Most Britons back immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Israeli arms embargo: Poll

Right and left-wing voters want to see an end to Israel’s war on Gaza and many back a pause on arms sales.

People take part in a protest at University College London in support of Palestinians in Gaza,
People take part in a protest at University College London in support of Palestinians in Gaza [File: Kevin Coombs/Reuters]

London, United Kingdom – More than 70 percent of British people support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a new survey indicates as pressure rises on the government to adopt a firmer stance against Israel.

Among those who voted for the governing Conservative Party in 2019, 67 percent backed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, according to the poll released on Friday and commissioned by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

Eighty-six percent of Labour voters backed the call, while only 8 percent of respondents said there should not be a ceasefire.

The United Kingdom has refused to call for an immediate ceasefire.

In December, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock wrote in The Times, “We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate ceasefire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward.”

Such a call “ignores why Israel is forced to defend itself”, they wrote. “Hamas barbarically attacked Israel and still fires rockets to kill Israeli citizens every day. Hamas must lay down its arms.”

But as the war rages on and bodies pile up across Gaza, a large section of society finds the government’s stance untenable.

The survey has come more than seven months into Israel’s latest and deadliest war on Gaza, which has killed, to date, more than 35,000 people, mostly women and children.

Israeli forces launched a ground invasion of the Strip after Hamas, which governs the enclave, attacked southern Israel on October 7. During that assault, which sharply escalated the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict, 1,139 people were killed and hundreds were taken captive.

“These polls clearly show that both the government and Labour leadership are out of touch with British public opinion. What’s particularly disappointing is the Labour Party’s failure to challenge the government,” Heather, a pro-Palestine activist, told Al Jazeera.

“We’ve started to see Labour frontbenchers back-pedalling on their position on Gaza, and while the term ‘lasting ceasefire’ is now being used by the party, they still refuse to call for an ‘immediate’ ceasefire.”

The poll reflects a sample of 2,053 people, who were surveyed between May 1 and 2.

“The government and the Labour leadership continue to lag sluggishly behind British public opinion by failing to take the decisive actions needed to help bring the horrors we see in Gaza to a swift end – a trend also highlighted in polls across Europe,” said Caabu director Chris Doyle.

“There is little confidence in the leadership of both the main parties in the handling of this major international crisis.”

With Israel expanding its military incursion into Rafah, a densely populated area in southern Gaza, calls for the UK to halt its military ties to Israel have grown louder.

Protesters gather to attend a march in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza
Protesters gather to attend a march in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, in London, UK, April 27, 2024 [File: Hollie Adams/Reuters]

The poll suggested that 55 percent of people support the UK ending the arms sales to Israel for the duration of the war, while 13 percent said they wanted to see a continuation.

Along political lines, 40 percent of Conservative voters believed the UK should stop selling weapons, while just 24 percent were opposed. As for Labour Party voters, 74 percent favour the UK halting deals, compared with only 7 percent who opposed the call.

Cameron said on Sunday that the UK does not directly sell weapons to Israel but grants licences to weapons companies.

“Just to simply announce today that we will change our approach on arms exports, it would make Hamas stronger and it would make a hostage deal less likely,” Cameron told the BBC.

Since the war began, tens of thousands of people have protested in London and other major cities calling for an end to the war.

“They [calls for halting weapons sales] signify that people in this country are not content to sit idly by while elected officials maintain a stance of inaction,” said Heather. “Our government’s ongoing complicity – ranging from providing arms to those committing violence to supporting and excusing genocidal policies – has forced many into action.”

Source: Al Jazeera