In Britain, Shockwaves From Israel-Hamas War Are Jolting Domestic Politics

Inside Britain’s Parliament, lawmakers jeered, booed, and stormed out of the House of Commons to protest the speaker’s handling of a vote calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Outside, a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators projected the slogan, “From the river to the sea,” on to the facade of Big Ben, drawing denunciations from those who view it as a rallying cry for the eradication of Israel.

The chaotic scenes in London last week captured how Israel’s war in Gaza is reverberating far beyond the Middle East. From the United States to Europe, the brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants and Israel’s devastating response has inflamed passions, upended politics, and heightened tensions within Muslim and Jewish communities.

The fights are not only over intractable questions of war, peace, and moral justice. In Britain, political parties and the public are not actually that divided over how to respond to Gaza; a solid majority back a cease-fire. Instead, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also become a cudgel for opponents to brandish against each other.

The governing Conservative Party seized on anti-Israel comments made by a Labour Party parliamentary candidate to accuse Labour of failing to stamp out a legacy of anti-Semitism in its ranks. Labour pointed to disparaging comments by a Tory lawmaker about London’s Muslim mayor as evidence of simmering Islamophobia among Conservatives.

Both parties maneuvered furiously in Parliament over the cease-fire resolution, not because they differed much on the substance but because the Conservatives saw a chance to surface rifts within Labour over Britain’s initial backing of Israel.

Police officers near the Houses of Parliament in London during a pro-Palestinian protest in November.Credit…Hollie Adams/Reuters

Related Articles

Back to top button