Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of having “gravely misrepresented” a meeting with Muslim leaders in south Wales over the weekend, amid anger among some in Labour over the party leader’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
In a statement published late on Tuesday by the South Wales Islamic Centre, it apologised for the “hurt and confusion” caused by hosting Sir Keir.
The Labour leader visited the centre on Sunday, posting images showing him meeting figures from the local community.
I was grateful to hear from the Muslim community of the South Wales Islamic Centre.
I repeated our calls for all hostages to be released, more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, for the water and power to be switched back on, and a renewed focus on the two state solution. pic.twitter.com/CkyPDDnXtp
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 22, 2023
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, he said: “I was grateful to hear from the Muslim community of the South Wales Islamic Centre.
“I repeated our calls for all hostages to be released, more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, for the water and power to be switched back on, and a renewed focus on the two state solution.”
He said he was “questioned by members” and “made clear it is not and has never been my view that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines. International law must be followed”.
Sir Keir has faced a backlash from Muslim and left-wing members over previous comments on Israel, after he appeared to suggest in an LBC interview that “Israel does have that right” to cut off power and water.
The Labour leader has since denied he ever backed Israel withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza and has sought to clarify his remarks about the Israeli-imposed siege of Gaza, which has sparked concerns about a humanitarian crisis in the region.
The centre’s statement said: “We wish to stress Keir Starmer’s social media post and images gravely misrepresented our congregants and the nature of the visit.
“We affirm, unequivocally, the need for a free Palestine. We implore all those with political authority to uphold international law, and to end the occupation of Palestine.”
The centre said it wanted to “apologise for the hurt and confusion that our hosting of this visit has caused”.
It added: “Our intention was to raise the concerns of the Muslim community around the suffering if Palestinians, and so we hosted an event initially with local representatives on the issue, and the knowledge of Keir Starmer’s attendance was given at short notice.
“There was a robust and frank conversation which reflected the sentiments Muslim communities are feeling at this time. Members of the community directly challenged Keir on his statements made on the Israeli Government’s right to cut food, electricity and water to Gaza, warranting war crimes as well as his failure to call for an immediate ceasefire.”