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 Palestinian state.

As recorded by the UN and captured by various international media sources, Hamas’s policy of using human shields to protect its arms caches in hospitals, schools and densely populated neighbourhoods must be understood as the principal factor behind the number of Gazan civilian deaths, and condemned as such.

Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel and its refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist is a huge obstacle to peace.

We hereby ask that the UK government and the international community call on Hamas to maintain the cessation of rocket fire beyond this current ceasefire. Israel has shown it is committed to a ceasefire subject to an end to the rocket fire; it is now incumbent on Hamas to do the same. This will allow the international community, led by Egypt, to broker an end to hostilities, involving the demilitarisation of Gaza plus recognition and adherence to the Quartet principles, which in turn will lead to the eventual opening of borders and a more enduring peace.

Sir Alan Beith MP Chairman of the justice select committee and former deputy leader of Liberal Democrats, Lord Navnit Dholakia Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Lord Monroe Palmer Liberal Democrat, joint backbench international affairs committee, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP for London 1999-2014, Cllr Barry Aspinall Leader, Brentwood borough council

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI), which has been the subject of a recent article here on LDV, has published a statement on its own site setting out its position on the current conflict – here’s an excerpt:

LDFI does not subscribe to or uncritically support the policies of every Israeli government, particularly not one led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, whose values are quite different from that of the Liberal Democrats. We remain absolutely committed to the State of Israel and her right to live within secure borders and to supporting peace in the region. We believe that this can and will be achieved by negotiation, on the basis of an imaginative two-state solution that will benefit Palestinians and Israelis alike.

LDFI condemns Hamas as the terrorist group it is recognised to be internationally. Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel in both word and deed, and its refusal to accept Israel’s statehood is an integral obstruction to peace. Attacks on Israel by means of both the terror tunnels and the unceasing, indiscriminate missile bombardment are without question intolerable and unacceptable, and have been rightly countered.

The level of casualties in Gaza and beyond is a human tragedy. Hamas’ policy of using the Gazan people as human shields to protect their arms caches around hospitals, schools, densely populated neighbourhoods must be understood and recognised in the UK and internationally. As Nick Clegg, has written, “[Hamas] has shown it is willing to sacrifice its own people for military advantage.” As such, Hamas must bear a heavy responsibility for the tragically high death toll in Gaza to date.

Following the absolute confirmation that Israel will cease all military responses as long as missle fire does not recommence, we call on the UK and international community to bring pressure to bear on Hamas to cease their missile fire indefinitely. This will give way to a period of calm which will allow pause for reflection on all sides. Further aggression and provocation from Hamas will not allow negotiations, led by Egypt, to conclude towards an enduring ceasefire.

What is clear is that any continuation of the situation of the past month will not deliver the Liberal Democrat dual aspiration of removal of the existential threat to Israel’s security and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Furthermore, we call on Israel to demonstrate continued restraint in any targeting of terrorist targets in Gaza. Civilian causalities in Gaza are not just a tragedy but also give Israel’s enemies at home and abroad both political and public relations ammunition to espouse a worrying anti-Zionist and sometimes actually anti-Semitic rhetoric which LDFI finds as deplorable a consequence as the prospect of further hostilities.

(Comments on this post will be pre-moderated, as is standard for articles on the Middle East.)

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  • “Civilian causalities in Gaza are not just a tragedy but also give Israel’s enemies at home and abroad both political and public relations ammunition to espouse a worrying anti-Zionist and sometimes actually anti-Semitic rhetoric which LDFI finds as deplorable a consequence as the prospect of further hostilities.”

    Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Wow just wow.

    Anti-Semitism is worrying, not anti-Zionism which has been used an excuse by apologists.

  • Three things to note. Egypt is ruled by a dictator who has no democratic mandate to speak for the Egyptian people. He is a puppet of Israel so should not be taken seriously as a mediator. 2) Note the words “will lead to the eventual opening of borders. This is what Israel and their supporters do, they claim they are against the blockade (the illegal blockade) but they never advocate for it to be ended so they used words like ‘eventual. 3) In my opinion Sarah Ludford has never been in favor of a Palestinian state – despite her claims otherwise. How else, can one explain why Ludford was begging the EU Foreign Minister not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN a couple of years back, when at the same time she telling everybody she was in favor of it?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 17th Aug '14 - 11:40am

    I think this piece in today’s Independant quoting the UNs top Human Rights Commissioner: ” Israel Must Stop Punishing Gazas People” sums up what the majority of us in the UK

  • Recent events have at least made us look at the history of Israel and Palestine again. Israel’s policy towards Palestine has been disgraceful and it’s true that in recent times the attitude and activities of Hamas have not helped. At the same time, Israel’s recent activities have been grossly disproportionate. It’s a pity that the signatories of this letter have adopted such a blinkered attitude.

  • “Furthermore, we call on Israel to demonstrate continued restraint in any targeting of terrorist targets in Gaza”

    What continued restraint? Perhaps the best perspective on this issue is given by this former Israeli artillery commander:

    Israel fired almost five times more artillery shells into Gaza during the last month of fighting than in the 2008-2009 war. The IDF also have no compunction about utilisation of white phosphorous if they feel like it. Israeli Artillery chief Brigadier-General Roy Riftin said recently that he saw no legal barrier to using white phosphorous: his corps plans to stock up on U.S.-supplied M825 rounds containing the incendiary chemical in reduced form. White phosphorous was being shunned, for now, mainly because “it photographs badly,” Riftin said, referring here to the distinctive octopus-like clouds the shells formed over Gaza and ensuing showers of potentially lethal embers on civilian areas.
    “When you have an alternative, you use the alternative. Had there not been an alternative, I’m convinced there would not have been an issue ( with again using white phosphorous)”.

    The conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-semiticism in the statement is really rather pathetic. Most people in the UK no longer ‘buy into’ this propaganda smear which is, unfortunately, always wheeled out whenever Israel is seen to have overstepped the mark.

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 12:55pm

    I would like to echo the comment that conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is something that should be strongly avoided. One of them is a being against a political idea the other is racist. I know the problems with language in this area but we should,a s liberals, be careful and not join the herd….

    My concern is that to have a peace we need bith sides to want to find a peaceful settlement. From what I can see this applies to neither side, both intent on prolonging the conflict ad inifinitum in order to further their own ideals

    The people in general may want things differently but in the end it is their leaderships who have to want to negotiate

    On that final point.

    The Palestinians had a secular leadership for a long time and really got nowhere – ending up in violence and threats. After that Hamas took the ascendancy but no-one can pretend Hamas are particularly interested in democracy. In a certain respect then the Palestinian people are hostages to their own leadership, although the ‘defenders of the people’ tag probably builds up their support

    Israelis belong to a democratic state by all accounts so if they want a leadership that follows a peaceul line then theoretically they have more power to do that than the Palestinians. I was more hopeful when Rabin was the leader but he was killed, and not by the Palestinians. Netanyahu has no interest, and this is my opinion, on agreeing to a Palestinian state and there is no way anyone with his background would want a one state solution due to the demographics and the need to enfranchise the Palestinians

    Both populaces seem to be supporting ‘security and strength’ over peaceful leadership. That is fine but at the same time they should not expect peace to follow

    The major difference from the Western side is that we support Israel and we condemn Hamas ferociously. There is only one side we can influence with that approach.

    How do we deal with the situation – who knows?

  • Melanie Harvey 17th Aug '14 - 2:28pm

    “The level of casualties in Gaza and beyond is a human tragedy. Hamas’ policy of using the Gazan people as human shields to protect their arms caches around hospitals, schools, densely populated neighbourhoods must be understood and recognised in the UK and internationally”

    Or Hamas has them there to protect such infastructure and people from any ground offensive from Israel who if I recall only recently pulled their land troops back… It works both ways yes? Further if Hamas has put them there to safe guard both their people and arms who said Israel must take the bait and still hit them? They are hardly out gunned given Israels vast cache of weaponary correct?

  • “Civilian causalities in Gaza are not just a tragedy but also give Israel’s enemies at home and abroad both political and public relations ammunition to espouse a worrying anti-Zionist and sometimes actually anti-Semitic rhetoric which LDFI finds as deplorable a consequence as the prospect of further hostilities.”

    I know why this has been written – and undoubtedly it’s a plea for reducing civilian causalities directed at an Israeli audience. But it’s a stinker, and politically inept, and will lose more votes here. Any argument that references killings in this “not only…but also” does this – it stains either the speakers or the audience or both as essentially being indifferent to these killings, and, in the end, motivated by self-interest.

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '14 - 3:25pm

    Come off it, Melanie. Schools and hospitals aren’t military targets, unless a military uses them as weapons stores, gun or launcher emplacements, or hiding places – in short, as shields.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 3:42pm

    I welcome this because recently the Lib Dems have looked like an anti-Israel party. I know they say they are anti-civilian deaths and oppression, which is good, but this goes on all over the world and there is not much said about it.


  • Jenny Barnes 17th Aug '14 - 3:46pm

    ” an imaginative two-state solution that will benefit Palestinians and Israelis”
    oh yes. Do you have a map, by any chance, which shows the Israeli state which the Palestinians must existentially respect, and the area that the Palestinians will have full control over? Given the facts on the ground, I find it very difficult to believe that a 2 state solution is feasible.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 17th Aug '14 - 4:36pm

    @simon shaw If you read Lord David Steele’s article on talking to Hamas, you’ll note that there are elements in Hamas who want peace, and an end to the occupation, and an end to the blockade. If Israel wants peace they are going to have to talk to them. My colleague Lord Alderdice recently set out his personal experience in the peace talks in Northern Ireland, & the IRA. Here’s an article which I found interesting:

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 4:53pm

    Eddie Sammon

    By that definition of’anti’ then a lot of us would be considered to be anti-British due to our criticism of the Iraq adventure

    I have seen the leader of this party insinuating that it was illegal, therefore making Bush and Blair potential war criminals. All this I am at least sympathetic with

    At no point did I think criticising the decisions being made by the political leadership of our country ‘anti’

    Israel exists as a country and despite misgivings about how the state was founded I do not consider myself in anyway anti-Israeli, either against the people or the state itself. What I will say though is that I find the current Israeli leadership a barrier to peace and repugnant. I believe also some of their actions could be considered criminal (also the other side as well).

    As Israel is a democratic country I think the conduct of their leaders is a stain on the Israeli people and I am disappointed that they ontinue to elect politicians who seem to be a barrier to a peaceful solution. I know the Israeli people are better than this but they are free to make their own decisions. More so than the Palestinians are in Gaza

    In just the same way I was very disappointed by the re-election of Blair in 2005 after Iraq and considered it a terrible decision to do so by those who voted for him.

    Does this make me anti-Israeli. I will leave that to you to decide but if I am anti-Israeli I am also, by the same definition, anti-British and so are the people who were outspoken about Iraq…….

  • The facts on the grounds are the settlements are illegal and Israel knew them to be when they built them – not one settlement should Israel be allowed to keep. As I have said before, there is no reason the west should continued to pander to Israel….. send boats to Gaza to trade, and open up a boarder between the Jordan and Israel to trade with the west bank….if Israel sends troops….send in the army..

  • Melanie Harvey 17th Aug '14 - 5:18pm

    Richard, with the greatest respect Gaza has many people in one space. Not much places for them to be stored where they would or should be most safe and provide most cover. If Israel chooses to hit for whatever reason Hamas has stored them there that is Israel’s doing and very King Herod!, In addition to the size of Israel’s arms plus ground troops and MOSSAD, it would stand to reason the arms are placed where they can protect the sick/young/vulnerable. Oh thats right I forgot, the west only works on the policy heads of state should be surrounded by such armoray for protection. Pretty ironic that the US, you know the ones that support Israels arsenal, was only recenly calling for armed guards at schools following the mass shootings that constantly happen there… Oh the hypocrisy!!!

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 5:50pm

    Just touching on why we see more comments on Israel here than Hamas

    I don’t see my, if any, pro-Hamas supporter. There are some who defend some of their activities but the pro-Hamas group in the UK I would say is very much outnumbered by those who call themselves pro-Israel.

    The question for me is what can I do about Hamas. If we consider the organisation. I could ask

    for them to be proscribed as terrorists – ALREADY DONE
    that they are prevented from direct talks with us – ALREADY DONE
    they are subject to restrictions on finance/sanctions etc – ALREADY DONE
    that their leaders can be extra-judicially assassinated in the street whilst we turn a blind eye – ALREADY DONE
    their leadership is prosecuted for crimes against humanity – WOULD BE HAPPY TO BUT NEED TO INDICT THEM
    that their sponsors are sanctioned -WOULD BE HAPPY TO BUT MIGHT DISRUPT WORLD CUP 2022!!!

    As for Israel who we give trade benefits to, who we sell arms to, who we count as an ally there are many things we should be doing to try to make peace more of a priority. We could react like we did to Russia and target certain people involved in the military and Government who are involved in the blockade etc

    I am not saying what we should do but I think we have already given a clear message to Hamas. If you think the fault just lies with Hamas then fine, but if, as I do, you see this is a two sided issue then we need to make our message as clear to both sides instead of just one. It si interesting that the logical next step to put pressure on Hamas would be to put pressure on their sponsors. However, we have no influence on Iran and the others such as Qataris seem to be immune to criticism

  • Tony Dawson 17th Aug '14 - 6:39pm

    @Richard Dean:

    ” Schools and hospitals aren’t military targets”

    except, maybe, when it is a government aim to cause enemy retaliations at a level which can then be used to ‘justify’ (sic) further escalation.

  • Meral Ece thanks for the link to the interview with Khaled Meshaal. This seems to confirm what he has said to numerous visiting politicians including Lord Alderdice. The political wing of Hamas should also be given credit for supporting the Unity Government that Netanyahu did so much to undermine. Explicit in the setting up of the Unity Government was the recognition of Israel. So let’s give credit where it is due. Nonetheless Hamas will have just as much explaining to the UN Commission and the ICC for its reckless and indiscriminate shooting of rockets as Israel’s government will. They both need to be in the dock.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 8:36pm

    Hi Stuart,

    I understand calling people who criticise Israel anti-Israel is like calling people who criticised Iraq anti British, but never have I seen such demonstrations against civilian casualties and even jews and Israeli citizens targeted in the streets.

    Not many people question the right of Britain to exist, but plenty do with Israel, which is why calling someone anti-Israel is a pretty fair comment.

    Overall, when we have so many people here in Britain supporting a violent Islamic organisation like Hamas and targeting civilians in the street then it is not responsible to fail to speak up for the jews and Israeli’s too.

    I am not asking for balance or everyone to support Israel, what I am saying is the extremists on the left and within Islam need to be called out by responsible centre-left organisations, otherwise they are irresponsibly failing to stand up to violent Islamism and authoritarianism.

    I criticise Israel too and I think they need to risk more of their soldiers lives in order to reduce civilian deaths. Hamas cannot be absolved from responsibility for these deaths, just because they did not press the “fire” button themselves.


  • Meral Hussein Ece 17th Aug '14 - 8:40pm

    @simon. Yes, not a surprise, the majority in UK do not support Israel’s actions.

  • Geoff Crocker 17th Aug '14 - 8:47pm

    I totally oppose and repudiate the Guardian letter from these 5 ‘senior’ Lib Dems. It is totally biased and one sided. It really is staggering that pro Israel bias can extend to the point that the victim is blamed for Israeli atrocities. They, like Nick Clegg and David Steel, should be calling for negotiations with Hamas, not simply indulging in vilifying them. I am, of course, only a very junior Lib Dem.

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 8:50pm

    Simon Shaw

    I do not doubt that if the question is asked like that then a majority of the UK public will say that it a real obstacle to peace

    It though only looks at one side though – a recent poll also shaped that the UK people opposed strongly the bombing of Gaza. I would imagine then that a majority of the UK public would also say that the attitude of the Israeli leadership was also and obstacle to peace, especially if the facts about land grabs and settlement building are shared

    You only seem to be looking at it from one side. In this case I would say both leaderships are not that committed to peace – whether they are considered ‘democrats’ or ‘terrorists’ by us makes no difference to the people who are suffering

    I would ask you; what more could be done to Hamas that isn’t being sone already and what would you do to put some pressure on Israel to look for a way out of this to get the peace they say they crave? Do you think that Netanyahu is committed to a two state solution with a fair land division and dismantling of all the illegal settlements?

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 9:08pm


    I have just seen your post and to be honest do not really understand what point you are trying to make so I will clarify my post

    I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people should have a homeland in the Middle East – it is a political construct of the 19th century based on a tradition. It was needed because of the extreme racism suffered by the Jews in Europe.

    Not all Jews are Zionists and I would think it is possible to oppose the Israelis having this homeland based on a variety of reasons. Some may be racially-based and sinister, others perfectly acceptable

    You could have another political idea that says that the Palestinians should have a homeland in their historic home – does opposing this political aim make you necessarily a racist?

    As to the anti-semitic part – well I think most Arabs in the area are semitic as well so we have to be careful with that use as well but it is clear that anti-Jewish racism is pernicious and widespread. There is also growing anti-muslim racism as well. Neither should be tolerated or the political decisions made by ‘leaders’ be used to tar a race or a religion

    I think Simon Shaw described it well with a Venn diagram analogy

    I do appreciate that the words Zionist/semitic etc have become mixed up over the years and can mean different things to different people. It can also be used to suppress debate over politics. I made the point that as liberals we should be able to live with this ambiguity with mature discussion

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 9:26pm

    Hi back Eddie, and regards to you as well

    There are extremists on both sides, the Israelis have there fair share of people who a perfectly happy to make extreme comment son the future of the Palestinians. I won’t repeat them here but there have been some extremely worrying comments in the Israeli media

    The thing is that anyone making any criticism of Israel is branded anti-Israeli. You use it yourself. Do you honestly accuse people like John Kelly of challenging the right of Israel to exist? You played the common game of mixing together the people who oppose Israeli action and the extremists who call for the destruction of Israel (a much smaller bunch)

    I also think that people are ‘supporting’ Hamas because they are the underdog against a military power supported by the West – the same as the Vietnamese in the 60s. The same people supported the PLO and also perhaps the IRA. In their view this is a proxy battle against Western Imperialism. I don’t think Hamas has many genuinely ideological supporters in the UK.

    The same people were also leading members of the Stop the War coalition

    Of course Israel needs to be considered but it is not that they don’t have support. All Western Governments support them with trade and arms – there is very little criticism from the Governments. Hamas get no support from anyone – they are proscribed, sanctioned – we won’t even speak to them. Their last few leaders have been assassinated. The only Israeli leader to be assassinated was killed by and Israeli!

    Hamas are supported by some demonstrators and some bloggers but in the end it doesn’t help them as much as having the uS and EU behind you..

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Aug '14 - 9:57pm

    @ stuart – “I have just seen your post and to be honest do not really understand what point you are trying to make so I will clarify my post”

    my apologies, i was unclear in what i wrote. it should have said:

    When talking about anti-semitism we tend to see the strict OED definition (which for reference I like):

    “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races”

    Marvellous. Pretty concise, easy to apply, difficult to misuse.
    Except, whenever we talk about racism in any other context we seem to use nebulous UN definition:

    “the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

    People are always willing to go to endless lengths to tell us how anti-zionism is quite separate and distinct from anti-semitism, and yet whenever we discus ‘racism’ elsewhere and much loose and more encompassing definition seems to apply.

    This being the case i find i have much reduced tolerance for people telling me how evil the state of israel is in its racist ambitions to cleanse the lands of Palestine while dissociating themselves from the same murkiness of moral position on their side.

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 10:19pm


    Thanks for the clarification and I take your point but don’t necessarily agree with it

    If you read the post that I wrote that it is clear that there is some overlap between them (as I said Simon Shaw described it as a Venn diagram).

    Take my own view. I support the state of Israel although am not particularly happy with how it was set up (am I a Zionist?) but also support a two state solution that would mean Israel having to share/give back land that is part of the Eratz Israel ideal (am I anti-Zionist?)

    I am clear on one thing though I deplore anti-semitism in any form and I criticise the Israeli leadership not the Israeli people in general. Criticising the Israeli leadership though usually means criticising Jews – and too often you hear the cry anti-semitism!

    Perhaps we should avoid the use of the word ‘Zionist’ as it is, by definition, political idea which is freely open to criticism but has become synonymous with the Jewish identity. It is a shame because it would help define people’s political position but it maybe just too easy to misinterpret

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 10:30pm

    Hi Stuart, you give as good as you get. :).

    I don’t think people like John Kelly are calling for the destruction of Israel, I just don’t think they are being fair to them.

    I’ll try not to conflate the moderate pro Palestine supporters with the extremists. I think people do this on both sides just to keep their statements short and simple.

    I don’t want to be associated with the pro-Israel side, because I don’t think it is electorally popular, but I have started to move there slightly. However, I am always open to change my mind so people should keep putting their arguments out there.

  • Miranda Pinch 17th Aug '14 - 11:32pm

    Stuart, as a Jew myself I believe it is important to use the term Zionist and disagree that it is synonomous with Judaism. On the contrary, the word Zionism may not have started out as the rather extreme view that it is now, but has developed that way. It was actually Christian Zionism, based on Revelation, that encouraged the Jewish homeland to be where it is. Prior to that Many Jews believed that Zion was not necessarity a place on earth, more a spiritual concept. Now the term ‘Zionism’ has come to stand for the very militant extremeist and political view leading to the idea of Eretz Israel. That was orignally a Biblical idea conditional on the Jews obeying the Mosaic Laws. As Israel is very much a secular state, obeying few if any of the commandments, it actually practices politcal rather than Biblical Zionism now. So what I am saying is that it is safer to refer to Zionist Jews as the problem. That may not be fair to all, but is better then just referring to Jews. it is, of course, safer still to just refer to Israel as an entitly, even though there are Jews there who are equally horrified by what is going on.
    I spent time in Hebron a few years ago and the very violent Israeli settlers there made it very clear that they believed that they were entitled to all the land that the the Palestinians had no place in it. In fact the Israeli police told me that the the problem at the time and no doubt since, was with the settlers and not with the local Palestinians. Those particular settlers are known for their extreme Zionist views and many of them originate from the USA.
    I can tell Eddie very clearly indeed that John Kelly and all the others I am proud to work with, have no desire for the destruction of Israel. I get very annoyed when people who quite correctly call for Israel to leave occupied Palestine are labelled as wanting the end to israel as a Nation. Whatever I and others may feel about the way it was founded, we all accept its right to exist, but within fixed borders based on 1967, not the present lack of clearly defined borders and a so-called separation barrier 80% of which is built on Palestinian land which does more to divide Palestinians and take their land then it does to protect Israel.
    I really fail to understand why Israel who occupies, blockades and oppresses Palestinians is allowed to protect itself against those it occupies, blockades and oppresses, while they are not allowed to defend themselves in any way? It seems weird to me. My mother was what is termed ‘a holocaust survivor’ though she would have hated to be called that. She was totally ashamed of what was being done in her name in israel as are many others. I belong to Jews for Justice in Palestine and am a signatury both to them and to the recent letter form the decendants of holocaust survivors. I belong to the Lib dems because I believed that the ethos of the Party was one of human rights and justice and nearly left a while ago when I felt betrayed. To read the letter from some Lib Dems above is to drive me to consider leaving once agian. The sentiments expressed go totally against any kind of justice in this situation.
    Israel’s treatment of Hamas also make no sense. It actually helped create Hamas originally to destabilize Palestinian politics and encouraged the elections. It labelled Hamas as a terrorist organisation and then refused to engage them and then blockaded them in order to make life in Gaza very difficult. It has made life more than a little difficult. It certainly was not the way to win friends. The treatment that Hamas and Gaza has recieved has actually driven more extremism. You can’t treat people like that and expect them to just submit. it goes against any psychology. Jews themselves hid weapons in synagogues when they were fighting for thir lives. Hamas is behaving no differnetly to any other polical group fighting for the freedom of its people. In trying to destroy them, Israel is possibly opening the door to something much worse. and what about those children? Israel is creating generation upon generation of Palestinian children who only know Israel and Jews as wanting to destroy them. That makes no sense for Israel, for Palestine or for the world.

  • Zionism is simply a movement that originally called for, and now supports the existence of, a Jewish homeland.

    Anti-Zionism is thus interpreted by many as being opposed to the existence of Israel.

    I think this really needs to be understood by the ‘anti zionism is not anti-semitism’ crowd. It may not be in their head, but to many others stating opposition to the existence of Israel does imply at least some specific prejudice against Jews and the existence of a Jewish state.

  • Sarah Ludford 18th Aug '14 - 8:32am

    I don’t think I really owe Andi Ali an answer. He claimed to me a few months ago – in addressing me aggressively – that he was chair of LDFP and in a post now at he still asserts ‘supporters of John McHugo claim he is chair of the LDFP while supporters of me claim I am……that is were the confusement lies’. Can the current or past real chair of LDFP please make a statement about Andi Ali and what they are doing about him?

    Anyway, for everyone else I can clarify that I am totally in favour of a Palestinian state but opposed the unlateral declaration at the UN because I felt it was a cul- de- sac and only a negotiated settlement would give full recognition and all the attributes of statehood.

  • Further to my last point, it is possible to oppose the Settler movement, to reject the politics of Netanyahu and Likud, to oppose the heavy handed operations in Gaza, and expect Israel to make significant concessions for peace with the Palestinians as part of a two state solution without ever rejecting Israel’s existence or calling one’s self an ‘anti-Zionist’.

    I wish all those who shared those views were capable of doing so.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Aug '14 - 8:50am

    @ Miranda Pinch.
    Thank you for helping with the minefield of terminology and the historical background.

  • Miranda Pinch 18th Aug '14 - 9:06am

    g – It really is ridiculous that , unlike any other country anywhere, we need to fall over ourselves to use Israeli approved language. As a Jew , along with many others, I am fed up with this approach. Can’t the world just call a spade a spade and speak about Israel in the same way as any other State using occupation, oppression, collective punishment, deprivation, murder, assassinations, looting, imprisonment without charge or trial, Israeli only roads, the continued stealing of land that is not in any accepted notion of what Israel consists of, the building of a so-called security barrier on land that is not part of Israel as we accept it, the refusal to have any sort of fixed borders, the destruction of Palestinian farmland, olive trees, fruit trees and demolishion of homes in that same area, which is NOT Israel? How much more do I need to share here?. This is meant to be a Party that believes in human rights and justice and I am ashamed of many of you. You all know about ALL of it. Despite the media not reporting it all, you all know enough to know that such behaviour by any nation is totally unacceptable. There have been many holocausts before and since the dreadful one we all refer to. Yes, members of my family died in it, but why, why, do we have to punish others, namely the Palestinians for the guilt of Europe?! Please have pity for those innocent children who only know Israel and sadly Jews, as out to destroy them and before that to make their lives so miserable they leave or submit to nothing better than servitude and second class citizens of what – a pariah state. I do not stand alone with this view either as a Jew or as a humen being.

  • Geoff Crocker 18th Aug '14 - 9:07am

    Miranda Pinch is the most credible voice in this thread. I entirely support all she says.

  • chris j smart 18th Aug '14 - 11:08am

    Until Miranda Pinch commented I had given up all hope for the Lib Dem party as a rational party of fairness and human rights.

  • @ Sarah Ludford Oh your in favor of a Palestinian state – you just don’t think voting for it was the best way forward….voting against it was…….so that’s why u didn’t .vote for something you claim (cough) you are in favor off.

  • Miranda Pinch,

    Can’t the world just call a spade a spade and speak about Israel in the same way as any other State using occupation, oppression, collective punishment, deprivation, murder, assassinations, looting, imprisonment without charge or trial, Israeli only roads, the continued stealing of land that is not in any accepted notion of what Israel consists of, the building of a so-called security barrier on land that is not part of Israel as we accept it, the refusal to have any sort of fixed borders, the destruction of Palestinian farmland, olive trees, fruit trees and demolishion of homes in that same area, which is NOT Israel? How much more do I need to share here?

    By all means. Just don’t call yourself an anti-Zionist if you still believe that Israel should continue to exist.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 18th Aug '14 - 12:26pm

    Like most LDs [maybe all], I deplore extremism in all its forms. So what is going on in the Middle East is almost beyond belief to the minds of peaceful people. Each extreme group uses the other to become more hated in the region – saying they only do what they do because it is done by some other tradition. The blame game has always been used – throughout history!

    I cannot see any of these ‘traditions’ sitting down and doing the only thing which will solve the problems long-term – a re-designating of the countries’ boundaries in a fair way for the majority of the people who live there – the region is a toxic mix and will play out over decades or centuries.

  • Miranda Pinch 18th Aug '14 - 12:40pm

    g – what would you like me to call myself?

  • For al those who claim anti-Zionism is not tinged with anti-Semitism please cite examples of other nations you believe should not exist. A few of the nations that grew out of the collapse of the soviet union are the result of ethnic and religious cleansing. A lot of Africa is divided according to ethnic and religious divisions with borders derived mostly from colonial maps. Pakistan is the product of ethnic and religious cleansing as is to a lesser extent India. None of these nations in their present forms are much older than Israel.
    Criticism of Israel is not the same as Anti-Zionism which is the insistence that their can be no Jewish state. But we extend the right to exist to Muslim states, Christian states and Buddhist states, Some argue that the Kurds should be allowed to form their own state. Within the Muslim world there are Sunni and Shiite states. Yet some how anti-Zionism is a respectable trope especially in Europe and the middle east? For the life of me I can’t see how this is not connected with the Jewishness of Israel.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Aug '14 - 1:46pm

    Andi Ali said earlier:

    ” send boats to Gaza to trade, and open up a boarder between the Jordan and Israel to trade with the west bank….if Israel sends troops….send in the army..”

    The idea in the current climate of Islamic extremism that we would send the army in against Israel sounds quite ridiculous to me. You need to do a better job at building your case and getting others behind it, before mentioning starting a war against Israel.

    Lib Dems need to challenge such views in the party.

  • stuart moran 18th Aug '14 - 3:30pm


    I have always believed that Zionism was a movement that specifically looked to create a homeland in the Land of Israel – ie a specific place. It also, I believe, meant the lands encompassing what is now designated Palestinian territory

    If this assumption is wrong then please let me know

    I will tell you what I believe and then perhaps you can tell me what I am:

    I am pro the state of Israel
    I think the manner of its formation was very badly done
    I want to see two states as defined under the original mandate (see next for borders)
    I would accept the 1967 boundaries (note that some people may demand the 1948 ones)
    If no Palestinian state by 20XX then it should be one state of Greater Israel with full franchise for Palestinians and the dropping of the idea that Israel is only for the Jews

    I am not getting into the right of return but all illegal settlements on Palestinian land should be dismantled

    I don’t think, by your definition, I am anti-Zionist. Do all people on the Israeli side agree though – I think there is as much extremism hidden in the word Zionist as anti-Zionist if your definitions are correct

  • Miranda Pinch,

    g – what would you like me to call myself?

    Whatever you like. But if you call yourself an anti-Zionist expect people to assume you think Israel shouldn’t exist, and regard you negatively for this.

  • Miranda Pinch 18th Aug '14 - 3:49pm

    Glen, there are arguments on both sides about Zionism. I can see the arguments, I can tell you that Christian Zionism is a real issue in the USA in particular with a lot of very unpleasant ideas. Jewish Zionism does have a broader application it is true. So what should those of us who accept Israel’s right to exist within clearly defined borders, but not as it is behaving, call it? Do we revert to using the term ‘Israel’, because many people associate that word with Judaism etc and call people anti-Semitic for that. What do people here feel is the safe term? Is there one? if not why are we treating such a pariah state with such kid gloves at the expense of the Palestinians?

  • Thanks to Miranda Pinch for accurately and eloquently summarising the background and issues and for her prescient warning:

    “The treatment that Hamas and Gaza has received has actually driven more extremism. You can’t treat people like that and expect them to just submit. it goes against any psychology. Jews themselves hid weapons in synagogues when they were fighting for their lives. Hamas is behaving no differently to any other political group fighting for the freedom of its people. In trying to destroy them, Israel is possibly opening the door to something much worse. and what about those children? Israel is creating generation upon generation of Palestinian children who only know Israel and Jews as wanting to destroy them. That makes no sense for Israel, for Palestine or for the world.”

    As Libdems we must stand with those fighting for human rights and justice – Muslim, Jew, Christian or secularist – shunning the extremists and warmongers on both sides and calling unequivocally for the adoption of UN general assembly resolution 194 by the UN security council.

  • Miranda Peach,
    Only 30% of Gaza is urban. It is not sensible to store munition where people live increase they explode by accident. Explosive power is inversely proportional to the cube of the distance. When explosions occur at the surface , the destructive power is largely deflected in a 90 degree arc upwards: this is why Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bomb had to explode against the dam walls and at sufficient depth in order for the force to be directed into the structure .

    Consequently, even storing missiles 100m away from civilians and in an open area would greatly reduce risk. Explosive factories are constructed in hollows with earth mounds around them and light roofs so the power of any explosion is directed upwards and not side wards.

    If one looks at V1 and V2 damage which was caused by 1000 Kg war heads , major structural damage at distances of greater than 100m was small, most was broken windows and doors. Much of th damage caused was due to concentration of shock waves by buildings and shock waves bouncing off buildings.

    When explosions occur in urban areas , many of the dead and injured are caused by flying projectiles, hence the use of blast netting in government buildings.

    If someone was in bomb shelter at a depth of 5m with a 1m thick concrete roof , an explosion of 1000kg of explosive would cause shock, not harm. Some of the tunnels constructed by HAMAS are 30m deep. Once the distance was increased to 200m- 500m , the damage would be minimal. The HAMAS rockets contain up to 50Kg of explosive and includes ball bearings. In fact , many of the Palestinian dead may be due to the ball bearings. Even if 10 , 50Kg rockets exploded due to incoming Israeli missiles, in an open area, the damage by the shock wave at a distance of 500m would be minimal: the greatest problem would be the ball bearings acting as cannon balls.

    HAMAS could have undertaken a rocket campaign which would have resulted in minimal risk to civilians even if the Israelis attacked with missiles and bombs, their military targets.

  • @ Eddie Salmon I think your missing the point. Israel’s occupation (Israel’s illegal occupation) is costing us trade with the Palestinians. Time has shown again and again that Israel’s occupation is never ending so we have to say enough is enough – we are going to trade the Palestinians, we have the right to trade with the Palestinians, and we are no longer going to let you stop us. What’s wrong with that?

  • Miranda ,
    It’s a fair point. My view is that criticism of Israel should be aimed at its actions rather than its existence To me it’s perfectly reasonable to criticise the actions of a country and be critical of religious extremism or fundamentalism. But personally, as soon as some one describes themselves as an Anti-Zionist they tend to lose me. It just seems a little loaded.But that might just be me

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Aug '14 - 7:02pm

    Hi Andi, I don’t know enough about the situation, I just think people need to stay away from alienating ideas and language when discussing the topic.


  • Tony Dawson 18th Aug '14 - 7:22pm

    @stuart moran:

    ” You use it yourself. Do you honestly accuse people like John Kelly of challenging the right of Israel to exist?”

    Interesting to put that question into the context of current developments this month. Does the United Kingdom have a right to exist as it is within its present boundaries? Does Iraq? Does Ukraine?

    People have rights. You could possibly stretch that to ‘nations’. But ‘states’? States are transitory concepts.How many states today are what they were 500 years ago? They exist until people (either external or internal) tire of them.

    ‘Peace’, too, is a relative concept. If I thump you in the face, then steal all your money, then push you out of your home, perhaps killing your brothers and sisters along the way, then put you in a throttle hold from which your only defiance is perhaps to spit in my eye, you may be persuaded to settle for ‘peace’ with me. But am I being peaceful? And how long will you let me be?

    The record of international ‘peaces’ on this globe where there is conquest or occupation of land is very patchy. In southern Ireland, for example, the English occupation was ‘accepted’ grudgingly for centuries inasmuch as there was no concerted or sustained rebellion. It was still not ended without bloodshed. In the areas around the Rhine, people whose grandparents and great grandparents slaughtered each other in millions are getting on with life ‘in peace’ almost as if the conflicts had never happened . A lot of aboriginal people in America and Australia are at peace’ because they were ore or less wiped out by ‘civilised (sic) people’. The Crimean Tatars are at peace for much the same reason.

    The current conflict in the Ukraine is based in the massive collective anxiety of the grandchildren of the conquerers/invaders who became the local majority in that part of the country. An often-forgotten ‘island’ of country in Europe is presently ‘at peace’ because it is peopled almost entirely by the grandchildren of armed invaders and those who accepted subjugation. The vast majority of the nation who formerly occupied those lands do not care in the slightest about the issue today. They are too busy getting on with their lives. I refer to the Kaliningrad (former East Prussia) enclave of Russia, a ‘model’ which the Zionists perhaps naively once hoped that the Palestinians would follow. They do not appear, to date, to have been right. But they seem to think that the whole world should let them carry on to make their prophecy self-fulfilling.

  • stuart moran 18th Aug '14 - 9:39pm

    Tony Dawson

    A good post, opening up a lot of potential areas we could explore but I won’t for the sake of the thread

    I think that first point is interest in the context of what is as state?

    In the contest of Israel though it is an interest point and I touch on it in my post above

    The mandate of 1948 gave Israel a Jewish homeland state and a state for the Palestinians. Since then the Israeli state has increased in size and the Palestinian one had not been formed (not all the fault of this rests with Israel but they haven’t been slow to take advantage)

    Firstly, I have to say that I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a state being defined by a religion or race as it is surely at risk of racial discrimination. This goes for Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia as well. I suppose it is common enough though that I will have to live with it.

    So looking ahead do we have two options for me:

    A predominantly Jewish Israel with a predominantly Muslim Palestine based on the 1967 borders


    A Greater Israel single state which can no longer be considered a Jewish homeland as there would have to be enfranchisement of the Palestinians and the right to return will be back on the agenda.

    What cannot be allowed to continue is the current situation which is a de facto single state but with disenfranchisement of the Arab population in the Occupied Territories

    The first one is the one most favoured but hasn’t progressed for years. Each side will blame the other but I suspect that the status quo is much more favourable to the Israelis than the Palestinians so who will get them to move? – even just dealing with the settler movement would be a start in the right direction

    For those who are Zionists then they surely have to be also in favour of the Palestinian state as it the mandate agreement which allowed for the creation their own homeland as desired. Without the two state mandate there would be no Israel in legal terms

    When it came to the formation of their own state the proto-Israeli leadership were quite happy to resort to terrorism to achieve it – if 70 years later it was still not granted would Irgun and all the other organisations have melted away?….I think not! Begin and Shamir weren’t prevented by their past from becoming Israeli PM – perhaps their descendants could be a little less grand-standing when it comes to dealing with people who are still waiting after 70 years of being promised their own state

  • Miranda Pinch 18th Aug '14 - 10:08pm

    Putting aside the question of Zionism, I want to answer Charlie. You forget about Israel’s no go areas within Gaza. Farmers get shot at well beyond the 300 mtrs that Israel dictated prior to this situation and have drones overhead at all times spying on Gaza and often assassinating members of Hamas or others at will. How do you suppose Hamas defends itself by having weapons hidden in open ground? Israeli Settlements have armouries and members of the Israeli army live all over Israel with weapons at home as well as there being many military units throughout the West Bank and within Israel. There seem to be different standards for a well equipped and brutal army as opposed to what could be deemed freedom fighters.
    As for the charge against Hamas about protecting the civilians, many of the tunnels were built a long time ago mainly to bring in supplies, although, of course they were used for weapons as well. The people of Gaza were “put on a diet” by Israel. Yes it did use those words, but it did more than that it destroyed Hamas infrastructure and assassinated Hamas personnel at will. I suppose if Hamas had the sophistication of the Israeli army with the income from the USA and state of the art equipment and were called an army, then all your calculations might count for something. I did say earlier that in the past the Jewish resistance and others have hidden weapons were they hoped they would not be detected in Synagogues etc, so there is plenty of precedent for that. Let me ask you and others something though. In most countries where there is a situation where people really are taken hostage and used as human shields, it is considered a failure of the operation if civilians get killed in the operation against it. Israel always claims to be moral in its treatment etc, it also takes the moral high ground. Don’t you think it might have put Israel in a better light if it had shown some restraint and, if Hamas is really considered to be using children in that way, would it not look much better if Israel was seen to be holding back to protect them rather then shooting at them on beaches and in hospitals and UN run schools? Did you know that as well as bombing homes, the Israeli army trashed and looted homes in gaza? Did you know that prior to all this, Israel collectively punished many Palestinians in the West Bank, arresting without charge or trial, killing children, demolishing homes and yes, trashing and looting and defecating in people’s homes as collective punishment for a crime that it already knew that Hamas had not committed?. Did you know that the UN has actually accused Israel of using Palestinian children as human shields? Why are the standards for Hamas required to be so much better than a modern army with state of the art equipment that describes itself as the most moral army in the world, yet shoots children in the back who are running away and arrests 6 year olds for picking up a stone and demolished the homes of innocent Palestinians and all the rest I have said. Why, when Israel has no regard for the lives of Palestinians do you blame Hamas, whose non-violent Unity government was attacked by Israel rather than giving it a chance to work? Hamas did not start all this Israel did. Hamas is far far from perfect, but has anyone ever given them a chance to govern Gaza without interference , while being allowed to build the economy rather than it being destroyed by Israel etc? Now why do YOU think Israel did not like the idea of a Unity government? Was it because it might actually have achieved something in a non-violent way?

  • Richard Dean 18th Aug '14 - 10:08pm
  • Jonathan Brown 19th Aug '14 - 2:07am

    @Sarah Ludford and others, I think it’s worth quoting John McHugo’s post from the other thread:

    “Andi Ali posted at 8:51 PM on 17 August that “supporters of John McHugo claim he is the chair of LDFP while supporters of me claim that I am”.

    This requires comment. The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine is an Associated Organisation of the Liberal Democrats. I am its elected chair according to our Constitution. Mr Andi Ali holds no office in LDFP and is not, and never has been so far as our records show, a member.

    The fact that he was describing himself as chair of LDFP was drawn to our attention some while back and has caused us embarrassment. He has no right to purport to speak on behalf of LDFP or claim to represent LDFP in any way.

    We have taken this matter up with Party HQ.

    John McHugo
    Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine”

  • Miranda Pinch 19th Aug '14 - 7:27am

    On the subject of of terminology. It is true that there are States/Nations that have a religious affiliation, but on the whole, I believe, though I may be wrong, that those states have fixed borders, do not consider themselves to be modern Western style democracies and do not claim the moral high ground generally. There are some awful places with brutal and unpleasant regimes, but they do not ask to be seen as victims and do not expect to be supplied with finance and weapons from the USA and Europe. To accept Zionism as an acceptable term, it needs to be defined. If it is the sort of Zionism that is directed towards the goal of Eretz (Greater) Israel then it needs to be condemned utterly. So it is word that is really impossible to avoid, until Israel accepts itself as a fixed entity and does not attempt to be all things – both a modern western moral democracy and a Jewish State with preferential treatment for Jews and an obsession with expansion at the expanse of anyone that gets in their way. It needs to be one or the other. the two cannot be one and the same.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '14 - 10:00am

    Miranda Pinch

    On the contrary, the word Zionism may not have started out as the rather extreme view that it is now, but has developed that way. It was actually Christian Zionism, based on Revelation, that encouraged the Jewish homeland to be where it is.

    It needs to be pointed out that “Christian Zionism” is not a feature of mainstream Christianity. It arose among certain fringe Protestant denominations, whose theology seems to be based mainly around ignoring the key message from Jesus, and instead focussing on speculative interpretation of subsidiary texts in the New Testament. It is most definitely not a feature of any of the ancient eastern denominations of Christianity currently facing destruction at the hands of people who claim to be motivated by Islam. The traditional Christian thought on this matter tended to be anti-Zionist, had the assumption that the Jews had lost their homeland and were scattered across the world as a punishment for rejecting Jesus. Although this is not a line you would hear now, because of the way it feeds into anti-semitism, there are more aspects of the New Testament that could be interpreted in that way than could be interpreted in a pro-Zionist way.

    Like much else in USA-originated evangelical Christianity, there is quite a big aspect of Christian Zionism which starts off with the political position it wishes to reach – generally that of the Republican Party right-wing – and seeks to find scripture it can twist to justify that position. The powerful pro-Israeli lobby in the USA made it advisable for mainstream politicians to be very much pro-Israel, so Christian Zionism if not actually invented in the last few decades had to be taken up from the obscure fringe thought that it was and made a major feature of right-wing Christian evangelical groups in order to reconcile them to a position which was the opposite to the older and more established Christian viewpoint on this issue.

    If Christians are being persecuted because it is wrongly assumed that anyone who is a “Christian” must also be a Zionist, that is as wrong as Muslims being persecuted on the assumption that every Muslim must also support the doctrine of the self-described “Islamists”. These days when most people in the UK at least have no idea of what Christianity is about, it is very easy for them to think that those loud-mouthed USA-funded evangelical types who make a point of calling themselves just “Christian” and pretend they are “non-denominational”, are what mainstream Christianity is about. They are not.

  • Miranda Peach

    My points are simple and clear .
    1. A rocket with a 50 Kg warhead fired from at least 100, preferably 200m would provide protection for civilians. HAMAS could conduct experiments – it is called the Scientific Method /Empiricism and is the reason why The Enlightenment and Agricultural and The Industrial Revolutions occurred. If B Wallis was capable of undertaking experiments to assess the design criteria to construct bombs to destroy the Ruhr Dams , then HAMAS should have the expertise to design bomb shelters. If HAMAS place ball bearings in their rockets, then if Israel destroys them , they are likely to increase casualties on their own side.
    2. All those undertaking acts of violence to wear uniforms.
    3. If HAMAS can construct tunnels into Israel, they can construct bomb shelters at least 5m underground with at least 1m thick concrete roofs to protect civilians.
    4. HAMAS have fired over 10,000 rockets at Israel, 8% have landed in Gaza or 800. a HAMAS rocket hit a power line. A failure rate of 8% is high , which further adds to the reason to store them away from civilians.
    5. My comments require nothing more than basic engineering. Understanding how to calculate the volume of the sphere is GSCE maths.

    Colonel Richard Kemp, someone who has extensive experience has said that the IDF are trying to minimise civilian
    casualties whereas HAMAS appear to b maximising them.

    The reality is some organisations such as HAMAS and the Tamil Tigers want to maximise civilian casualties in order to win a propaganda war.

  • Miranda Pinch 19th Aug '14 - 10:59am

    Matthew I totally agree with you. I was not brought up in the Jewish religion as my mother was a secular Jew and there are no synagogues where I live now so I belong to a local church. I am often called a convert, which I am not and then accused that, in that case, I must believe in ‘Replacement Theology’, which I don’t. I follow a Jew called Jesus who was, I believe, from the school of Hillel. I am not a Messianic Christian either and I don’t want to convert anyone. Live and let live is where I come from. So proud of my Jewish roots and happy to be among Christians who mostly support my views on the situation in Palestine. So totally agree that the Christian Fundamentalist problem is largely an American one, yet there is a lot of it even locally to where I live in another church just down the road! The idea of a jewish homeland in Palestine did originate from British Christian Zionists.. In fact they are the most anti-semitic as they believe that when Jesus returns the Jews in Eretz Israel will either be converted or destroyed!
    One of the big issues of our time is that people tend to lump all Muslims, all Jews and all Christians together, but each religion and every other is many faceted. I have sadly met many Jews who see every Palestinian as a terrorist because they must all be Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists. Many forget about the Palestinian Christians who are rather important and their views often go unheard. So not sure what I am saying here, except that everything is always more complex then we like to think and there is no one voice that represents anything!

  • Miranda Pinch
    To be honest I don’t view Israel as a western style democracy. I see it in context of a region that has a lot of sectarian tensions.
    My problem with the way Zionist is used in place of Israel is the way it is linked to old conspiracy theories about Jews secretly controlling world events and wielding unimaginable influence. My belief is that some people who use the terms Zionist and Zionism are doing so deliberately precisely because it invokes the spectre of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I just find it dubious. Christian Zionism I think is the direct result of post 9/11 anger spilling out into anti Muslim nastiness, itself based in the idea that Muslims are an enemy within. To be blunt a lot of it is about racism and fear of the other.

  • Julian Tisi 19th Aug '14 - 1:49pm

    Miranda Pinch
    Thank you so, so much for your comments which are powerful and clear. We’re guilty in the West of approaching the Israeli government and their wholly inexcusable acts with kid gloves and only making vacuous statements such as “we would urge Israel to show restraint…”. The kid gloves approach hasn’t worked. We MUST start to use plainer language and call a spade a spade.

  • Miranda Pinch 19th Aug '14 - 3:49pm

    Glenn, I don’t see Israel as a Western style democracy either. It is Israel who likes to see itself as one!
    Christian Zionisism is far older than 9/11. It arises from an interpretation of Revelation in the New Testament. It is about Jews being the chosen people and the second coming of Christ. I am sure 9/11 made it worse, but to suggest it came from then is totally wrong as it was Christian Zionists who first encouraged the Jews to make Palestine their Homeland through the Balfour Declaration and the Scofield Bible first published in 1908 I believe. The racism and fear towards Islam came later. Zionism as practices by the State of israel seems to have moved from Biblical to political under the guise of Biblical.
    Christian Zionism has a lot to answer for, but is not new.

  • Miranda,
    I was referring to the recent rise in a more general version pro Zionist Christianity in America. rather its history. but point taken.

  • Israel is nominally a democracy, but democracy cannot coexist with a Jewish state,since the essence of a Jewish state means that one population is considered more worthy than the others.

    For years now, Israel has been under the rule of a leader and his wife who make decisions that are not necessarily in the best interests of its citizens. No other leader has managed to compete against and replace him. IDF soldiers are attacked time and again by religious fanatics who incite against the government. These fanatics – mostly young people – do not believe in democratic ideals; they are guided purely by religious values.

    Rabbis and organized crime leaders have a disproportionate amount of power and entire communities refuse to serve in the army or share the burden of national service. The police are not given the resources to deal with “price tag” offenders or growing corruption among government leaders.

    Political leaders are not democratically elected by the people, and the latter has become completely apathetic.

    The heads of the powerful unions have the most power these days. They are the only ones who are able to get people out to vote in general elections. These are the people who are making all the important decisions that will affect the lives of Israeli citizens, such as who will be the next prime minister.

  • Helen Dudden 19th Aug '14 - 8:25pm

    There was no good reason to remove Kosher food from the shelves in Sainsburys.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Aug '14 - 9:11pm

    @stuart moran:

    “The mandate of 1948 gave Israel a Jewish homeland state and a state for the Palestinians.”

    Not so, Stuart. The motion of the General Assembly, under UN rules, had no validity on its own – and was effectively gained by bribery and blackmail. It was not passed by the Security Council. By the end of 1947, Zionist terrorism had already essentially stolen large parts of Palestine as well as killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of people and killing a fair few British servicepersons as well as delivering letterbombs to British, Italian and US political leaders.

  • Miranda Pinch 19th Aug '14 - 9:58pm

    Helen, I agree. I think they thought they were removing Israeli goods. Unfortunately the behaviour of Israel and its identity with Judaism leads to more misunderstandings and anti-Semitism. In the same way, when Muslim extremists do awful things, ordinary Muslims get attacked. Probably all down to education. It ties in with our discussion about the term Zionism and what it means.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Aug '14 - 9:03am

    As someone who practices the religion, I know at present there is much done to us. For instance, there the recorded case of a young women being beaten because she wore her Star of David.

    It must have truly terrible in those war years.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 10:43am

    Miranda Pinch

    So totally agree that the Christian Fundamentalist problem is largely an American one, yet there is a lot of it even locally to where I live in another church just down the road!

    So I think you should be very careful about the language you use. You may be aware of the point I was making, but many others might not, and might interpret what you wrote as meaning that all Christians support the most extreme forms of Zionism as a fundamental aspect of their religion.

    I also think you should not call these people “Christian Fundamentalists”. This gives the impression that what they are about are the things that are fundamental to Christianity. I would prefer to call them “Christian Incidentalists”, as they take incidental fringe aspects of Christianity or of artefacts of Christianity, and treat them as if they were the fundamentals.

    I do treat my own religious practices and beliefs as private matter, and don’t feel at all comfortable bringing them to a forum where I mostly engage in pure political discussion. However, I am very much aware of the way that if those of us who are moderate or mainstream adherents to a religion keep quiet about it, while the eccentric and extreme fringe blasts outs their misinterpretation and claims those misinterpretations to be the most fundamental aspect of their religion and deliberately uses language which hides the fact that they are a fringe and not mainstream, that is extremely damaging.

    I hope it can be seen that when I make this comment, I am thinking of Islam to. If those with a mainstream and tolerant approach to their religion feel they have to remain silent, or cannot condemn the fringe elements as somehow that is being “disloyal”, they have only themselves to blame if those fringe elements grow stronger and they themselves and all of their religion come to be held in contempt by most other people, because most other people have been misled into thinking those fringe elements ARE what that religion is all about.

  • Miranda Pinch 20th Aug '14 - 1:34pm

    Helen, I do not think that the Chief Rabbi did Jews in the UK any favours when, on Radio 4, he twice refused to condemn Joan River’s rather racist and unpleasant comments about Palestinians recently in Gaza. It is similar to when UK Muslims are asked to condemn a fellow Muslim who has done some ghastly thing. The CR trotted out the usual mantras about Israel having to protect itself and that Israel’s response was to the rockets etc. At the time I thought that this man not only does not represent the feelings of many UK Jews, but is actually doing all Jews a grave disservice.

  • Miranda Pinch 20th Aug '14 - 1:37pm

    I have to apologise Matthew, I should have said Christian Zionism and not Christian Fundamentalism. It was a mistake and what you say is absolutely correct.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Aug '14 - 10:12pm

    Miranda Pinch. I have in the past, had comments made about what I eat and how I do nothing on a Friday afternoon. You are correct, that so little is done to make the point clear we have privacy in our lives. I am a strict vegetarian.

    I believe in something that had little to do with anyone else, and I am sorry that both Israel and Gaza are in the situation that is causing so many problems to all.

    I can’t judge, I don’t understand the situation. But I have in the past made comments on what I do, and my part in international childrens law, and the Lib Dem view on that subject.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 11:14pm

    Miranda Pinch

    I have to apologise Matthew, I should have said Christian Zionism and not Christian Fundamentalism. It was a mistake and what you say is absolutely correct.

    No, I don’t think you should say “Christian Zionism” either. That phrase is open to interpretation as meaning “the Zionism which is inherent in Christianity” rather than “those Christians who favour Zionism and interpret in a way that fits their own religious beliefs”. You may have meant it in the latter rather than the former sense, but being someone who is very much opposed to USA-style evangelical Christianity, I am saddened to find that these days, thanks to the loud mouths and big funding that type gets, many people who know little about real Christianity do just assume that “Christianity” means what the USA-style evangelicals say it means, including all those weird, speculative and entirely untraditional interpretations of a not particularly important book in the New Testament which you refer to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 11:52pm

    Miranda Pinch

    Christian Zionisism is far older than 9/11. It arises from an interpretation of Revelation in the New Testament. It is about Jews being the chosen people and the second coming of Christ. I am sure 9/11 made it worse, but to suggest it came from then is totally wrong as it was Christian Zionists who first encouraged the Jews to make Palestine their Homeland through the Balfour Declaration and the Scofield Bible first published in 1908 I believe.

    I think you are wrong in this. While the interpretation of Revelations which you refer to can be found in a few Protestant writers going back over many years, I think you will find it was a very minor theme associated with a few weird fringe groups in the earlier part of the 20th century, and not therefore not something that would be greatly influential on mainstream politicians at that time. I think you will find that the big growth of “Christian Zionism” to becoming a major theme in Evangelical Protestantism is a VERY recent thing, and has to do with the way that stream of Protestantism has built close links with right-wing politics in the USA.

    In Britain it used to be the political left that was pro-Zionist, with Israel seen as a brave socialist experiment, and the political right that was more sympathetic to the Arab cause, seeing the Arabs as romantic traditionalists. It was only around the 1970s that changed.

    I would say that the driving force behind Zionism in the early part of the 20th century was the rise of the nation state and the idea that nation states should be built up around homogenous ethnic identities. This view of the nation state had only really developed in the 19th century in Europe as the complex pattern of feudal holdings that existed previously came to an end. The formation of Germany and Italy in the second half of the 19th century contributed to this, as did the collapse of the Austrian empire into various nation states each stemming from an ethnic identity. Even France was to some extent invented in the 19th century (at the beginning of the 19th century, most French people did not speak French, instead they spoke various dialects).

    At that time, there were two big exceptions in Europe to the general notion that an ethnic group occupied a contiguous geographical territory, which could therefore be turned into the nation state for that ethnic group: the Jews and the Romanies. So Zionism arose as a sort of neatening up of this – move all the Jews to one place so that could be their nation state. There was also something of an antisemitic motivation in it: the idea that Jews should have their own nation state went hand-in-hand with the idea that they didn’t really belong where they lived.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 21st Aug '14 - 12:00am

    There are fundamental problems with the very opening paragraph of the opening letter from the (long-standing LDFoI) signatories of the letter:
    “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 Palestinian state.”
    It uses clichéd phrases much favoured by governments within the US & EU to sound reasonable, but have become hollowed-out and devoid of all meaning except suggest that whatever Israel may choose to do would be quite reasonable.
    “..within Secure borders” – Where are these? 1967 borders? The Wall/ “Security fence”? All Israeli roads to West Bank Settlements? Eretz Israel?
    “…removal of the existential threat to Israel’s security” This is a contrived phrase much promoted by the Israeli government. Doesn’t the mere existence of the millions of humans in the occupied territories who don’t match the sectarian ideology of the Israeli state constitute an ‘existential threat’? Isn’t the ideology, not the existence of different humans the true threat to any person who can describe themselves philosophically as a true Liberal?

    “Israeli Security” – This is as nebulous as “Israeli borders”. The signatories presumably believe that any indigenous resistance by Palestinians (or Israeli Arabs, for that matter) to the sectarian nature of Israel represents threats to Israeli borders.
    “…Internationally recognised terrorist group” Hamas are so prescribed as were the PLO, by Israel and its lobbying of the US and European governments, and those middle Eastern military states or feudal monarchies funded by the US. Weren’t the Stern, Irgun & Haganah terrorist groups in their day, which gave rise to the state of Israel? I know of elderly LibDem members who were on British service In 1940s Palestine- and they feared those terrorist Jewish groups, not the local Arab population!
    Sadly, I suspect that publicly all the signatories would parrot Netanyahu’s propaganda that Hamas are the same thing as ISIS/Islamic State. I see that the LDFI Matthew Harris already puts this line in his blog.

    “..viable Palestinian state”. Isn’t this a disingenuous platitude? What exactly do the signatories believe IS a viable Palestinian state? Aren’t the signatories lobbyists to strengthen Israel’s supposed eventual negotiating position? Presumably the signatories would only consider whatever Israel would permit- which increasingly seems to not actually exist. Tell me, who of the current Israeli ‘mainstream’ politicians has stated what a viable Palestine without Israeli control looks like- Tzipi Livni, the latest Israeli Labour leader, Avigdor Lieberman, or Naftali Bennet!!! (It’s not like Amos Oz would have any say!) No. At best, it’s sectarian supremacy that speaks for Israel- exclusively how Jewish-Israelis want them to be ruled, not how Israeli-Arab or Palestinians themselves would want. Israel- as represented by its political class & direction – isn’t interested or needs a peace process that grants a viable Palestinian state.

    Also, the letter’s statement “Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel and its refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist is a huge obstacle to peace.” is sectarian itself, The statement hold true if you invert it to “Israel’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine and its refusal to recognise Palestine’s right to exist is a huge obstacle to peace.” Just look at the one-direction drift of the Israeli political class and tell me that inversion doesn’t hold true.

    Ultimately, the fact that the signatories are long-standing LibDem members isn’t really relevant in the sense that their letter would be identical to a letter from prominent Labour or Conservative Friends of Israel. For this reason I don’t think they are fellow members who are truly, philosophically Liberal. To me, Miranda Pinch on this thread articulates the Liberal position on this issue perfectly.

  • Miranda Pinch 21st Aug '14 - 1:38pm

    Thank you Thomas for such a well stated refutation to the original statement. Stated much better than I could have phrased it!
    Matthew, the whole debate about terminology is getting silly. I will stick to the term ‘Christian Zionism’, because it is what it has come to mean that is important, not what it once meant, in the same way as I would no longer describe myself as ‘gay’ unless I was a homosexual, which I am not. Words change meanings and if we get too pedantic we will not be able to discuss anything.
    I also think we shall have to agree to differ about some, not all, of the history of Zionism in relation to Israel. The Sykes Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration followed by the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the French and British mandates are key to a great deal. There was a great deal of both Christian and political (pragmatic) Zionism mixed up with much of that.
    I do agree with you about the rise of the western style Nation State, which was imposed on those living a very different kind of culture in the Middle East. Sadly the artificial new states cut across cultures and beliefs, which has lead to much of the present turmoil in the Middle East . I do agree that there was anti-Semitism in the creation of Israel, but what is even sadder is that many Jews lived happily within the Ottoman Empire and it is comparatively recently that their existence has become perilous in countries of the Middle East. It was Europe that treated Jews most badly and it is Europe that now expects the Palestinians to bear the price of that.

  • In considering the Liberal Position on foreign policy issues we could do worse than recall Gladstone’s basic principles:

    Gladstone eviscerated Disraelian foreign policy as a disastrous mixture of vainglorious imperialism, cynical Realpolitik and fiscal improvidence. His Midlothian campaign speech of 1879, in which he set out his six principles of foreign policy, continues to read well today.

    Gladstone’s first principle of foreign policy was, paradoxically but rightly, “good government at home” – to be precise, fiscal stability.

    Gladstone’s second principle was that the aim of foreign policy should be “to preserve to the nations of the world… the blessings of peace”.

    His third reads especially well today. It should be to “keep the other powers of the world as far as possible in harmony with one another”. And why? “Because by keeping all in union together you neutralise and fetter and bind up the selfish aims of each”.

    “Even when you do a good thing,” Gladstone observed, “you may do it in so bad a way that you may entirely spoil the beneficial effect; and if we were to make ourselves the apostles of peace in the sense of conveying to the minds of other nations that we thought ourselves more entitled to an opinion on that subject than they are… well, very likely we should destroy the whole value of our doctrines.”

    It is arguable that it may have been a worthy aim to bring freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, not only for the sake of Western security but for the sakes of their inhabitants as well. It was, and remains, correct that pre-emptive action is legitimate where a serious threat to Western security is perceived . But you can, as Gladstone said, ruin the effect of doing a good thing by doing it in a bad way.” “You may boast about them; you may brag about them… But you are increasing your engagements without increasing your strength; and if you increase engagements without increasing strength, you diminish strength, you abolish strength; you really reduce the Empire…”

    Gladstone’s fifth principle: “To acknowledge the equal rights of all nations”.

    “You have no right to set up a system under which one [nation] is to be placed under moral suspicion or espionage, or to be made the constant subject of invective. If you do that, but especially if you claim for yourself a superiority, a pharisaical superiority over the whole of them, then I say… [that] in undermining the basis of the esteem and respect of other people for your country you are in reality inflicting the severest injury upon it.”

    Gladstone made it clear – in his sixth and most important principle – that he regarded freedom as the foundation of a correct foreign policy. “The foreign policy of England,” he declared, “should always be inspired by the love of freedom. There should be a sympathy with freedom, a desire to give it scope, founded not upon visionary ideas, but upon the long experience of many generations within the shores of this happy isle…”

    A Libdem Middle-East policy based on these principles of human rights and justice would focus around adoption of UN general assembly resolutions by the security council.

  • Amanda.
    The Ottoman Empire was no more noble than the British Empire. It’s treatment of none Muslims was actually subject to shifts in position and suppression of local opposition, as well as localised genocides.
    Also Israel as we know it was basically the product of British and American post WWII thinking largely born from the shock of seeing what Germany, not the whole of Europe, had unleashed on Jewish populations especially in Eastern Europe indeed many other persecuted minorities in Eastern Europe actually were involved in building the early Israeli state. The point is that West was not responsible for Holocaust. Germany and Eastern Europe were. Israel’s biggest backer is America who lost thousands of lives liberating Europe and ultimately its Jewish populations rather than subjugating them.

  • Miranda Pinch 22nd Aug '14 - 8:46am

    GLenn. Some of your understanding of history is different to mine. The Balfour Declaration for example may have stated great things about protecting the indigenous people, but there is plenty of evidence that there was no intention of consulting them at all and that Britain intended to betray them even then. Also, over the centuries you forget about the way that Britain has treated the Jews. Even during the holocaust we were not exactly helpful early on at least. I am afraid I have a rather lower opinion of the actions of the British Empire then you do.
    Even if you are right and Britain is as innocent as you suggest, why make the Palestinian people suffer for a crime they did not commit with no help or protection, and even now a Government that keeps on betraying those innocent people again and again? The USA is indeed a present culprit, but did not start this atrocity.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Aug '14 - 11:07am

    Miranda Pinch

    Matthew, the whole debate about terminology is getting silly. I will stick to the term ‘Christian Zionism’, because it is what it has come to mean that is important

    I would be happy with that term so long as I could be sure others understood it in the way you have intended it to be meant. However, I am not sure of that, I think others do take it as implying that Zionism and hence uncritical support of the Israeli government is a deep and important feature of all branches of Christianity, which it is not. These days I would always refer to myself as being “Catholic” rather than “Christian”, it’s unfortunate because I certainly don’t agree with the notion found among some Protestants that Catholics are not really “Christian, however I find the word “Christian” these days is so often taken, by those who have not much religious background or knowledge (i.e. most modern British people) as meaning someone with the views associated with the USA-funded Evangelical movement.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Aug '14 - 11:24am

    Miranda Pinch

    I do agree with you about the rise of the western style Nation State, which was imposed on those living a very different kind of culture in the Middle East. Sadly the artificial new states cut across cultures and beliefs, which has lead to much of the present turmoil in the Middle East .

    Yes, here I do agree. The particularly sad thing is that the existence of all these minority communities across the Middle East – various Christian groups and others such as the Yazidis, as well as Jews before they were forced out following the foundation of the state of Israel – indicates there was a time when the Muslim world could teach the Christian world a lesson in tolerance and acceptance of a multiplicity of different religious beliefs in one geographic area.

    Some of the comments I have made or tried to make which have been interpreted as offensively anti-Islam are actually based on a longing for Muslims worldwide to return to that spirit of tolerance. I am very much influenced why what I see in Christianity – the way in which well-funded extreme fringe groups are able to take over and dominate the image of what it means to be “Christian” because well-meaning mainstream Christians don’t do enough to stand up against that sort and have a misguided sense of “brotherhood” or “ecumenism” in which they think it isn’t nice to stand up and argue against one fellows in different strands of one’s religion. So they just sit back and allow the extremists to walk all over them.

  • Miranda Pinch 22nd Aug '14 - 12:26pm

    Matthew. I know few people who base their understanding of Christianity on what comes from the USA. I belong to a very Ecumenical town where Anglican, Catholics and Methodists work and worship together very well. It is only the members of New Farm Chapel who stand apart and they are the one church here who I would describe as Fundamental and Zionist. I identify with the Palestinian Christians and have done presentations on the Kairos Palestine Document on more than one occasion. I often have difficulty seeing some of the USA and other Zionist Christians as having Christian values at all!

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Aug '14 - 6:42pm

    Miranda Pinch. Shalom Shabbat, have a peaceful one. I hope you will except my wishes from the Jewish sector.


  • Miranda Pinch 23rd Aug '14 - 7:45am

    Thank you Helen. I am proud to work with Israeli human rights organisations and with Jews for Justice here, but sadly I get some very unpleasant emails sent to me on an almost daily basis from some Jews in Bournemouth. They are determined to prove to me that Israel is 100% right and that everyone else is evil! I assume that includes me!

  • It is good to see valuable input here from Baroness Hussein Ece and Baroness Ludford. Could I ask if they think the UN could provide a temporary solution to Gaza by taking over Military and Civil control of the area, to stop the slaughter and return it to some normality, as a prelude to wider peace talks? I suggested this approach to two influential LibDem MPs, but have not seen it mentioned in public. Will Gaza be debated at Conference this year?

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