Category Archives: The Independent View

The Independent View: Jewish opposition to Israeli policies

Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2002, there has been significant Jewish opposition in the UK, Western Europe and the United States to Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and to the repressive measures Israel takes against Palestinian resistance. Jews for Justice for Palestinians, now with nearly 2,000 signatories, is by far the biggest Jewish peace group in the UK or Europe. JJP is a founder member of European Jews for a Just Peace, the federation of 13 peace groups in 10 European countries.

JJP’s core beliefs can be summarised as:

Palestinians have the right to their own state in the areas occupied by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, no less than Israel has the right to a secure existence within the 6 June 1967 borders. Israel must negotiate in good faith to withdraw to the 1967 borders, subject to an agreed, equitable land swap to accommodate the built-up areas in some of the settlements.

Violence against civilians is unacceptable, no matter who commits it.

Israel must acknowledge its responsibility for the 750,000 Palestinians who were driven out or fled in 1947/49, and who, with their children and grandchildren, make up today’s Palestinian refugees. Israel must negotiate a fair and practical resolution of the issue.

Our beliefs are based on the humanitarian values of Judaism, universal values of human rights and international law. As disquiet about Israel’s policies has grown, our beliefs have become common and are now shared by many in the community. All this was established by the meticulous City University survey “Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel”, published in 2015.

The survey shows that Israel plays an important part in the identity of most Jews, but also that, far from there being widespread support for Israel’s policies among Jews, there is actually a wide diversity of attitudes, as one would expect to find in society generally. Depending on the question asked, responses varied from large majorities opposed to Israeli policies to significant minorities opposed.

Some examples will suffice to show the diversity: 

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The Independent View: tackling bad landlords

With more and more people relying on the private rented sector for their housing, the Liberal Democrats will be looking to develop a workable policy that supports tenants and encourages good landlords.

Last year Caroline Pidgeon from the Greater London Assembly published startling research. It showed that in the whole of 2015/16, just 411 landlords had been prosecuted across the capital, with a quarter of all boroughs not prosecuting any landlord at all. This is despite there being over 400 regulations governing the sector.

This highlights that the problem of tackling bad landlords is in large part due to regulations not …

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The Independent View: What’s the crack?

As more countries and jurisdictions are relaxing their laws around cannabis, many questions have arisen. Will legalisation affect potency? Could some types of cannabis actually reduce psychosis? What are the choices in cannabis legislation, is it just prohibition or legalisation? And if cannabis is legalised, will everyone start using it? These are just a few of the questions answered by myself and two other researchers from King’s College London in the fourth episode of a new podcast; What’s the Crack.

We created the podcast with an aim to improve public awareness of the complexity and reality of addiction, policies, stigma surrounding drug use and drugs scandals in the newspapers by exploring the evidence base. We are all passionate about the drugs and addiction research field and every episode draws upon our collective knowledge and experience, addressing the health, criminal justice, social and individual side to a story. The podcast links the academic world to the public, bridging the gap and filling in the blanks with research evidence that the media have left out. Previous episodes have covered Dry January, Fabric nightclub in London, drug consumption rooms and now it tackles cannabis legalisation.

This episode introduces different policy options of cannabis legislation, providing alternatives to the usual dichotomous choice of prohibition (possession and supply is illegal) or legalisation (cannabis is freely and widely sold). Alternative legislation is discussed; decriminalisation (it is only illegal to supply) and regulation (a government monopoly). In addition, various factors in the legalisation debate are considered, such as psychosis and THC (active chemical that make users feel “stoned”)/CBD (cannabinoid with various potential medical applications) levels and the impact of legalisation on these. Cannabis is made up of the chemicals THC and CBD and emerging evidence suggests that cannabis high in CBD may mean that people experience fewer psychosis-like symptoms when using the drug. Arguably an incentive for controlling the THC/CBD ratios.

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The Independent View: Urgent Call for European Commission to reconsider its Dublin Transfer recommendations.

In the same week that the world marked Human Rights Day, the European Commission announced plans to resume the so-called “Dublin transfers” of refugees back to Greece. If this recommendation is adopted at this week’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels (commencing in February of next year) EU member countries will start returning refugees who arrive on their territory back to the country of their first entry into the European Union, wherever that may be. Dublin transfers to Greece from other Member States have been suspended since 2011 following two judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which identified systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. I have seen with my own eyes the desperation of the situation in Greece and it is far from pleasant. For the last year I have been been volunteering on the Aegean Island of Samos in Greece, I can confirm that to reinstate the Dublin transfers could result in a catastrophic degeneration in conditions which are already unsanitary, unsafe and badly over crowded. Grassroots organisations and volunteers on the ground in Greece are very concerned about these findings for a number of reasons outlined below.

Despite the EC’s claims that “significant improvements have been made in the reception of Refugees in Greece’’, in fact many sites in Greece remain badly overcrowded and unsanitary, with inadequate , shelter, food or medical provision, not to mention provision for minors and vulnerable groups and child safe spaces and psycho social activities. As the UN high commissioner Filippo Grandi highlighted in August, all of the EU member states need to do more to Help Greece help to manage the impact of the refugee crisis  “The challenges ( in Greece) are very serious, and we need to continue to address them together,” Grandi said. “Especially the living conditions, security in the refugee sites, and terrible overcrowding on the islands. These are all issues for which we continue to be at the disposal of the Greek government.” He also stressed the need for EU member states to speed up legal options such as family reunification and relocation through the EU’s official relocation programme.

The report stated that “with Dublin transfers suspended, there is an incentive for asylum seekers who arrive irregularly in Greece to seek to move irregularly on to other Member States (known as ‘secondary movements’), in the knowledge they will not be sent back to Greece.” However it is completely unfair that only one mechanism of the Dublin ruling which is being applied, when no moves are being made to force the schengen states to make good on their commitments to receive a quota of refugees. So far only 3,054 refugees have been relocated from Greece to other EU member states, while another 3,606 are scheduled to depart in the coming months. Still, support lags as member states have pledged only 8,003 spaces out of 66,400 committed. If the transfers are restarted Greece will once again be bearing the burden for the refugee crisis completely unsupported by other responsible Schengen states. This ‘pull factor’ ascertain is very tiring. I feel it would be far more pertinent to prioritise processing people’s asylum claims more quickly and efficiently rather than wasting time and money on sending people back to Greece, only to be processed again. It is my firm held belief that if they do this refugees and asylum seekers won’t be forced to move ‘irregularly’.It is the terrible, unsanitary and inhumane conditions in Greece & the lack of income supplement, social welfare, inadequate medical care and the glacial asylum processing system is what propels people to move illegally rather than waiting it out. I feel that authorities must work instead to speed up the relocation and family reunification transfers & to improve living conditions in Greece.

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The Independent View: Making tax digital

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a £1.3 billion investment programme intended to transform the tax system in the UK, making it more effective, more efficient and facilitating payment of the right tax at the right time.

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) shares the government’s ambition for the UK to have “the most digitally advanced tax administration in the world” but like many interested parties we believe the timescale for achieving this is now very challenging.

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The Independent View: Making common ground

We’ve lost a battle. But there are many more to come. We must not lose them all.

To win, we will need to fight more smartly than we did in the past. We must understand why we lost. The government – and Stronger In, which was in Downing Street’s pocket – had no vision for how Britain could help lead Europe. It had no vision for how to make Britain fairer either. It just had a boring case for the status quo.

To understand why we lost, we have to reach out to Leave voters. To understand why many feel left behind and left out. To make common ground with them. Because there is much that unites us.

We can make common ground on the need for a fair society. Where the economy works for all, not just the few. Where migration works for all, not just the few. The vast majority of the British people want that. We are a nation that wants unity not division. We want to share the fruits of progress.

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The Independent View: Time for Liberals to embrace pledged taxes?

conscienceHypothecation – the act of reserving a specific tax for a specific purpose – is making something of a comeback under this Chancellor. The question is how should Liberals respond?

The treasury only has one commandment “Thou shalt not hypothecate”.  However, George Osbourne, forever a political Chancellor, has been busily pledging taxes for a number of worthy causes such as women’s charities (Tampon Tax) PE in schools (Sugar Tax) and flood defences (Insurance Premium Tax)

The Chancellor knows that linking taxes rises to specific benefits offsets some of the political damage caused by hitting tax payers in the wallet. It’s also good for voters and it helps keep the Chancellor honest, and makes sure that tax rises remain accountable to the electorate.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War is an organisation that has long argued that the right of conscientious objection should be extended to tax payers. It seems that whilst our bodies are free from conscription, our finances are not. Every bullet, bomb and soldier trained and deployed in war-zones overseas are not there by accident, but because we paid for it.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 19th Oct - 1:10pm
    This is not a question of policy, I think, Catherine, though thank you for your ideas. It seems to me a question of resources, and...
  • User AvatarPalehorse 19th Oct - 1:03pm
    David, Thank you for replying but I wasn't asking for your bank password just an opinion as to where you thought the "Great British Recovery"...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 19th Oct - 12:32pm
    @ Palehorse Flattering of you to describe Katherine and myself as "sensible types", but sorry, I'm afraid I must decline your invitation. It might be...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 19th Oct - 12:26pm
    Oh Yes and Mick Bates AM's idiosyncrasies in 2011. Truly a double disaster. But Matt is also right, the Welsh do have to answer that...
  • User AvatarPalehorse 19th Oct - 12:22pm
    Jeff, I used to be a Telegraph reader but realised that the only bits worth reading were the obituaries and the Matt cartoon. Over the...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 19th Oct - 12:21pm
    Indeed David, with the exception of Montgomeryshire which went with Lembit's idiosyncrasies in 2010 and not in the coalition fiasco.