Tag Archives: gaza

Opinion: Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel’s “Required reading” leaves a lot to be desired

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishReaders may recall that in May, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) aroused controversy by posting a link to an alleged anti-Semitic article about Ed Miliband on its Facebook page. LDFP was roundly condemned for posting this link which was quickly removed. An apology from LDFP followed soon after. It is with this case in mind that I am surprised at the lack of response to what the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) is promoting on its website.

Since 27th June, the LDFI site has featured a number of frankly outrageous articles. Contained within these articles are: baseless accusations of anti-Semitism; opinion pieces stating that protesters in London welcomed 9/11; interview write-ups condemning calls upon Israel to reduce civilian casualties; accusations that western journalists are feigning concern for the deaths of Palestinian children etc. At the time of writing, these articles still feature on the LDFI website. They are described collectively as ‘Required reading on the current situation in Israel and Gaza’.

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Gaza: Senior Lib Dems speak out against Hamas, urge continuing ceasefire; and Lib Dem Friends of Israel issue statement

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishThis weekend’s Guardian published a letter from five senior Lib Dems – including Sir Alan Beith MP, Lord Dholakia and Baroness Sarah Ludford – condemning Hamas and urging both sides in the conflict to continue their ceasefire in Gaza:

As Liberal Democrats, we are totally committed to the state of Israel being able to live within secure borders, and wish to see the removal of the existential threat to Israel’s security by an internationally recognised terrorist group, and the creation of a viable

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Lib Dem Chief Whip on David Ward: “I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet”

David WardThree weeks ago, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East David Ward tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. The following day he issued an apology, saying:

I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

That wasn’t quite the end of the matter, though. The Lib Dem disciplinary process required a meeting between the party’s Chief Whip, Don Foster, and David. That’s now taken place, and it’s been decided there will be no further action. The Yorkshire Post has published the statements issued by both:

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Opinion: An Open Challenge to Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel

In recent months a number of Lib Dem Voice readers have suggested that there should be a dialogue, if not a merger, between the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. This week one person highlighted the objectives of each organisation as shown on their websites as follows:

Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel:
“We exist to support and promote policies which lead to peace and security for Israel in the context of a comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace settlement”.

Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine:
“ exist to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party”

When I became Vice Chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) last autumn I had the same thought and suggested to my (somewhat sceptical) colleagues that our common Lib Dem values should give us a fair amount of common ground – even if not complete agreement.

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Something stirring in the heart of England

Newbury public meetingNewbury, Berkshire, is a relatively prosperous place which tends to mind its own business. “O little town of Newbury, how still your ruins lie”, goes the song in the Liberator song book. Occasionally the town has been at the heart of protests, such as those at Greenham Common and against the Newbury by-pass.

There is nothing more British than the public meeting. It is a great expression of our democracy.

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Opinion: time to break the blockade of Gaza

For the last seven years, Israel – despite no legal mandate – has been imposing a naval blockade on Gaza’s sea port, leading to widespread poverty and starvation in that small coastal enclave.

The British government claims that it is doing all it can to end the blockade but, so far, its actions have proved fruitless. This is partly because the government has never pushed this matter as forcibly as they should, partly for fear of upsetting the powerful pro-Israeli lobby, both here and in the US Congress, and partly because it knows Israel will refuse to lift the blockade, as …

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LibLink: Shirley Williams on a role for Europe in solving the Gaza crisis

Many thanks to Paul Walter for bringing our attention to this piece, written by Baroness Shirley Williams for the Guardian last week.

In it, she calls for a more activist stance by the European Union, given her view that America is not, and cannot be, an effective mediator between the two sides in the Gaza crisis.

The EU, as the main financier of the Palestinian Authority, is in a position to influence the PLO and to work with the Arab League on a settlement. The US remains Israel’s essential ally, but as a mediator is hobbled by the dependence of its

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LibLink: Tessa Munt – Why I’m boycotting Israeli goods and services

Tessa Munt photo by Keith EdkinsTessa Munt, Lib Dem MP for Wells in Somerset, has explained over at her own website why she’s taken the decision to boycott Israeli goods and services:

This summer, the majority of people I meet out and about are disturbed, upset and angry. It’s clear that Israel has crossed a line. It’s not ok to drop bombs on civilians and the sight of parents carrying the remains of their small children in plastic bags is sickening. Bombed hospitals and schools, an entire population stunned and damaged is criminal. It simply cannot be justified.

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David Steel writes… Time to talk to Hamas

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishI suspect that there is growing dismay, not to say anger, among our population as they watch on television the daily slaughter and destruction in Gaza, at the mealy-mouthed statements from both our Government and the American’s in response.

Spokesmen for the Israelis regularly recount the huge number of rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli territory, but fail to tell us that the vast majority of these have been successfully intercepted without casualties. In fact, over the entire last decade they have killed …

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Opinion: Pressing Clegg on an arms embargo to Israel

In the wake of Baroness Warsi’s resignation Nick Clegg has reportedly said that he will be pushing for an embargo on arms sales to Israel. I hope this actually happens rather than what I suspect will more likely be a more diluted ‘review’. Without a robust response, and without outside pressure being put on it, it’s likely that Israel will continue to act disproportionately in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. If the government goes for a review, then it will have no more effect than a modest ticking off.

Doubtless there will be Liberal Democrats who will apportion blame jointly to both sides. They will criticise an embargo and claim that Israel has the right to defend itself from the missiles being fired from the territory. They will no doubt claim that civilian deaths is an unfortunate side effect associated with that action.

On the Palestinian side they will condemn Hamas for using civilians as human shields, by firing missiles next to schools, hospitals and residences. They will demand that Hamas stop the rocket fire and, along with the rest of the Palestinian population, adopt a policy of non-violence instead. The assumption is that being ‘reasonable’ will encourage Israel to act similarly.

Let’s put this into context then.

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Gaza: Clegg demands UK suspends arms export licences to Israel, Ashdown writes to Warsi to discuss next steps

With the truce in Gaza in its second day, and indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives taking place today, Nick Clegg has stepped up the pressure for the UK government to work more actively to secure peace in the area. The BBC reports:

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel, adding to the pressure David Cameron is facing over Gaza. … Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Israeli military operation in Gaza had “overstepped the mark” and called for the suspension of arms export licences to Israel. He said he

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LibLink: Shirley Williams “Europe has a duty to Gaza”

Shirley WilliamsWriting in the Guardian today, Shirley Williams says:

The tragedy of the centenary we commemorate this week is that it falls as some of the most brutal and merciless wars of those same hundred years are raging.

She refers to the current conflicts in Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

Attacks on Belgian and French civilians, including children, by Germany’s invading army in August 1914 shocked the public and politicians in Britain and elsewhere into intervening, and many individual men into enlisting – so much so that

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – Israel must open talks with Hamas

Clegg Speech 40Writing for today’s Guardian Nick Clegg has this to say about the ongoing conflict in Gaza:

The daily images of human torment in Gaza have been harrowing and heartbreaking. More than 1,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed. Were it not for international aid rations, half the population would be without food. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are seeking shelter in UN schools – and even these offer little safety.

It is difficult to deny that Israel’s military action appears disproportionate and, combined with the Gaza blockade, is resulting

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Opinion: What is HAMAS’s game plan?

On the face of it, for HAMAS to simply fire its unguided rockets into Israel, in the hope some may hit something important, or kill someone, is stupid. Nothing HAMAS can do will inflict any serious damage on the state of Israel, they are just annoying Israel (a lot). So why are they doing it, assuming their actions are rational? Their actions may not be rational of course, they may be so consumed by hatred of Israel that they are striking out any way they can. But assuming they are acting in a rational manner, what can they hope to …

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Opinion: Israel/Palestine – the current state of the ‘peace process’

At 1900 GMT on Wednesday 21st November a ceasefire came into place between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip which, it was hoped, would signal at least a temporary halt to the bloodshed. Sadly, this ceasefire looks little more likely to last than previous ones have done and it would seem to be a good moment to reflect on the latest tragic and depressing episode in the Middle East and the ‘peace process.’

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New edition of Liberator magazine

The latest issue of Liberator magazine (issue no.350 – January 2012) has just been mailed to subscribers. For those of you who are not yet subscribers, here’s a summary of the contents:

  • The editorial column Commentary examines the electoral consequences of the Autumn Statement for the Liberal Democrats. It also castigates the party’s Federal Executive for deciding against running candidates in next year’s police commissioner elections.
  • The insider gossip column Radical Bulletin begins with a report on the party’s decision not to contest the police commissioner elections.
  • Alice in Wonderland’ – Paul Crossley (leader of Bath

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Clegg demands end to Gaza blockade #flotilla

Clegg speaks out on Gaza flotilla crisis

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called on Israel to lift its “unjustifiable and untenable” blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Mr Clegg said that the storming by Israeli commandos of a ship carrying aid to the Palestinian territory underlined the need for the blockade to end.

The United Nations Security Council called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent” investigation into the raid, which left at least nine civilians dead and more than 30 people injured, including one Briton, according to the Foreign Office.

Mr Clegg said the situation in Gaza had become a “humanitarian catastrophe”. He

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LibLink … Nick Clegg et al: An appeal for the victims of Gaza

Nick Clegg is a lead signatory for a letter in today’s Observer calling on the international community to exert pressure on Israel to abide by UN security council resolution 1860 and bring an end to the suffering of the people of Gaza. Here’s what it says:

One year on from Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government continues to imprison 1.5 million Palestinians and prevent the rebuilding of its shattered infrastructure.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza, described by the UN fact-finding mission as “collective punishment”, stops reconstruction materials and humanitarian aid from reaching those who so desperately require it.

As a result

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LibLink … Clegg on Gaza

Writing in the Guardian two days ago, Nick Clegg highlighted Palestinian suffering in Gaza:

On 27 December last year, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, an overwhelming exercise of military force aimed at silencing the Hamas rockets which had terrorised Israeli towns and villages. The immediate effects of the invasion are well known: 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, with many more wounded or displaced; 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed, dozens more injured; and thousands of families in southern Israel forced to flee to other parts of the country. The rocketfire from Gaza into Israel has slowed but

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Jonathan Fryer’s Diary of a Euro-candidate

Saturday
Most of the day is spent at the Keynes Forum Policy Conference at LSE, at which one of the sessions is specifically about the European elections, or at least the interlinked campaign themes of the economy and the environment. Both Sharon Bowles (South East) and Fiona Hall (North East) are MEPs who know their briefs intimately, which is reassuring and underlines the value of electing people willing to specialise in specific fields. But through conversations during coffee breaks it becomes clear to me that local activists are really thirsting for simply-worded, bite-sized Euro-items they can just slot into their Focuses. …

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Foster brands BBC “disgraceful” for refusal to air charity appeal for Gaza

The BBC reports on the latest developments in the ongoing row over the Corporation’s decision not to screen an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee for Gaza because it does not want to compromise its commitment to impartiality:

ITV, Channel 4 and Five are to show a charity appeal for Gaza amid a row over the BBC’s decision not to run the film. Ministers urged the BBC to recognise “immense human suffering” and show the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal. … Protesters gathered outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London on Saturday, and chants of “BBC, shame on you” were

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Opinion: Israel has no option but to defend itself against Hamas and Iran

Lib Dem Voice has invited both the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (article published here yesterday) and the Friends of Israel to submit articles looking at the current Middle East crisis. Today we publish this contribution from Matthew Harris, Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.

At the pro-Israeli peace rally on Sunday 11 January, Trafalgar Square echoed to the sound of speaker after speaker calling, as the thousands of placards read, for “peace for the people of Israel and Gaza”. As a Liberal Democrat who believes in human rights and the rule of law, I cannot echo those …

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Opinion: The West must take some responsibility for the current crisis in Gaza

Lib Dem Voice has invited both the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and the Friends of Israel to submit articles looking at the current Middle East crisis. Today we publish this contribution from Andrew Baldwin, Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.

The recent violence in the Gaza Strip is extremely damaging for the so called ‘peace process’ in the Middle East. The international community has been slow to act, issuing statements urging Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, but this almost abandonment of the Palestinian people is extremely dangerous for the future, and ignores the fact that the international …

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Nick Clegg: We must stop arming Israel

Nick Clegg has a piece in The Guardian today:

The world watched in horror yesterday as the conflict in Gaza claimed its latest innocent victims in the rubble of a UN school. Any hopes of reconciliation are being snuffed out as anger spills into protests around the world.

The past two weeks have been a telling indictment of the international community. We have an outgoing US president sanctioning Israel’s military response and an aching silence from the president-elect. We have a European Union encumbered by clumsy decision-making and confused messages.

And at home we have a prime minister talking like an accountant about

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In the news: Gaza, Treasury honours and Big Brother

Nick Clegg calls for suspension of EU/Israel agreement: “Innocent people are being killed and injured by a military operation that will only serve to further inflame extremism, and weaken the moderate Palestinian and Arab opinion which Israel’s long term security depends on.”

Vince Cable criticises knighthood for Treasury chief: “I would have thought it a rather premature judgment on government policy, which is far from assured of being a success. There is a slight element of self-congratulation about it.”

Ken Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, criticises Labour’s plans for a database to track emails and phone calls …

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Opinion: For the sake of Israel, the attack on Gaza must stop!

A true friend is someone who’s prepared to tell you when you’re wrong or you’ve made a mistake – even when they know that message may not immediately help your friendship. With its current massive attack on Gaza, Israel is clearly wrong. Worse still, it’s in danger of making a historic mistake.

In criticising Israel’s bombing, no-one is making light of the rocket attacks its civilians have endured for months by Hamas – even during the ceasefire. Nor do I question Israel’s right to defend herself. Yet the rationale for the attack put forward by the Israeli Government – that it will change fundamentally the security situation in the south of Israel – repeats one of the classic errors of too many modern military tacticians, in supposing that populations, be they terrorists or civilians, can be defeated this way. The truth is, this attack plays into the hands of Hamas, as it will rally support for it within Gaza and across the Arab and wider Muslim world.

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Israel’s air raids on Gaza: Ed Davey speaks out

Via the main Liberal Democrat website comes Ed Davey’s views:

David Miliband may not be prepared to say it, but the Israeli reaction is utterly disproportionate.

From the standpoint of ordinary people in Gaza this is a full-scale attack, which is leaving women and children dead and thousands of innocent people suffering.

The rocket attacks by Hamas are totally unacceptable, but Israel ought to have learnt from its attack on Lebanon which only served to strengthen the cause of extremism.

If David Miliband does not realise this action is disproportionate then he must be the last person in Britain who thinks so.

With this

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Opinion: Israel – time for action

ConservativeHome.com carries a couple of articles on the recent excesses of the Israeli military. Alex Deane loses himself in his eulogy to the State of Israel: surrounded by “enemies who wish her ill”, this “sliver of democracy and decency has always held my sympathy,” he informs the reader.

However, pick up a Sunday newspaper, and you can see that Israeli policy is pretty far from decency. If even the likes of Deane are feeling that supporting Israel is now “less straightforward”, then serious questions have to be asked about how long the guilt-induced whitewashing of Israel’s actions can last.

Signs were emerging yesterday of a new consensus, with all three parties criticising Israel’s recent air raids on the Gaza Strip. However, the crux of the question is what will emerge out of this new climate of criticism. Will we see concrete calls for increasing stringent sanction to be applied to Israel while it continues to violate international law with impunity?

Much will depend on the attitude of the incoming US President, Barack Obama. Sadly, there is little hope of a more stringent line emerging from an Obama administration. Visiting Israel last summer he said:

If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.”

All of which sounds very reasonable but does little to address the complexities of the vast power disparities in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the cause-effect relationship between the actions Israel takes and why Hamas enjoys the support it does amoung the Palestinian population. Put simply, Israel’s problem is that it has been allowed carte blanche for far too long, and that is as damaging to it as it is to the innocents that it rolls over.

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Opinion: A movement for peace

Once again in the past week the headlines have been dominated by the cycle of violence in the Middle East. The same day as a gunman attacked the Merkaz Harav seminary a coalition of international groups released a report into the worsening conditions for ordinary Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. If nothing else this report should provide the clues necessary as to why some Palestinians were prepared to celebrate the brutal attack on the seminary.

“Man-made and completely avoidable”

The report opens with frank language saying that the situation in Gaza is “man-made, completely avoidable and with the necessary political will can be reversed”. Naturally, it stops short of directly attributing blame (although in response to the report, Israel was not so candid). However, it does say that the situation has worsened “exponentially” since Israel’s blockade against Gaza began.
Critics of the report will focus on the reports condemnation of the actions of the Israeli state but, in the interests of balance, it is only fair to note that the report acknowledges the blockade began in response to “indiscriminate” rocket attacks on Israel. It should go without saying that Israel’s current strategy has not stopped these attacks nor has it significantly improved it’s security status; one need only switch on any newscast on any given day to see that much.

However, it’s main focus is the desperate plight of Gazans. Among it’s main findings are;

* Economic collapse; 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations are suspended due to the blockade. Private enterprise has pretty much ceased to exist or function; “entire sectors including construction and agriculture have ground to a halt”. Starkly, the report says that it is no longer a question of Gaza’s economy “collapsing” but having already “collapsed”.
* Crippling poverty; the report cites rising prices of essential goods like wheat and flour coupled with an unemployment rate of 40% which is expected to rise to 50%. Household incomes are projected to fall by 22% so, even if a Gazan is employed, they are squeezed in a vice of rising prices and a rising inability to pay those prices.
* Collapse of basic service infrastructure; not only does the Israeli blockade restrict the flow and fuel and electricity into Gaza but it also prevents the “repair and maintenance of the electricity and water service infrastructure by prohibiting the import of spare parts”. The net result is hospitals which can’t function and “40-50 million tonnes of sewage” which “continues to pour into the sea daily”.
* Dependency; “In 2008, there are over 1.1 million people – some three-quarters of the population of Gaza – who are dependent on food aid”. This statistic speaks for itself, and coupled with the data above it is one that is unlikely to change in the near future.

New Strategy

It should be blindingly obvious that a population so ground under the heel is embittered as well as impoverished. Life would be hard enough without Israel’s regular military incursions into the Strip which add on top of the daily hardships the bitterness of seeing friends and loved ones caught in the crossfire as Hamas and Israel slug it out. Gazans have been deprived of that most crucial element of living, hope, and in that atmosphere it is unsurprising that Hamas’s bile-drenched message finds willing listeners.

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Opinion: Why we should condemn the academic boycott of Israel

The University and College Union’s (UCU) proposed academic boycott of Israel has attracted opposition from many people who might usually be numbered among Israel’s harshest critics. The (Palestinian) President of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University is among those opposing the boycott, in a joint statement with the (Israeli) President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

As a Liberal Democrat, my opposition is rooted in our party’s fundamental liberal belief in free expression, particularly in situations involving conflict resolution.

To boycott Israeli academics, including liberal individuals who strongly disagree with the Israeli government, is not only illiberal, it is also perverse. Imagine a boycott of British universities and academics, based on our government’s disgraceful conduct of the war in Iraq!

Almost worse is the suggestion that Israeli academics might be exempted from a boycott if they distance themselves from their government’s policies. Presumably the proponents of the boycott are planning to summon up the shade of Joe McCarthy to supervise this exercise in thought control?

The proposed boycott is also perverse because it singles out Israel among all the countries of the world. Israel, for all its faults, is a parliamentary democracy. Its universities, like British universities, are open to all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity. I have been to the Hebrew University and met Arab students, including some who came from the Palestinian territories, and some who came from Israel itself. There are also many overseas students at Israel’s universities. Israel enjoys the same academic freedom as does this country and other democracies.

The tragic irony of singling out Israel is that no other Middle Eastern country has academic freedom, so why only boycott Israel? When other Middle Eastern countries are infringing human rights in ways that directly affect academic freedom, why is the UCU silent?

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