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Israel critic Andrew Feinstein to challenge Labour's Keir Starmer

Nelson Mandela's former South African colleague is standing for election on a platform that includes opposition to the ongoing war on Gaza
Feinstein was a South African MP under the late President Nelson Mandela (Supplied)
Feinstein was a South African MP under the late President Nelson Mandela (Supplied)

Former South African MP and anti-apartheid campaigner Andrew Feinstein announced on Tuesday that he will challenge Labour leader Keir Starmer in the upcoming British general election.

In a statement, Feinstein said he would stand on a platform that prioritised local issues, such as the state of the NHS and the housing market, as well as opposition to the UK's participation in "never-ending wars".

While Starmer's Labour is ahead of its rivals, the ruling Conservative party, in opinion polls, the party is concerned that its early support for Israel in the ongoing war on Gaza might cost it support amongst traditionally Labour-leaning Muslim and leftist voters.

Feinstein, a critic of Israel's conduct towards Palestinians - which he compares to the treatment of Black South Africans under the apartheid system - could siphon away significant support from Starmer in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency in London.

“Trust in politics is at an all-time low. I speak day in, day out to Holborn and St Pancras residents and they say they feel ignored and taken for granted, so have turned off from the political process," Feinstein said.

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“Their MP Keir Starmer doesn’t talk about the housing crisis in Camden, poverty, the state of our NHS, the climate emergency or the genocide happening before our eyes in Gaza. Local people are crying out for change, not more of the same from Labour and the Tories," he added.

Feinstein served as an MP for Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) during the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa in 1994.

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After resigning from his seat in 2001, he moved to the UK and later joined the Labour Party, becoming a supporter of its left-wing faction, which took on the party's leadership between 2015 and 2020 under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The son of a Holocaust survivor and of Jewish origin, Feinstein has lived in Camden, which partly falls under Starmer's constituency, since moving to London.

A backer of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Feinstein has split with the Labour Party as it moves further to the right.

Part of that rightward tilt has been more vocal support of Israel, including its devastating war on Gaza.

Starmer was an early backer of Israel's decision to cut off food, energy and water supplies to the besieged Palestinian territory, and in a major speech argued against a ceasefire which he claimed would "freeze" the conflict.

Following a push for a parliamentary vote on an immediate ceasefire called by the Scottish National Party in late February, Labour called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" and the release of all captives held by Hamas.

In parliament on Monday, the Labour Party expressed support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced plans to seek arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders.

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