Author Archives: Leon Duveen

Where next for Gaza?

It is now 5 weeks since the terrible massacre perpetrated by Hamas on mostly civilians in Israel, killing over 1400 people, Jews & Arabs, Israelis, Thai & Nepalese and kidnapping more than 240 into the tunnel network inside Gaza as hostages. This was a savage attack, with people killed in front of their children, in front of their parents. Old people, young people, even babies, were not spared. Nothing that has happened since should hide that simple brutality of the actions of Hamas. This went beyond a raid into Israel, it was a pogrom against civilians whose only crime was that they lived in Israel. 

It also broke an existing ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that had allowed a slow (far too slow) relaxation of the blockade of Gaza, that allowed an increasing number of Gazan residents to work inside Israel & provide for their families. There was also the tantalising possibility of an agreement with Saudi Arabia that would have included measures to ease the plight of Palestinians which has now gone because of Hamas’s actions.

However, none of this is an excuse for the actions of the Israel Government. By acting in the way they have done, the Netanyahu Government has lost the goodwill from around the world it got after the October 7th.

It has allowed itself to be drawn into a fight on Hamas’s terms.  It has been culpable in the killing of thousands of Gazans of all ages, many of whom were not members or even supporters of Hamas. It has invaded Gaza with no clear idea of how to extract itself after the fighting ends. It has embroiled the Israeli Military in a war it cannot win however many Hamas militants (and Palestinian civilians) it kills, simply provided a ready supply of new volunteers bent on revenge for the death of their loved ones.  It has made the release of the hostages taken into Gaza more difficult. It has made finding a resolution to the wider conflict and providing long term security for Israel far more complicated.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments

Yet another war in Gaza. What to do?

This is a very difficult post to write.  Yet again Palestine & Israel are at war and thousands on both sides have already or possibly will die.

After the attack by Hamas on Simchat Torah (October 7th), understandably, Israel is hurting, grieving and many there are angrily demanding action against the murderous terrorists who kill so many, kidnapped nearly 200 and wounded thousands.

But as we all know, it is not always possible to make good decision when you are angry, hurting, grieving, a cooler head is needed.

Hamas is not Palestine. It has held Gaza in a destructive dictatorship for over 15 years, inviting retaliation from Israel time after time, to strengthen its grip & generate propaganda.

Israeli Governments over the last 15 years has been willing enough to play this game, to pretend that peace is impossible, to trigger another round of violence when they need to win elections, until on Simchat Torah, the monster they cultivated became too powerful and acted in a way the Israeli security apparatus failed to anticipate.

So where does the conflict go now?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Supporters of Palestine and Israel must stand with the defenders of Israel’s democracy

Whether you are a supporter of Israel or a support of Palestine or even, like me, a supporter of finding a peaceful end to the decades old conflict, what is happening in Israel currently should worry you deeply.

When Netanyahu returned to the office as Prime Minister after the Israeli elections last November, he included a number of parties in his coalition who are either, not to beat about the bush, fascists or ultra-orthodox zealots.

Netanyahu’s main drive appears to be to end his on-going corruption court case which could see him sent to jail.  To do so, he seems to be wiling to pay any price, up to and including the destruction of democracy in Israel.  What the zealots & fascists have demanded, initially at least (there is a lot more as well), is the end of the right of the Israeli Supreme Court to be able to apply a test of “Reasonableness” to Governmental appointments, actions or new laws.  In a country with a single chamber Parliament and no formal constitution, this right of the Supreme Court is one of the few “checks & balances” in stopping any Government behave anti-democratically.

The law has passed the Knesset but has been referred to the Supreme Court to rule if it meets this Reasonable Test or not.  A number on members of the ruling Coalition have already said they will ignore any ruling from the Supreme Court that blocks this new law.  We await the decision from the Supreme Court (which met for the first time ever with all 15 members sitting as a single panel) in the coming weeks.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Democracy in Israel and Palestine

If you have been following to news from Palestine & Israel in recent weeks, you will have seen the appalling rise in violence which has left many dead and even more severely injured on both sides.  The violence reached a peak last week with what can only be described as a pogrom carried out by Israeli Settlers on the Palestinian village of Harawa after two young Israelis had been killed by a Palestinian gunman.

This rise in violence is worrying and is no doubt connected with the threats to democracy by the new Israeli Government under Binyamin Netanyahu which includes, for the first time in Israeli history, two far right extremist Parties, the Religious Zionists led by Bezalel Smotrich, and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) led by Itamar Ben Gvir and also by total lack of democracy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories where elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council & President haven’t been held since 2006.

In Israel, as part of the Coalition agreement for the new Israeli Government, Netanyahu is introducing what he calls “Judicial Reforms” that will have the effect of:

  1. severely curtailing Judicial Independence in Israel,
  2. limiting the Israeli Supreme Court’s ability to overturn laws passed by the Knesset that that violate fundamental rights protected by Israel’s “Basic Laws”,
  3. dilute the role of the Attorney General in giving legal advice and
  4. give Ministers more powers to act without fear of Judicial Review.

This means that the Israel Judiciary will no longer have a role in containing the excesses of the Government, a Government that seems hell bent on creating an apartheid regime in Occupied Palestine and silencing its critics in Israel.

For the last two months, since the Judicial Reform legislation was published, every Saturday night ten of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and many other towns across Israel to protest against these proposals.  Even President Herzog has called for the Government to pause the legislation and reach a compromise with its opponents.  Even here in the UK, Israelis living here have protested outside the Israeli Embassy.  This week, reservist pilots in the Israeli Air Force have refused to attend training days in protest against these “Reforms” and other reservists (and most adults under 45 in Israel are in the reserves) are also refusing to show up for duty.  Many are realising that the Occupation of Palestine is what is destroying democracy in their country.

In Palestine, the lack of any democratic outlet for change is driving many, especially younger Palestinians to support new armed militant groups such as Lion’s Den.  The old guard around Mahmoud Abbas is clinging to power but there is a vacuum behind them. This has allowed the militants groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and now Lion’s Den to try to fill the gap because they see no other obvious possibility for achieving self-determination and statehood.  The Israeli Government hasn’t helped, with its very heavy-handed raids on these militant groups’ safe houses in the Occupied Territories, killing not only members of these groups but also civilians.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

A plan for electing members to a second Chamber (Senate)

Given that Labour is proposing to replace the House of Lords with an elected 2nd Chamber but, as yet, have no plan at to what form that 2nd Chamber will take.  Here is my plan.

1. The election of Senators will be by the Nations and Regions of the UK as used for European Elections.

2. Each Nation or Region will initially elect three times their MEPs in 2019 to the Senate. That is:

  • East Midlands 15
  • East of England 21
  • London 24
  • NE England 9
  • NW England 24
  • SE England 30
  • SW England 18
  • West Midlands 21
  • Scotland 18
  • Wales 12
  • Northern Ireland 9

Total    219

These numbers will be reviewed every 10 years by the Boundary Commission and adjusted as needed to match population changes.

3. Members will be elected in thirds except in the initial election with elections every two years. No other election may take place in the same day.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 22 Comments

Palestine and Israel face a dark future

It has taken me a few days to deal with the results of the latest elections to the Israeli Knesset.

To say they were disappointing is a massive understatement. Even though the popular, the Nationalist parties led by Netanyahu only gained a small majority in the popular vote: 2,397,624 who voted for parties that will support Netanyahu and 2,334, 239 who voted for parties opposed to Netanyahu). But the way the proportional representation system works in Israel, it will has gained a majority of 6 to 10 seats in the new Knesset.

For now, Yair Lapid remains the Israeli …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

The Geneva Accord Proposals to resolve the Palestine – Israel Conflict

Editorial note – in line with our usual policy on this issue, all comments will be moderated prior to publication. Please be patient whilst our volunteer editors review these.

There is an interesting development that has (as usual) been ignored in the British Media. Members of the Geneva Initiative have developed a detailed plan which they are presenting to the United Nations and to the Biden Administration.

Two of the main figures behind this initiative are Yossi Bellin and Yasser Abed Rabbo have both been ministers in the Israeli and Palestinian governments respectively. They have been joined by politicians, academics and many others from both countries who have been working on these proposals for a number of years.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Towards an elected Head of State

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Whenever Lib Dems talk about what we would want to do when we are in Government again, Constitutional Reform always comes up. PR for elections to the Commons, an Elected Second Chamber and Devolution to the English Regions are the normal areas that get mentioned. I would like to raise another are we should also be talking about as part of a new constitutional settlement, electing our Head of State.

Having a Hereditary Monarch is something that should not fit well with a Party that believes in rejecting “all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, heritage, class, religion or belief, age, disability, sex, gender or sexual orientation’ and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.”

Yet when raised, many seem to think that the only alternative is to have an Executive President as in the USA, Russia or France.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 32 Comments

New Liberal Democrat Peers should be elected by Liberal Democrat members

Editorial note – I forgot to add the critical link to the motion, which has now been restored to its rightful place. Apologies to all…

As Liberal Democrats, we have long supported the abolition of an unelected House of Lords and its replacement by an elected second chamber of Parliament. However, there is little chance of it happening soon, or even in the next ten years.

Until that time, we must carry on with the current House of Lords and at some stage the Leader of the Liberal Democrats will invited to nominate people to sit the House of Lords as working Liberal Democrat Peers to replace those who retire or, sadly, die.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 47 Comments

We must learn to live with Covid-19

Covid-19 is a nasty disease, causing people to be seriously ill, even killing them.
I work for an Acute NHS Trust. Although my work isn’t clinical, I know just how dangerous caring for COVID patients can be, not only for our clinical staff but those who support them in the “COVID” areas but also those in care homes and elsewhere.
To stop its spread, the Government has imposed restrictions on the like of which we have never seen in this country and, for the most part, people have accepted them because they know that these restrictions will save lives.

Many are using the coincidence of the 75th anniversary of the VE day to draw an analogy between dealing with Covid-19 and the WWII, asking for sacrifices, talking about winning the fight against “the enemy”, saying that those who break the restrictions are “fighting for the enemy”.

However, this analogy is not just wrong; it is stopping us realising that Covid-19, not an “enemy” that can be defeated, Like other deadly viruses, we need to learn how to live with it, not “defeat” it, because this virus will be with us for a long time.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

My first thoughts on the way forward

As I start writing this post, it is less than 24 hours since the polls closed and that dreadful Exit Poll was published so this is to some extent a first draft of what where I think we got it wrong and why we must not assume that we have 4 years to prepare for the next General Election. I am writing and publishing it to start a discussion rather than be dogmatic about what needs to be done, so please join in and give our new President and new Leader a start in working out how to move forward.  Also I haven’t focused on policy issues, more on processes as that is where I think we need to learn the lessons.

This was the third General Election since I joined the Lib Dems and I could not be as engaged this time as I had been in 2015 & 2017 for work and  personal reasons. This gave me a better opportunity to observe what was going on this time with the knowledge of having been a candidate myself before.

Firstly, I don’t think we should attach any blame to the incredibly hard-working teams up and down the county both in target seats and in “no hope” ones. From what I saw, many people went above and beyond what could be expected of volunteers. Yes, I am sure mistakes were made and I hope every seat holds a post-mortem in the new year to look at what they could do better. That said I am not sure, even if they did everything they could do and did it exceptionally well, it would have made a substantial difference.

This brings me to my second and main point. General Elections are decided by  what voters see on television, look at on social media, read in the newspaper and hear in the radio, probably in that order. Sadly for us, much of the access to these outlets, especially television & newspapers, is controlled by a media that since 2010 has been hostile to us and done its best to misrepresent us and exclude us. I don’t think this will change in the next few years. We can’t simply moan about it. We need to factor it into our plans for the next General Election. And, as we cannot be sure the next Election will not be until May 2nd 2014, we must start getting those plans ready in January.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 36 Comments

Johnson or Corbyn, who is the biggest danger?

The General Election we will be facing in the Autumn will be vital for the future of the UK.

I know, this is said every time we elect a Westminster Parliament but this time, it really is true.

Stopping a majority right wing Tory party under Boris Johnson (and his extremist backers) is paramount  to prevent the UK being dragged out of the EU with no deal and then left to the tender mercy of the vulture capitalists already circling to feast on its carcass, is a priority above all  other considerations.  Not only is this a threat to our economy but to every part of the way we live in the UK.

The Tories will continue to play down the very real dangers of Brexit and play up the potential threat of a Labour government, hoping to frighten people with the idea of a Venezuela or Cuban type “socialist” regime under Corbyn.

Whilst I disagree with much of what Corbyn (and the narrow clique running the Labour Party) stand for, there is little chance of a majority Labour Government at this election.  In addition, many Labour MPs, even after the cull Momentum are trying to impose on those MPs who are not “true believers”, also do not support Corbyn so would block his more extreme ideas.

So, what options are we left with to block Johnson?  Our best hope is that the Liberal Democrats & Greens, working together alongside others in a Unite To Remain Alliance can win enough seats to hold the balance of power, possible even be in power with the moderate parts of both the Labour & Tory parties, in the Commons to block Brexit and hold a People’s Vote on Remain / Leave as we now know the facts of what leaving the EU means.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

What do I want from our new Leader?

There will be those of our readers who have made a decision in favour of #EdForLeader or #JoinJo, but for many, especially the newer ones, they may still be deciding. Here’s one member’s criteria for making his mind up, which may give you some more things to think about…

So we are to have a contested Leadership election this time. Given that both (at the time of writing) declared Candidates come from similar parts of the party and there is not much to choose between them on major policy issues (and that in our Party Policy is not the sole preserve …

Posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | Tagged | 22 Comments

In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

A response to the Conference debate on the Balfour Declaration

Shalom alechum, alsalam ealaykum, peace be with you.

Peace, Peace in the land between the river & sea is what we should be working for.

And, to put it mildly, the motion we passed at Conference on Sunday does not do that. Indeed, by passing it, it means we probably won’t get another chance to debate the Palestine/Israel conflict again for some time.

I tried to get the motion referred back to the FPC and to ask them to bring back a better, more comprehensive motion next year as the one we passed today is the lowest common denominator that is acceptable (begrudgingly) to two interest groups in the Party, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine and Lib Dem Friends of Israel.

It does nothing to say what we, as a small political party far away from the area, can do to advance the cause of peace between Palestine & Israel and, believe me, there is much we can do.

We could be learning more from groups like “Solutions not Sides”, we could be inviting speakers from One Voice, YaLa Young Leaders, Ta’ayush and similar organisations, we could be listening to those who work every day to break down the barriers (both physical & mental) between the two nations.

The motion also contains factual errors, for example, line 35 refers to “pre-1967 borders” but no such borders existed as they were Armistice Lines that marked the end of conflict in 1949, they were never meant to be the final demarcation between Israel & its Arab neighbours.

What is worse, all amendments to correct errors and improve the motion have been rejected by FCC. No reason has been given for this rejection.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

How can Lib Dems support the movements for peace for the people of Palestine & Israel?

Israeli children visit Palestinian village of Tuwani and participate in bilingual activities together - Some rights reserved by delayed gratficationThe departure of Jenny Tonge from the party will not come as a surprise to many nor, if I am honest, will there be many tears shed over it. She has, at best, been semi-detached for some time after resigning the Party Whip in the House of Lords.

However, her departure has made me think about the best way forward for the Liberal Democrats to support a peaceful resolution of the Palestine/Israel conflict.

Posted in Op-eds | 68 Comments

Opinion: It is time for those who believe that violence doesn’t work to stand up

Banksy: DetailLast October, I wrote a piece for LDV called “Time to do away with LD Friends of Israel & Friends of Palestine” and other pieces on the subject on my own irregular blog.

After the tragic events of the last three weeks, with the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers being found murdered and now a Palestinian youth having been killed in Jerusalem, seemingly in “revenge”, I feel I need to speak out, even it is to “state the obvious”.

In addition to the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, the Israeli reaction to the kidnapping and killing of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach has cost at least six other deaths of Palestinians on the West Bank & yet unknown numbers of lives in Gaza. We here in the UK need to be strident in the commendation of the extremists on both sides who, through their rhetoric, have encouraged the violence.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Time to do away with Lib Dem Friends of Israel and Friends of Palestine

Why, in a liberal and democratic party that “seeks to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community”, do we allow two groups to flourish in the party, when they should share a common aim? I refer of course the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.

Let me be clear and open. I have Israeli nationality and look back fondly on the ten years of my life spent living in Israel. That doesn’t mean I am uncritical of the Israeli governments, past and present, and of many of the actions and policies they have implemented over the years. I have been calling for a two state solution for nearly 40 years since I first saw at first hand the degradation and suffering in the refugee camps in Gaza. The occupation of Palestine harms both the occupied and the occupiers.

Posted in Op-eds | 41 Comments
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