Introducing…Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine exists to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party. The party’s core values of liberalism, internationalism and support for the indivisibility of human rights and the rule of law make it the natural home in mainstream British politics for those determined to support the Palestinian call for recognition of their own State, for justice and their entitlements under international law.

Prior to 2010 the Party was recognised as the only one of the three main parties that could be relied upon to support Palestinian rights and oppose military aggression by Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank.  In coalition government we were faced with a Prime Minister who courted the Israel lobby in the UK with a deferential attitude towards Benjamin Netanyahu, and who was among the first world leaders to congratulate him on his re-election following an overtly racist and divisive campaign. Middle East Monitor has an list of quotes from the new ministers in the Israeli government that ought to give even David Cameron serious cause for concern.

Lib Dem ministers had some influence in government – a limited restriction on arms sales for instance.  Most of our backbench MP’s, on a free vote, supported a Commons motion in favour of immediate recognition of the State of Palestine.  Lib Dem Ministers however said little on the question of Palestinian recognition and were silent when the Palestinian Authority faced down the USA and referred the Gaza invasion of 2014 and the continued building of settlements to the International Criminal Court. Such are the compromises of power. Without the Lib Dems in government, the Conservatives might well have opposed Palestinian statehood (rather than abstaining).  We also missed an opportunity by not including immediate recognition of Palestine in our Election Manifesto – to their credit, the SNP did so.  Now we are in Opposition again we have a chance to regain our soul as a Party.  We could start with a renewed commitment to human rights and in particular towards Palestinian human rights.

We deplore racism of any kind, including anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.   We categorically reject all forms of violence against civilians (including the disproportionate use of force) no matter who the perpetrators and the victims may be. We also strongly reject the conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israeli government policies.  We deplore those who use the spectre of anti-Semitism to discourage pressure on Israel to abandon colonial and racist policies. We applaud those in the Jewish community such as Jews for Justice to Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Peace and Yachad, who yearn for peace and see Israeli government policies as a major threat both to peace and to human rights.

LDFP welcomes Lib Dems as members.  We publish up to date information about Palestine on our website, on our Facebook page and on Twitter.  We plan to have a stand at the Autumn Conference Exhibition and to hold a fringe meeting at the Conference.

* John Kelly is Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and active in Warwick District Lib Dems.

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  • Robert Thomas 29th May '15 - 1:03pm

    Can’t we fight for human rights without labeling all criticism of Islam, Israel, Judaism ect, ect as hate speech?

    Anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia are not remotely similar. to deplore them both in the same breath is not helpful.

  • “We categorically reject all forms of violence against civilians (including the disproportionate use of force) no matter who the perpetrators and the victims may be.”

    That’s as may be, but this is very much a two-sided conflict and to take sides with either one of them is not helpful.

    I consider myself a friend of those in both Palestine and Israel who want peace, and an enemy of those from both sides who do not.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 29th May '15 - 11:58pm

    British MPs voted overwhelmingly – 274 – 12 to recognise the Palestinian State. The tide has turned to reflect public opinion. Israel recently elected the most right wing reactionary government, seemingly impervious to the suffering and daily humiliation of Palestinian people, with little interest in any peace talks. This is not only bad for Israel, but the whole region. To have peace there has to be a willingness and a partner in peace. Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine have a valuable place in the party in continuing the struggle for peace and justice.

  • Thank you Meral for your comment.

    Stuart: I would add that LDFP is in no way against Israel but it is certainly highly critical of its present and recent governments for their consistent breaches of international law, their denial of human rights and their racist attitudes towards Palestinians both in Israel and the (illegally) occupied/controlled territories of the West Bank and Gaza. There are many wonderful people in Israel who are as concerned as we are and who campaign bravely for change.

  • Tristan, You quote an article which appears to deliberately mixes up ‘anti-Israeli’ with ‘anti-semitic and describes a Jewish Israeli musician who is critical of the Israeli regime as being an ‘anti-Semite’:

    “a piece by antisemitic Israeli musician Gilad Atzmon which claimed “the time is ripe to cleanse British public life of Zionists”

    You appear to support ‘expulsion’ of people who may have made what you describe as ‘errors’. Is this not somewhat severe, rather like the expulsion of more than half a people from their homeland since 1948?

  • Miranda Pinch 30th May '15 - 11:49am

    Tristran, I think that over the years it has been seen that the accusation of anti-Semitism is frequently used as a way of trying to prevent criticism of Israel. The first article that you link to from the JC is particularly interesting as it was not the article posted that was criticised, but the source. Anti-Semitism is one of many prejudices that are wrong. There are views expressed by most news outlets and even governments that can be criticised by one group or another. It is an interesting fact that some of the statements made by members of the new Israeli government can be seen as incredibly racist and anti-Palestinian. If we were to avoid any news source that ever made a comment that we or you find offensive or anti-Semitic, the selection left would be poor indeed!
    I remember on one occasion the human rights organisation I was working with at the time phoned me to say that I had been accused of Holocaust denial. My response was to say that as my mother was a Holocaust survivor, a denial would be problematic! I am actually proud of my Jewish Heritage and have taken the time to explore it since I became involved such matters. I stand with many other Jews, Diaspora and within Israel, who feel the same about the behaviour of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians and others. In fact from my perspective, Israeli’s behaviour is a betrayal of Jewish values and its rich heritage.
    I am frequently accused of bias and I now have three questions I ask of my accusers: How can the quest for equality, security and equal rights for all living in that region be described as biased?: Why do I, a Jew, have the ‘Right of Return’, while the Palestinian people are denied the right even to remain on their own land, let alone the right of return to land they have been expelled from, and why is my security as a Jew at the expense of the security of another?
    Yes I have made occasional mistakes in the sources from which I have obtained articles, but I think my sins are a matter of degree don’t you think?
    Attacking people for their sources has become a useful weapon in the increasing arsenal of weapons used by those who support Israeli policies no matter what harm they inflict on others or even the harm they do to their own reputations!
    There is a great debate going on right now in the media about the deceit and lies of Ministers eager to seek re-election in the UK. There has been the increasing accusations of FIFA, and so many, many accusations that can be levelled at individuals and Ministers in Israel right now, and it is true, many other places around the globe. Perhaps a little perspective and proportionality could be used in this instance?

  • Chris Burden 30th May '15 - 7:40pm

    Miranda Pinch 30th May ’15 – 11:49am . . .
    Here, here!

  • Now that Tony Blair has withdrawn from his role as envoy of the ‘quartet’, can we start again with ongoing contacts and talks with regard to Israel-Palestine?

    The quartet of UN, EU, Russia and USA surely has some capacity to influence things for the better, but a more even-handed approach than Mr Blair’s will be necessary. After the Iraq escapade, he was never going to be able to help very much, and he certainly didn’t,, swanning in and out of Israel and not doing much else.

    Paul King.

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