More than 100 artists tell Starmer to halt arms sales to Israel if he becomes PM

<span>Steve Coogan is one of the signatories of the letter urging a potential prime minister Keir Starmer to stop arms sales to Israel.</span><span>Photograph: Mike Marsland/WireImage</span>
Steve Coogan is one of the signatories of the letter urging a potential prime minister Keir Starmer to stop arms sales to Israel.Photograph: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Actors including Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes and Juliet Stevenson have joined forces with musicians, writers and directors in calling on Keir Starmer to halt arm sales to Israel if elected prime minister.

The singer Paloma Faith, the film-maker Mike Leigh and the author Michael Rosen are among the more than 100 celebrities who have signed a joint letter, coordinated by Artists for Palestine UK, that urges the Labour leader to “take a stand against the ongoing atrocities committed by Israel” in Gaza.

Related: For Labour, the Gaza crisis is a foreign policy tightrope in waiting

Other high-profile signatories include the actors Dame Harriet Walter, Lena Headey, Riz Ahmed and Maxine Peake.

The call comes the day after Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel seeks the complete destruction of Hamas.

The letter calls on Starmer, as a former human rights lawyer, to “demonstrate [the UK’s] commitment to human rights and international law” by halting arms sales to Israel if he wins the general election.

It adds to the pressure that has already been placed on the Labour leader by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, and more than 50 Labour MPs who have demanded the UK government stop supplying Israel with weapons.

The letter states that more than 35,000 Palestinians have been “murdered” by Israel since the conflict began on 7 October, when Hamas militants assaulted southern Israel and killed an estimated 1,139 people.

“As a former human rights lawyer, you have a unique opportunity to bring about meaningful change by ending UK complicity in war crimes in Gaza,” the letter states. “The UK must no longer remain complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, face arrest warrants from the international criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The joint letter states: “Continuing to sell arms to a country whose leader is accused of such grave violations of international law is morally reprehensible.”

An Israeli government spokesperson, Tal Heinrich, said after the arrest warrants were issued: “We call on the nations of the civilised, free world – nations who despise terrorists and anyone who supports them – to stand by Israel. You should outright condemn this step.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, thousands of people marched across central London to demand the immediate release of Israeli hostages.

A total of 121 people remain unaccounted for after they were kidnapped by Hamas, with at least 37 presumed dead.

A Labour spokesperson said:

“Labour has repeatedly called on the government to publish at least a summary of the legal advice around arms sales, given our serious concerns over the horrifying scenes in Gaza.

“We have been clear that the government must uphold both our domestic and international legal obligations when it comes to arms exports.

“If Labour wins the election, we will assess the most up-to-date legal advice and we will act on what it says.”