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UK election sees rise of anti-Israel independents

“We are seeing the emergence of an explicitly Islamic domestic politics with members elected on explicitly Islamic tickets," wrote onservative author and thinker Mark Steyn.

A demonstrator waves Palestinian flag while chanting slogans during a protest in Parliament Square in London on Feb. 21, 2024.Photo by Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.
A demonstrator waves Palestinian flag while chanting slogans during a protest in Parliament Square in London on Feb. 21, 2024.Photo by Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images.

The Labour Party’s landslide in last week’s U.K. elections came as no surprise. What did was the success of the “pro-Gaza independents.” All ran on the issue of “Palestine” and Gaza, in heavily Muslim districts.

Shockat Adam, Adnan Hussain, Ayoub Khan and Iqbal Hussain Mohamed unseated four Labour members of parliament.

As one British headline blared: “Pro-Palestinian MPs become ‘sixth largest’ party in shock Labour defeats.”

The “Gaza bloc” capitalized on anger toward the Labour Party among Muslim voters who believe Labour hasn’t done enough against Israel and for “Palestine” in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Though Labour performed well overall, it did poorly in areas with high Muslim populations.

In constituencies where more than 10% of the population identified as Muslim, Labour’s vote dipped an average of 11% points. Where 20% or more of the population identified as Muslim, the party’s vote dropped an average of 23 points. In a 40% Muslim constituency, Labour sank an average of 33.9 points.

Political observers expressed dismay at the victories of the Gaza independents, describing them as “horrifying,” “total, utter failures of integration” and “the rise of sectarian voting.”

Jake Wallis Simons, editor of The Jewish Chronicle, writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, said “under cover of darkness, a shocking new act crept into the tent. An insurgent force has entered British politics.”

He described a new reality where candidates run on “deeply sectarian principles” and owe “their allegiances purely to religious and ethnic interests.”

Journalist Stephen Pollard, also in the Chronicle, noting that there are 73 seats with a 10% to 20% Muslim population, pointed out that “the Muslim vote has always mattered, but until now it has not split away from the mainstream into candidates using divisive campaigns to appeal almost entirely and only to Muslims.”

Both Pollard and Simons pointed the finger at the Muslim Vote, a group seeking to unite the country’s 4 million Muslims into a voting bloc. The Muslim Vote quickly took credit for the victories of the pro-Gaza independents.

“If you look at what the Muslim Vote has said in the last 24 hours, they’re absolutely gearing up for this to be the beginning, not the end,” political commentator and journalist Charlotte Littlewood told Britain’s TalkTV online news channel on Sunday.

Conservative author and thinker Mark Steyn wrote on Friday, “We are seeing the emergence of an explicitly Islamic domestic politics with members elected on explicitly Islamic tickets. Four ‘pro-Gaza’ MPs doesn’t sound like a lot, but, for purposes of comparison, it’s exactly the same number as Nigel Farage’s Reform Party managed to elect.”

(Although Farage’s party received many more votes, the Gaza independents did so well because the Muslim population is geographically concentrated.)

“I would account the rise of a separate Islamic political force that no longer needs to work within the established parties as the most significant development of last night—and not in a good way: This is Britain’s future,” said Steyn.

‘We will continue to fight until death’

Shockat Adam’s victory may have been the most staggering, as he unseated Jon Ashworth, who was to serve as a Cabinet minister in Labour leader Keir Starmer’s government and had held the Leicester constituency for 13 years. Adam ousted the incumbent by 979 votes.

“This is for the people of Gaza,” Adam declared, holding up a keffiyeh when the results were announced.

Adam served as Leicester chairman of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), a group that was put on the extremist list by the U.K. government for seeking to establish an “Islamic state governed by shariah law,” according to then-Communities Secretary Michael Gove.

Independent Ayoub Kahn, who beat Labour’s candidate in North Birmingham’s Perry Barr constituency, also dedicated his win to the people of Gaza.

Kahn left the Liberal Democrat Party to run as an independent when the party ordered an investigation after he called into question the events of the Hamas massacre in Israel on Oct. 7. He subsequently refused the party’s offer of antisemitism training.

Adnan Hussein of Lancashire’s Blackburn constituency said post-victory, “This is for Gaza. I cannot deny that I stand here as the result of a protest vote on the back of a genocide.” During the campaign, he was filmed shouting, “We will raise our voice for Gaza! We will continue to fight until death, inshallah!”

Iqbal Mohamed of the newly created West Yorkshire constituency Dewsbury and Batley said in a statement shortly before polls opened, “Both main parties have given their full support to the genocide in Palestine and continue to sell arms that are used to kill innocent civilians in breach of international law.”

Mohamed said during the campaign, “Go home. Find every brand, every product that has been supporting Israel and Zionism from the beginning of time and throw it away.”

‘Lend Gaza your vote’

There was a fifth “Gaza” independent—Jeremy Corbyn, who won re-election in his London constituency of Islington North. He beat the Labour candidate by more than 7,000 votes.

Corbyn, who was ousted from the Labour Party in 2020 over charges of antisemitism, made no bones about his platform. On July 4, the day of the vote, he tweeted, “Today, Palestine is on the ballot. If you re-elect me as an Independent MP in Islington North, I promise to always stand up for the people of Gaza, and for the only path to a just and lasting peace: an end to the occupation of Palestine.”

After his win, he tweeted, “Our message to the government: we are a movement for Palestine, and we are never, ever going away.”

Pro-Gaza independents came close to winning a number of other seats. In East London’s Ilford North, Leanne Mohamad came within 528 votes of beating Wes Streeting, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Labour’s Shabana Mahmoud, now serving as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, nearly lost her Birmingham Ladywood seat to Akhmed Yakoob, whose campaign posters urged residents to “lend Gaza your vote.”

Labour’s Jess Phillips squeaked out a victory against independent challenger Jody McIntyre of George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain. Phillips won by just 693 votes.

In their victory speeches, both Phillips and Mahmoud complained of harassment during their campaigns. During her speech, Phillips was interrupted by pro-Palestinian hecklers.

“This election has been the worst election I have ever stood in,” she said. She said her campaign had to put in regular calls to the police.

Noteworthy is that Phillips and Mahmoud could hardly be considered friends of Israel. In November, Phillips quit the Labour frontbench and her position as a shadow minister to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mahmoud has a history of supporting BDS. In 2014, she joined a protest against a supermarket for stocking goods from Israeli settlements.

In March, she called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. “The conduct of this war has been intolerable, with a disproportionate level of attacks on innocent people that has rightly been the [subject of] deliberations in international courts,” she said, according to the Chronicle.

There are strong indications of the policy changes the pro-Gaza independents will demand from the Labour government.

After May 2 local elections, the Muslim Vote issued an 18-point list to Starmer, demanding that he cut military ties with Israel, oppose a BDS bill, let public entities boycott Israel, allow Muslim prayer in school and scrap a law that makes it a criminal offense for religious leaders to tell their congregations how to vote.

Seeing the loss of its heretofore reliable Muslim voters may be all the pressure the Labour Party needs to institute policy changes detrimental to Israel.

LabourList, which focuses on party news, reported on Sunday that in one of Starmer’s first international calls since taking office, he pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire.

Starmer then called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and said that Palestinians had an “undeniable right” to statehood.

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