Israeli leader on Friday – their first talks in nearly a month.

Mr Biden said Mr Netanyahu was not opposed to all two-state solutions, and there was a number of possible ideas.

Mr Lammy told the Today programme Mr Biden was “right”, adding: “And I have to say, I think Netanyahu’s words were unacceptable.

“Of course, the Palestinian people deserve a state and if they don’t, the consequence of that is either one state in which Benjamin Netanyahu would have to explain how Palestinians and Israelis live side-by-side with equal rights, or no state, in which what he’s really saying is occupation and siege continues.”

The Labour frontbencher was echoing Sir Keir Starmer, who hardened his tone towards the Israeli prime minister by branding his position over a future Palestinian state as “unacceptable”.

The Labour leader has faced divisions in his party over the war and was criticised for refusing to back a ceasefire in favour of calling for humanitarian pauses earlier in the conflict.

He supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Hamas in Gaza, but has more recently strengthened his position and called for a sustainable ceasefire.

He told talkSport on Saturday a sustainable ceasefire is needed to “open up a political route to a solution”.

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan branded Mr Netanyahu “the roadblock to peace”.

The London Mayor told the Fabian Society event: “It should worry us that the Israeli prime minister and members of his cabinet have walked away from a two-state solution.

“I think it’s really important to recognise when you look across the globe, whether it’s South Africa, whether it’s Sri Lanka, whether it’s on our doorstep in Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is possible to achieve peace.

“It is possible for people who in decades before hated each other, killed each other, to live side by side.

“It won’t be possible with the roadblock we’ve got with Netanyahu.”

Press Association – Sophie Wingate