Lewisham mayor candidate distributed leaflet calling Keir Starmer Israel’s ‘puppet’

By Staff

A candidate vying to be Lewisham’s new mayor distributed a flyer calling Sir Keir Starmer Israel’s ‘puppet’ and posed with a placard that depicted a swastika above a Star of David. John Hamilton is the Workers Party of Britain candidate for the Lewisham mayoral by-election on Thursday (March 7).

Mr Hamilton was handing out the flyer, which refers to the Labour Party leader as Israel’s ‘puppet’, to passers-by outside Lewisham Council’s Catford offices on Friday afternoon last week (March 1). The leaflet reads: “Starmer’s Labour Party is falling apart. Any criticism of Israel is labelled ‘anti-semitic’. He is their puppet.”

Speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement’s conference last month, Starmer said: “Let me assure you, we will never let antisemitism sneak back into the Labour Party under cover. I see no greater cause in my leadership than this. This is my role.”

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When contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mr Hamilton denied that calling Mr Starmer Israel’s ‘puppet’ was antisemitic and said he was ‘sorry’ if the remarks caused offence. Mr Hamilton added: “He [Keir Starmer] does receive money from Zionist supporters and that’s a matter of record. I don’t see what’s antisemitic about saying he’s a puppet.”

In October 2023, Mr Hamilton attended a demonstration with a placard that said ‘STOP War Crimes’. On the sign was written ‘Lidice’ and ‘Oradour,’ two Nazi massacres in the 1940s. A swastika was drawn next to each massacre referenced. Below this was written ‘Deir Yassin’, a 1948 massacre of Palestinian Arabs by Zionist paramilitary groups, and ‘Gaza’. A Star of David was drawn next to ‘Deir Yassin’ and ‘Gaza’.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by the UK government, says that ‘drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ can be an example of antisemitism. This IHRA definition has been criticised by some academics.

Mr Hamilton admitted to the LDRS that the placard breached the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, but said he didn’t regard the sign as antisemitic. He said: “If you want to call that antisemitism then so be it. The definition was created by Zionists to be as encompassing as possible. Any plain thinking person can see that the instances to which I referred are similar.

While speaking at a hustings in Catford last Friday (March 1), Mr Hamilton said he was ‘surprised’ by a report from charity Community Security Trust (CST) that reported there had been a rise in antisemitism in the UK. Mr Hamilton told the LDRS he could no longer find the report he was referring to.

A report published by the CST in February this year about antisemitic incidents in 2023 said there were 266 assaults in 2023, an increase of 96 per cent from the 136 reported in 2022.

Mr Hamilton added: “I am not antisemitic. Two of my grandparents are Jewish. Why would I be? I just want to see fairness in all respects and not a foreign country whose policies I don’t agree with trying to influence British politics.”

MyLondon reached out to Kier Starmer’s press team for comment but they did not reply in time for publication.

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