October 17, 2023 - 3:54pm

Just 9% of Labour voters are more sympathetic with Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a new poll has found. 

According to research published by YouGov yesterday, Labour has the lowest percentage of those more sympathetic with Israel out of all three of the major parties, with 39% of Conservative voters and 14% of Liberal Democratic feeling primary sympathy for the Jewish state. Meanwhile, the Labour party has the largest percentage of those more sympathetic with Palestine (27% versus 6% and 7% respectively).

These findings draw a sharp contrast with Keir Starmer’s steadfast support of Israel. Shortly after Hamas’ attack on October 7th, the Labour leader posted on X, formerly Twitter, that “Labour and Britain must stand with Israel” before decrying Hamas’ actions as “terrorism”. Starmer then followed up this statement on LBC, stating that “Israel has the right to defend herself”, even condoning Israel’s move to cut water and electricity from the Strip.

A poll taken by YouGov two days after the attack found that Hamas’ actions did little to sway Labour voter views on the conflict. Sympathy for the Israeli side fell by only 2% (from 11% to 9%) over the week, suggesting that Labour voters are more strident in their opinions than other voters. In the same two polls, there was a seven percentage point rise among Tory voters in favour of Israel, with an equal point shift in the opposite direction for Lib Dem voters.

The Labour leader’s outspoken support for Israel has already exacerbated divisions within the party. During the weekend’s protests over the conflict, an email was sent by the leadership warning MPs against attending out of fears that colleagues may risk sharing a platform with “individuals that threaten to undermine the values and principles of the Labour Party”. One Labour member responded by describing these efforts as a “shocking mindset”.

Other Labour figures have gone further. Over the last week, a trickle of Labour councillors resigned from the party, denouncing Starmer over his support for Israel. Following the resignation of two Oxford councillors last week, Manchester councillor Amna Abdullatif announced that she too would be leaving the party. On X, Abdullatif posted that she had been left “no choice other than to resign the Labour whip and resign from the Labour party due to Keir Starmer and a number of his senior frontbench making horrifying comments about Israel
effectively endorsing a war crime”.

So far, however, Starmer has shown no sign of diluting his support for Israel. Calling Hamas “destroyers of lives, of hope, of peace”, the Labour leader reiterated his calls for a two-state solution in Parliament this week.

While support for Israel and Palestine is close to split among all adults surveyed in the YouGov poll (21% and 15% respectively), there is a far more significant generational divide. Only 11% of 18-24 year-olds are more sympathetic with Israel — a percentage that rises with each age cohort to 37% among 65+. 

A similar age gap can be found in the US too. A recent CNN poll showed that 81% of Americans over 65 agreed with the statement that the Israeli government’s military response to the Hamas attacks is fully justified. Yet this figure falls to barely over a quarter among those aged 18-34 year olds, with 27% agreeing. 

is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.