Opinion: An Open Challenge to Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel

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

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

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

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

Through the good offices of Lord (William) Wallace and Martin Horwood MP a meeting was arranged between representatives of the two organisations. This was a short meeting and threw up a number of areas of disagreement but none of agreement.

The LDFP group went away and decided that the best thing to do was re-state its position on the conflict between Palestine and Israel. This position paper was sent to the Chair of LDFI and comments invited. It was updated in February for distribution at the Party’s Spring Conference.

In spite of several attempt we have not been able to get any response to our paper from LDFI Committee Members. In the last few weeks we have tried to seek discussion with LDFI about the current conflict in Gaza and the situation generally in Palestine and there has been no official response. Their silence on the whole conflict is deafening, except that they did eventually publish on their website, without comment, a list of articles that were notable for their support of Israel in its actions towards Gaza.

That leads us to the view that LDFI identifies with those in the UK Jewish Community that always support Israel regardless, rather than those in the UK and international Jewish community that urges Israel to stop killing civilians, stop building settlements, engage with Hamas and lift the blockade of Gaza. This implicit support for the Israeli government would put LDFI clearly at odds with Party policy and Party values.

So, although I am not Jewish myself, my challenge to LDFI is the same as Jewish Voice for Peace (a US organisation) that has attracted large numbers of signatures to a letter to leading Jewish lobbying organisations in North America: “Your support for Israel as it destroys so many lives is all the more painful given your positions of leadership in the Jewish community. Your decision to stand with the oppressor rather than the oppressed is a betrayal of our history and values, when authentic moral leadership is more important than ever.”

LDFP does not carry the torch for the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. There is much to criticise with both of them. We want to see justice and freedom for Palestinians living in their own country without interference, or living in Israel as equal citizens with their Jewish counterparts. If LDFI is prepared to dissociate itself from the evil government of Messrs Netanyahu, Avigdor and Liebermann, campaign for the lifting of the Gaza blockade and withdrawal to 1967 borders, then we have a basis for discussion and would look forward to it.

Where does LDFI stand? Is it with the bulk of the Party in opposing the Gaza blockade and the recent massacres? Is it with the bulk of the Party in believing that the settlements and the colonisation of East Jerusalem are illegal? If the answer to these two questions is yes, then we have something to talk about – ie, how we get Israel to change and allow the Palestinians to have self-determination.

[Editor’s note: comments will be pre-moderated before publication.]

* John Kelly is active in Warwick District local party, a member of the West Midlands regional executive and Secretary of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine.

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  • “LDFI identifies with those in the UK Jewish Community that always support Israel regardless”

    Absolutely bang on.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I’m disgusted by the cowardice demonstrated by both terrorist groups like Hamas, who fire rockets indiscriminately towards innocents Israelis and the cowardice of the Israeli government who have kept Gaza and its citizens under siege, collectively punishing all Gazans showing an utter indifference to the deaths of thousands of Gazan innocents and the many examples of Apartheid policies inflicted daily on Palestinians.

    It’s time to lay to rest the ridiculous suggestions that by criticising Israel you’re somehow a) being unbalanced, b) siding with terrorists, c) anti-Semitic and stop making excuses for this Israeli government which is engaged in actions which are plain cowardly and evil. The main reason those of us who believe in liberalism and freedom are so disgusted by Israel’s actions is that unlike Hamas, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other horrific organisations, this is a country that claims to share our values of tolerance, democracy and freedom. This is why we must stand up and say this is not acceptable.

    To bring this closer to home, and given Conference is round the corner, Lib Dem friends of Israel need to state their position. This really is an existential crisis for them. They have to decide who they are and what they stand for. Do they, as their objective states, “…exist to support and promote policies which lead to peace and security for Israel in the context of a comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace settlement” or are they actually apologists for a government that’s interested in none of these things?

  • As someone who knows LDFI well but is neither Jewish, nor a member I can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that LDFI is a supporter of Israel but not necessarily the actions of the present government just as LDFP supports Palestine but not necessarily Hamas.

    At a time when we need to respect both groups while recognising problems on both sides, blanket statements should be treated with caution. Ongoing dialogue between the two groups would be very helpful, but hopefully in a spirit of mutual respect and constructive discussion.

  • I’m not a friend of Israel, but I tend to support their right to remove the treat of rocket attacks. The problem is that Hamas as the elected representatives of Palestine are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews as matter of policy. Why would Israel negotiate with an organisation that wants their nation destroyed and their population dead. Negotiating with these fruity Islamist Groups leads to the mess in Libya, Iraq, Syria and the obvious failures of the Arab Spring. The problem for me is that I see a lot of people who ignore what groups like Hamas and the Islamic state and the Islamic Brotherhood are saying because they think this is about geo-politics and nobody could be really be that unpleasant. But the truth is there is abundant recorded evidence which tells us that they mean exactly what they are saying because it a religious mission to them.
    And by the way as a Lib Dem supporter when are you guys going to address the mess in Libya and talk about Iraq rather than keep banging on about Israel who will stop their actions the minute Hamas stop firing rockets and stop asking for the dismantling of Israel and the death of Jews.

  • Why when LDFP issued a 9 point peace plan were they unable as one of those 9 points stopping (or condemnation of) rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel?

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '14 - 11:19am

    Julian Tisi

    It’s time to lay to rest the ridiculous suggestions that by criticising Israel you’re somehow a) being unbalanced, b) siding with terrorists, c) anti-Semitic

    And vice-versa, the ridiculous suggestions that by criticising Hamas you’re somehow a) being unbalanced, b) siding with occupiers and child-killers, c) anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

    Mostly I find with this sort of thing that if you adopt a sensible position somewhere in the centre, each side accuses you of being a fanatical and unthinking supporter of the other.

  • Hywel

    The 9 Point Peace Plan was written at a time when there was relative peace in Gaza – just the occasional Israeli rocket to pick off Hamas leaders. There was of course periodic shootings of Palestinian youths (60 killed in the last year), continuing destruction of Palestinian properties, farms etc. under the protection of the IDF and other provocations. But in spite of all the provocations we in LDFP do condemn Hamas rockets just as much as we condemn Israeli ones.
    Our overall position is that Israel is the major barrier to a long term peaceful solution and that Hamas has signalled many times that it accepts Israel’s right to exist – notably by joining the Unity Government for which that was a precondition. Of course it would be nice if Hamas would change its Charter. I am sure it would if Israel accepted a Palestinian State.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Aug '14 - 11:34am

    Perhaps if the Friends of Palestine condemned the Palestinian terrorists unequivocally and called for them to stop (on a permanent basis) their attempts to murder Israeli innocents then the Friends of Israel might decide to start a dialogue. It might make a difference if Mr Kelly, in his threads on LDV, explicitly condemned the attempted murder by Palestinian state terrorists, condemned the launching of missiles from the proximity of hospitals and schools and stopped using its population as human shields. If he overcame his seeming stance of,, “my friends, right or wrong”, then the Friends of Israel might react to his organisations overtures.

    Please note, I am not in the Friends of Israel, nor would I wish to be. I am a supporter of the people of Israel, but a critical one.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Aug '14 - 11:55am

    Mr Walter, were there thousands of people in the meeting you wrote of so warmly? Were there hundreds, a hundred perhaps? I ask because the photographs of the meeting only depict around thirty people there – certainly less than 50 people.

    It would appear that not as many of the good people of Newbury support your efforts as you think.

  • Chris Bramall 13th Aug '14 - 12:03pm

    I am a long-standing member of the LibDem Friends of Israel, which is committed to a two-state solution. At a recent conference it struck me I should join the LibDem Friends of Palestine too. I went to their stall, and was greeted by a lady who recommended me an article rubbishing the two-state solution. So I didn’t join. It seems to me vital to oppose those on either side who seek a so-called one-state solution, which in reality implies some sort of ethnic cleansing. Failure of both sides purposefully to seek a viable solution imperils the lives and livelihoods of both Palestinians and Israelis, and world peace.

  • John McHugo. May I offer my sincere apologies. It came out harsher than I meant.

  • John Kelly,
    1.You wish to negotiate but you call the Israeli government evil? Not sure that is a good start.
    2. You demand a return to 1967 border , yet ignore the fact that arab countries tried to destroy Israel in the 1973 War. Israel could have entered Cairo and Damascus but did not.
    3. You do not ask HAMAS to move all military equipment away from civilians to such that any explosion would not harm them – 200-500m would probably do the trick. When the Germans decided to defend Caen , they asked civilians to leave.
    4. You ignore the fact that HAMAS built tunnels into Israel but did not build bomb shelters.
    5. You ignore HAMAS’ videos which encourage death, death of Jews and destruction of Iisrael.
    6. You do not say how Israel can stop rockets being fired into it’s territory. The rockets are quite capable of killing Jews, Muslims or Christians.
    7. You ask Israel to lift the blockade but not Egypt. You ignore the fact that many Egyptians were not happy that the Muslim Brotherhood murdered Sadat and they support HAMAS.
    8. You ignore the comment by a leading Saudi who have said HAMAS have brought suffering on the people.
    9. You ignore the fact that large parts of Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi opinion are very critical of HAMAS.
    10. You talk about Palestinians self determination but ignore the fact that HAMAS murdered members of Fatah to take power in 2007.
    Perhaps if HAMAS changed , Palestinians would obtain more support from other arab countries?

    You talk about peace but the closest to a deal was probably was the 2000 Camp David which failed due to Arafat, according to Clinton. HAMAS , Islamic, Jihad and Fatah cannot agree but somehow expect Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians . The reality has always been that even if Fatah agrees with Israel some Palestinian group such Palestinian Liberation Front or Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and now HAMAS or Islamic Jihad disagrees accuses them of betrayal.

    If the Palestinian groups unite and obtain the support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan they will be in much stronger bargaining position with Israel but if they cannot resolve their differences, how can negotiate with Israel?

  • The author is to be commended but I doubt it would work. The Lib Dem Friends of Palestine cannot even agree amongst themselves at times, far less are they likely to agree with the Lib Dem Friends of Israel. For example, some in the LDFP (including myself) support imposing an economic boycott on Israel until it ends it’s occupation – others don’t. The LDFI on the other hand do but unlike the LDFP don’t even consider the occupation an occupation but simply area of dispute. How could these disagreements be overcome?

  • A Social Liberal 13th Aug '14 - 12:51pm

    Further to Charlies post, Mr Kelly – in his call to the return of the 1967 borders conveniently forgets that Jordan had invaded the West Bank and that Egypt had usurped the Palestinian authority which Israel had handed governance of the Gaza Strip to in 1948.

    According to a documentary aired by the BBC (An Elusive Peace ) Arafat had the chance of peace but reneged on his decision to sign such an agreement in Paris.

  • jedibeeftrix 13th Aug '14 - 1:03pm

    @ MH – “Mostly I find with this sort of thing that if you adopt a sensible position somewhere in the centre, each side accuses you of being a fanatical and unthinking supporter of the other.”

    Dear god, yes!

  • The fact that reasonably minded Lib Dems comfortably sitting living in the UK free of any fear or violence can’t agree on a plan just shows how difficult the situation is, God knows how people who have been murdering each other’s sons for 50 years can agree to anything.

    The fact is both sides currently in power need each other. They feed off each other. Netanyahu needs a militant Hamas to gain support for his right wing government. Hamas need a militant Israel so the Palestinians think they need Hamas to protect them.

    My belief (and what the hell do I know about this terrible affair) is the only way things will get better is for one side to unilaterally end hostilities, thus killing the support for the other in the process. If Israel stopped the incursions, stopped settlements and stopped the blockade, support for Hamas would melt away and more moderate voices in Gaza could take control. Equally if Hamas stopped the rockets and suicide bombs, support for the hard-line right in Israel would melt away and a more moderate government could take over.

    I’m not sure if either side is willing to move first or if they ever will be, the people in power need each other too much. But as we have almost no influence over Hamas the place to start would be Israel.

  • Gary Fuller 13th Aug '14 - 2:45pm

    Leaving aside my feelings either way about the conflict, it concerns me when intelligent people start throwing around emotive words like “evil”, even when they link them with an institution. We can be sure of one thing, there can be no solution to this crisis until all sides recognise each other’s humanity and seek to understand the motives behind actions, as well as condemning the terrible outcomes of those actions.

  • Leon Duveen 13th Aug '14 - 3:06pm

    As one of those calling for LDFI & LDFI to combine, this article shows why the sooner that happens the better.
    Israel is a fact and will continue to exist as an independent state, the LDFP Position Paper John refers to explicit accepts this. The LDFI web site says it is “strongly committed to a two state solution, with Israel living in secure borders, free from the threat of terrorism, alongside an independent Palestinian State. “ so they accept a Palestinian state should be created.
    So what are we arguing about? Surely, as Lib Dems, we all want a secure Israel alongside a free Palestine. Those who oppose this, in both the Israeli & Palestinian camps, are those we should be attacking. If we unite as a party behind those committed to a two-state solution, our voice will be louder and we will have more influence. We should be getting behind other (non Lib Dem) groups like OneVoice Movement, The Parents Circle – Families Forum, Yala Young Leaders and many others who work across both communities to find a way forward for all across the Middle East. To quote Hamze Awawde, a young Palestinian peace activist (who recently completed an internship with Americans for Peace Now), “If our leaders obtained the two state solution long time ago, we would all be united now against the extremism, the unemployment and the dictatorship in the region !”.
    Let’s unite against the extremism on both sides, and support those who want a peaceful solution be they Israeli or Palestinian.

  • @ Gary

    I agree, the use of emotive words like ‘evil’ not only inflames emotions in the opposition but also suggests an inability to emphasise with the opposition as human beings who are (however misguidedly) doing what they think is the best way to protect themselves.

  • Lord Dholakia is the sole Libdem representative on the All Party Britain-Israel Parliamentary group formed to create a better understanding of Israel and to foster and promote links between Britain and Israel..

    The Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group has five Libdem members – Baroness Tonge, David Ward, Lord Steel of Aikwood, Sarah Teather and Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

    In 2009 the BPAPPG issued a report http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4cc7ef422.pdf following Israel Military operations in the Gaza strip making the following recommendations:
    • The opening of all the crossing points in and out of Gaza
    • An independent and impartial inquiry into allegations that war crimes and other offences against humanitarian law were committed by both sides during Israel’s attack on Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel, and the holding of all relevant parties to account
    • An international embargo on arms supplies to Israel to accompany the action already being taken by the
    international community to prevent the supply of arms into Gaza
    • Concerted action to bring about a complete settlement freeze, including a halt to the E1 Plan and a halt to the removal of residency rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem
    • The lifting of the closure regime in the West Bank
    • Conditionality enforced in respect of EU-Israel agreements, with Israel’s trade privileges under those agreements being suspended until it fulfils its own human rights, and other, responsibilities under those agreements
    • Support for the re-forging of internal Palestinian dialogue and reconciliation
    • An inclusive approach to international political engagement with all key stakeholders in the region, to achieve an effective peace process towards a sustainable two-state solution.
    • Regular visits to the region for EU and UK politicians to see the situation for themselves and to make appropriate recommendations to their governments.

    LDFI would need to be onboard with these recommendations of the All party group, or at least receptive to the main principles to enter into any meaningful dialogue with LDFP aimed at developing a joint position on the issue.

  • To those who object to me calling the Netanyahu government “evil” – let me say I thought long and hard about it. I don’t regret it – I really do believe it. I don’t think it has an ounce of empathy towards Arabs at all. It treats them in every way as a dispensable underclass whose lives have less value than those of Jewish Israelis. Would the same people object to me describing Bashar Al Assad as evil, or the rulers of Bahrain, or Tony Blair for his dodgy dossier that started the whole Iraq tragedy? Of course there is a scale of evil but the Netanyahu government is on there somewhere, or is someone going to suggest that his Likud Party should be invited to join Liberal International?. This comes from someone who does admire what Israel has achieved for its own people and who understands just how much Israel means to the vast majority of Jews around the world. I just wish they hadn’t trodden all over the Palestinians to get there and still continue to tread over them confiscating their land and making the definable area of a Palestinian state less and less viable.

    To those who don’t even recognise that 1967 borders provide a reasonable basis for a future state, I would point out that I believe LDFI supports that – subject to land swaps which would need to be agreed and fair.

    With regard to LDFI and LDFP – we would love to have a dialogue. It was frustration at not being able to talk to them that led me to write this piece.

    The LDFP Position Paper is at http://www.ldfp.eu/position/

  • English liberal world politics. Look at a foreign confict and the different sides. Decide who the underdog is and then give them your support.

  • John Kelly.
    I object to the use of the word Evil to describe the current Israeli government. I’m no a fan of them. But the reality is there are Arab Christians, Arab Jews and Arab Muslims in Israel.. There are also Greek orthodox Christians, and atheists, . None of them being executed for there beliefs or lack of them. Hamas kill their local Christians and sanction the abduction of three teenage boys who they tortured and executed for the crime of being Jewish.. As for Assad he unlike Netanyahu can’t be ousted in an election because Syria is a dictatorship. One of my big problems with a lot of these discussions is that they sort of end up endorsing the Islamist word view that somehow non Muslim Arabs are not really Arabs. 40% of Israel’s Jewish population are Arab Jews, ditto for Arab Christians. ejected from places like Egypt another military state who also blockade Palestine, a factor in the plight of Palestine that is more or less .ignored .

  • John McHugo
    Admittedly I don’t knee the accuracy of the story but I seem to remember reading somewhere burning down of Christian owned shop and the execution of its owner by Hamas. I think one of the problems in the region is cutting through what is and isn’t propaganda. I don’t doubt that there are passionate Christian Arab Nationalists, but the reality is that their position as citizens is far more precarious than that of Christians in Israel. I was responding more to the idea that Israel has a tiny oppressed ethnically Arab population. It simply is not true. I imagine that quite a lot of them are proud Israeli nationalists. In truth I view Israel as part of the region not as apart from it. Unlike a lot of people here I don’t expect any more of Israel than I do of Egypt . or Turkey. I don’t think a large European heritage gives them special magical powers of reasoning either. I agree that our interventions in the region have caused damage. By the way my views on figures like Assad are more complex than they are Evil and must be removed by various crack pot rebel groups we think we can influence according to a geo political world view still stuck in the Cold War. Our tolerance of Saudi Arabia’s pernicious influence is nothing short of mind boggling. . I t certainly undermined the so-called War On Terror.

  • Kerry
    Israel doesn’t want a one state solution for more reason than demographics and it is not legally required to accept one. Plus why is this preferable to a one state solution between Palestine and Egypt. . The one nation state solution is just a disguised way of dismantling Israel..
    Israel is certainly not the only middle eastern nation to ignore the human rights charter or to receive special treatment whilst retaining free trade. . Look at the gulf states who we supply with arms trade with and even went to war to protect. And who by the way in return fund terrorism and destabilising jihadist insurrections through out the middle east. , In truth Britain. America and France as well as most other countries ignore aspects of human rights law during times of war. This government indeed hastily pushed through a charter so it could continue spying on its population after it emerged that it had been doing so illegally for years. because of the “war” on terrorism.. Is sending special forces operative to “advise terrorists, I mean freedom fighters” on tactics actually legal..
    I condemn Hamas because it promoters genocide on kids TV shows, is to cowardly to wear a uniform so that its troops can be identified as targets, fires rockets randomly from built up areas thus endangering non combatants, abducts teenage boys and executes them. Plus has attempted to use suicide bombers on civilian population., executed its political opponents. Let me suggest we allow the cease fire to continue and engage with Israel and Egypt to remove their joint blockade of Palestine instead of engaging in empty sabre rattling which I’m beginning to suspect has more to do with voter demographics here than humanitarian concerns elsewhere.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Aug '14 - 8:27am

    @Chris Bramall

    “It seems to me vital to oppose those on either side who seek a so-called one-state solution, which in reality implies some sort of ethnic cleansing.”

    On the contrary, a one-state solution should be based upon the rights of all president residents to live in a state with a secular constitution. What we have had for the past 60-odd years has been ethnic cleansing, based upon a notional but dishonest wish for a two-state solutuion.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Aug '14 - 9:51am

    I am rather shocked that there is a Liberal Party Friends of Israel and a separate Friends of Palestine. Was one group created first with the other group formed in response?

    I am even more shocked that there is no meaningful dialogue between the two, or even a merger that it would seem is not something one could even hope for.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Aug '14 - 10:33am

    People if the choose can find potentially thousands of valid (in their eyes) reasons to disagree with each other regarding the current tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes, but cannot we not all agree that the violence that has led to thousands of deaths, and will continue must cease now?

    Whether one is a paid up member of the Friends of Israel, a Friends of Palestine, or a bystander, surely we can all sign up to being members of the Friends for Peace!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Matthew Harris 14th Aug '14 - 12:22pm

    As a committee member (not an officer) of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFP), I wish (writing in a personal capacity) to suggest:

    1. We are all Liberal Democrats – let us continue to enjoy good personal relations between many of the individuals who are involved in LDFI and LDFP, some of whom I have enjoyed very friendly relations with (I don’t think that I have yet met John Kelly, and I look forward to doing so if we are both at Conference in the autumn

    2, As liberals, we are pluralists – why not have a separate LDFI and LDFP, reflecting the reality that each one represents a different point of view on this highly contentious area of politics?

    3. At the 2011 Lib Dem Conference, an amendment discussing Israel/Palestine was supported (and spoken for in the debate) by both LDFI and LDFP

    4. The ‘official party line’ on Israel and Palestine emailed around by the party (we get sent these emails once weekly telling us what the official line is on things) is a line that I, as a friend of Israel, passionately agree with at least 90% of. That suggests that LDFI is not at all far from agreeing with the party mainstream of this.

    5. As John points out, LDFI’s mission statement is: “We exist to support and promote policies which lead to peace and security for Israel in the context of a comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace settlement.” LDFP’s is: “[We] exist to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party.” It strikes me that LDFI’s statement acknowledges the need for a peace settlement that benefits everyone, while LDFP’s doesn’t.

    6. I have been involved in organising a number of LDFI party conference fringe meetings. In 2009, it was an American diplomat speaking on how to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In 2010, it was Naomi Chazan, Israel’s leading civil rights campaigner, on human rights and efforts towards peace, In 2011, it was Alon Liel, a former Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who is one of the architects of the (non-governmental) Israeli Peace Initiative. In other words, at its fringe meetings LDFI was discussing the quest for peace and hosting those Israeli speakers who take the most liberal, pro-peace line. Is LDFP, at its fringe meetings, discussing the quest for peace and hosting those Palestinian speakers who the most liberal, pro-peace line? I wonder.

    7. John reasonably posts a link to LDFI’s website, so yes, if you are interested in reading about LDFI in its own words rather than in other people’s, then I suggest that you look at: http://ldfi.org.uk/

    8. I first joined the Liberal Party in 1986. I didn’t become at all involved in LDFI until around 2002. Can all LDFP activists say similar? I would be wary of any individual who had joined the Liberal Democrats not because they believe in our party’s overall prospectus, but because they are pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian activists who see our party as a vehicle for their cause. The word for that is “entryism”.

  • Callum Leslie 14th Aug '14 - 2:20pm

    Honestly when some in LDFI think that BDS is “disgusting” and “racist”, I don’t think there can ever be that much common ground between LDFP and LDFI.

  • I welcome much of what Matthew Harris has to say and hope he can persuade other members of his committee to sit down with LDFP and discuss where we find common ground. LDFP is absolutely committed to a fair and just peace but is very definitely of the view that the policies of the present Israeli government are the main obstacle to such a peace.

    We await your call.

  • John – can you point me at where LDFP have condemned rocket attacks from Gaza on Isreal because I’ve struggled to find such a statement on the LDFP website.

  • Richard Dean 14th Aug '14 - 5:29pm

    @Matthew Harris
    Why are you “not actually seeking to encourage my LDFI committee colleagues to sit down with LDFP”?

  • I think John that your should put that quote in full and in context.

    “The firing of Hamas rockets at civilian targets, while indisputably a war crime, must be seen in the context of an illegal, long lasting and brutal occupation and the collective punishment of the seven year siege. The true incitement to violence lies in the lack of accountability for Israel’s continuing violations of international human rights law, and its persistent refusal to recognize Palestinian rights generally. That refusal was the ultimate cause of the breakdown of the recent peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”

    That is considerably more qualified than your (selective) quote would suggest. And I think it falls well short of a proper condemnation.

    Were there any occasions on which LDFP condemned rocket attacks in stronger terms than this or on an earlier occasion?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 14th Aug '14 - 10:57pm

    I would be interested in what the LDFI position is on the eye witness accounts and reports of human rights abuses, and allegations of war crimes. The evidence is mounting and overwhelming : http://mondoweiss.net/2014/08/accounts-israeli-khuzaa.html

  • Richard Dean 14th Aug '14 - 11:14pm

    This reader interprets the LDFP statement as inviting the reader to excuse the bad behaviour by HAMAS on the grounds that it occurs in a context of bad behaviour by Israel.

    This reader feels that one wrong doesn’t make another wrong right. True leadership means focussing on finding an independent way to peace and prosperity, not being tricked onto a different path by another side’s provocations.

  • I’m not clear just what was meant by “must be seen in the context of an illegal, long lasting and brutal occupation and the collective punishment of the seven year siege.” That comes very very close to saying they are justified.

    Did LDFP issue a statement condemning rocket attacks prior to July 2014? They certainly didn’t respond to me when I asked if they condemned them in the 2008/9 conflict.

    Meral – LDFI aren’t any better. They were IIRC similarly reticient about criticising the use of White Phosphorous in 08/09 and the only thing on their website relating to the current conflct is a list of “required reading” including a piece saying that the BBC and CNN are responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 15th Aug '14 - 8:17am

    Dear Liberal Democrats,

    Whilst we within the Party debate like ‘armchair warriors’ who is more at fault, people are being killed by bullets, rockets, bombs and most of all shrapnel. The vast majority of these deaths are not of combatants who chose their direction, but innocent members of the public. It is pretty obvious to me that many of the pro-antagonist’s in our Party have never see up close what damage a high velocity round does to someone head, or even mutilated bodies, and long my they remain in innocence, but if they did they would not be so keen to see the mutilation continue.

    The killing whether it is done defending Palestine or Israel has to stop NOW, for ‘hatred only begets hatred’ as the saying goes, and the more who die, the more there will be a blood lust for vengeance and the violence will never cease, but will spill over onto OUR streets I fear.

    As a Liberal Democrat I cannot condone the slaughter that is going on, that so many people seem to be happy to see continue. There are a minority of people who are controlling and directing this tragedy, who I am sure are quite safe themselves and care little for the deaths of even their own people for they will believe that the ‘ends justifies the means’. It never does!

    Please, let’s cease the entrenched dialogue within this Party which many of us joined because of its stance on Peace and join together to bring about a peaceful resolution. It deeply saddens me that this ‘tit for that’ debate has continued as long as it has in our Party. I do not believe that I have joined the wrong Party, but perhaps some people have forgotten why they did?

    Let us join together to be ‘Friends for Peace’.

    Only ‘love begets love’!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • clive english 15th Aug '14 - 9:03am

    in relation to some of the comments above. W hilst i do not support rocket attacks on civilian targets, surely it is relevant that Isreal is in breach of numerous UN resolutions, is carrying on an illegal occupation, and is treating the population of Gaza to collecive punishment. Surely there is no great mystery as to why Hamas might get support for such actions from desperate people who see no negoiated route forward, only yet more “facts on the ground” making a settlement less and less likely.
    The need is to break this cycle and it is no better for Israel to prevent the Palestine Authority achieving peaceful progress by blocking it joining the UN and achieving formal statehood than it is for Hamas not to fully recognise Israel. It is time both sides and their supporters realised that neither has a monopoly of virture (or evil) and started proper negoiations. Here in Britain i would hope Liberal Democrats could at least meet for a conversation regardless of both sides imperfections in the other’s eyes. Not to do so is neither Liberal or Democratic.,

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '14 - 2:23pm

    Grandstand, but seize every opportunity to avoid actually talking?

    I see nothing in Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera’s post that ” suggests … it is time to bring this debate to a close”

  • Bit disappointing that you want to “bring this debate to a close” rather than clarify when LDFP have been clear in their condemnation of rocket attacks on civilians.

    The post-David Ward statement is far from consistent with “We categorically reject all forms of violence against civilians”

  • There is no need to sit down with the Lib Dem friends of Israel – either they agree with us or they don’t- no need for a discussion.

  • Richard Dean 15th Aug '14 - 7:55pm

    @Andi Ali
    Of course there is a need for discussion. For one thing, people can disagree about what are “human rights” – contrast for example the US, European, and African Charters. And neither “international humanitarian law” nor “international law generally” is agreed by everyone. So there’s plenty of things to discuss already!

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '14 - 2:40am

    @LDFP and LDFI
    Following up on John McHugo’s suggestion, perhaps a more constructive proposal on my part would be to ask LDFI and LDFP to meet to discuss two specific human rights:

    > the right to life
    > the right to live without fear

    It seems to me that the Palestinians have suffered much recently in respect of the first of these, and the Israelis have suffered much over several years in respect of the second.

    Can each side find a way to change its behaviours so that the relevant right of the other side is better protected? Surely the ordinary people on both sides would benefit if such a thing could be achieved? And once this step has been achieved, other things to benefit both sides might start to be discussed too.

  • @ Richard one of the reasons the occupation is never ending is because Israel and its supporters are forever telling us they want the Palestinians to have their own state while never granting it – the time now is for action not words….break the blockade……send ships to gaza and rebuild the airport

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '14 - 4:09pm

    @Andi Ali
    Have you never thought that one of the reasons the problem is never ending is that the parties never want to sit down and talk through their issues? Whenever one side appears ready to talk, the other finds some excuse not to, and vice versa. How does that help or serve the ordinary people caught up in this terrible mess?

  • Richard Dean 16th Aug '14 - 7:08pm

    Again, perhaps a more constructive comment by myself might be to observe that a “state” can exist without having an airport, and a state can exist for a while even if it is effectively blockaded – think of Cuba, for instance, or even North Korea. So my question is “what is a state?”

    A dictionary definition is “a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government”. In modern times people think of a government as something that serves the people, in the sense of working for the benefit of the people. Thus a government would organize the “organs of state”, such as

    > systems of decision making – a parliament of some kind
    > laws that can adapt to citizen’s needs, including laws about citizen’s freedoms and rights
    > systems of justice – a police force, an independent judiciary,
    > systems of public health, education, and welfare support;
    > systems for civil infrastructure development and support
    > systems to develop and control relationships with other states

    Apologies if I’ve omitted some important features of what a state is – I’m a bit of an amateur on this subject, and anyway it’s for the peoples and politicians on both sides to develop this, not me. I imagine that the purpose of EU financial support is to help develop all of these aspects of a state.

    In respect of the last system, about relationships, this would often include a defence force. It might also include a system of control so that trust can be developed between the state and other states, and so that the state is not dragged into conflict with other states as a result of uncontrolled cross-border actions by some of its citizens.

    Anyway, there is obviously much to talk about here, so I would suggest that it could be helpful if LDFI and LDFP could meet and discuss all these things.

  • Sarah Ludford 16th Aug '14 - 10:15pm

    I agree with Matthew Harris’s contributions, and endorse in particular his point 5: ‘LDFI’s (mission) statement acknowledges the need for a peace settlement that benefits everyone, while LDFP’s doesn’t.’

    Sarah Ludford
    Vice-Pres LDFI but commenting in a personal capacity

    PS I assume And Ali is the same Andi Ali who, addressing me as ‘Ludford’, wrote to me some months ago purporting to be the chair of LDFP? I never did hear any more about that intriguing claim.

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '14 - 12:29am

    Of course I forgot two of the most important aspects

    > systems of participation and renewal, by which citizens can affect policy and change the government
    > systems of fair taxation, by which citizens pay for the benefits they obtain and share from good governance

    Talk, anyone?

  • Sarah Ludford – that’s me. Are you the same Sarah Ludford who kept telling everybody you were in favor of a Palestinian state but when the Palestinians applied for statehood you put your name to a letter begging the EU Foreign Minister not to support their application. I never did receive an explanation from you why you said you were in favor of a Palestinian state but were urging the EU foreign minister to vote against it. Please provide an explanation – I am intrigued to hear it.

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '14 - 3:13pm

    It’s good to have someone from LDFI re-entering the discussion, even if only in a “personal capacity”. Welcome!

    I feel that a state doesn’t get to be a state by applying to some authority. A state gets to be a state by becoming organized in a way that provides the services to citizens that I have listed.

  • Jonathan Brown 17th Aug '14 - 6:46pm

    @Sarah and Matthew re: “‘LDFI’s (mission) statement acknowledges the need for a peace settlement that benefits everyone, while LDFP’s doesn’t.” You seem to be implying – unfairly – that LDFP for some reason oppose this.

    From the comments here and elsewhere by members – including the leadership – of the LDFP (e.g. John Kelly, John McHugo – I don’t know who Andi Ali is, but he’s not and was not chair of LDFP), it should be clear that this is not the case, even though the focus of the organisation is – understandably – on the Palestinians. e.g. “LDFP is absolutely committed to a fair and just peace”.

    And it’s not just as individuals , but the organisation as a whole: LDFP’s Position Paper linked to above conludes that “Israel exists and must continue to exist”.

    @ Hywell – there is no mention of the rockets in the 9 point peace plan – http://www.ldfp.eu/position/ldfp-peace-talks-proposal/ – for the same reason there’s no mention of the war crimes carried out by the state of Israel: it’s designed to be forward looking, avoiding getting bogged down in blame and offereing solutions.

    It’s good that several members of LDFI have contributed to the comments on this thread, but it would be even more helpful if they would respond positively to the LDFP’s offer of talks.

  • @ Johnathan Brown supporters of John McHugo claim he is chair of the LDFP while supporters of me claim I am……that is were the confusement lies.

  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '14 - 11:28pm

    Well, it looks like Andi Ali is needs to be ignored. It would be a pity though if the actual participants from the two sides were to use his apparently irresponsible interventions as an excuse not to continue talking.

    Is there anything that LDFI and LDFP could suggest that they do, together as a joint operation, that would be a step towards easing the present situation?

  • @ Richard Dean the occupation is endless, we need action – santions – navy escorts etc…….u ignore if u want the LDFP won’t.

  • Richard Dean 18th Aug '14 - 3:28pm

    Almost everyone seems to agree that the blockades need to be lifted – the Egyptian one too – and things like Gaza’s dependence on Israeli electricity and fuel need to be sorted out too. Almost everyone also seems to agree that this is not going to happen by military force, either from Hamas or from external nations doing it with their militaries. Few people now seem to believe it will be achieved by smuggling or tunnels.

    Like the Ali/McHugo relationship. Palestinians themselves seem to be split on this and other matters. A lot of people seem to believe that Hamas is part of the problem, not the solution. Many people probably now see Israel’s actions as counter-productive, creating and increasing the bitterness and hatred that need to reduce and disappear to achieve any kind of lasting solution.

    Does the LDFI organization have an opinion on how the lifting of the blockades might be achieved? Does the LDFP organization have one? Is there any possibility of a common position on this?

  • Jonathan – According to John McHugo it was because rocket attacks had died down at the point it was written. But it is a fairly good starting point for a peace process to stop lobbing bits of explosive at the other side.

  • I gather that there are two entirely different organisations operating under the name of “Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.” While this has all the ingredients of a farcical operetta, perhaps the heads of the respective organisations could limit the farcical aspect by stating for the record, a) how many members they have, b) by what right they use the name of the Liberal Democrats?

  • John McHugo – you know as well as I do that there are a large section of LDFP members (including myself) who were removed from your group after we questioned the direction you were taking the party. As such, we set up our own Lib Dem friends of Palestine. The Lib Dem face group friends of Palestine There is nothing in the party constitution that states there can be only one Lib Dem friends of Palestine.
    I will be happy to discuss this with anybody at party HQ. Meanwhile, may I respectfully suggest you resign from your current position and allow somebody who is prepared to be more vocal in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine take your place.

    Andi Ali
    Lib Dem face group friends of Palestine

  • “Lib Dem face group friends of Palestine”

    What on earth is a “face group”? That’s a new one on me. I can find no online presence for such an organisation.

    At first, I thought this was a typo and that it meant “Facebook”. But, no, it doesn’t. There is only one such Facebook group and that belongs to the real Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine:

    I see Andi Ali describes himself at the bottom of his recent LDV post as “author of the Inspector McGowan murder mysteries”.


    This “Lib Dem face group friends of Palestine” is certainly a mystery. One for Inspector McGowan perhaps?

    Andi, you say “There is nothing in the party constitution that states there can be only one Lib Dem friends of Palestine.”
    Well there is only one Associated Organisation of the party called “the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine”. Fact.


  • jedibeeftrix 19th Aug '14 - 8:19am

    ironically funny given the obvious parallels to the people’s front of judea:


  • Paul, I agree there is only one “Associated Organisation of the party called “the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine” (John McHugo’s) group. But there are now two Lib Dem Friends of Palestine which I am the Chairman. We are a group of Lib Dem members and supporters who don’t concern ourselves with prancing about and joining Lib dem bodies. We concerned ourselves solely with suggesting ways the party should seek to end Israeli’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Now don’t you think you and the rest of John McHugo’s group should stop worrying what we are doing, and focus on your own group and how to best advice the lib dems how to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine?

    Andi Ali
    Liberal Democrat Facebook Friends of Palestine.
    Lib Dem friends of Gaza society.

  • Gary Bellamy 19th Aug '14 - 2:42pm

    I find LDFP’s internal debate laughable – were these the same two groups who posted links on their websites to anti-Semitic musings some months ago, I seem to recall. It is all very well for John Kelly to grandstand and take the moral high ground but my sense is his contribution is as biased and contradictory as those he wishes to criticise, not withstanding the irony as @jedibeeftrix of the people’s front of Judea read LDFP fiasco going on too!

    It is clear that both of these sets of people represent no one but themselves. I’m realisably informed that BAroness Jenny Tonge’s (no longer a Lib Dem Peer) assistant is the secretary of John McHugo’s LDFP. Andi Ali, who, I confess I don’t know but seems to represent some views of some people in the Party and in that guise should be treated with some respect. Although his unfair comments re: Sarah Ludford do him no favours – Sarah is and always has been a good strong Liberal voice on all matters in her time in the HoL and in Europe and it does Andi a disservice to chastise her in the way he does. I have heard Sarah speak up loudly for Palestinian rights at conference and elsewhere.

    Whilst I am neither a member of LDFI or either of the LDFP groups, I think the contribution on this thread has been valuable only to the point that it shows that despite public perception, our Party is much more friendly to Israel than people realise. Israel should have the right to defend itself and Hamas does not in anyway represent the views of mainstream Palestinians. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

    People like Yair Lapid and Mahmoud Abbas must take the initiative and wrestle the moral high ground from Netanyahu and Hamas.

  • @Andi: “We are a group of Lib Dem members and supporters who don’t concern ourselves with prancing about”

    Nonetheless, you seem to be doing a great deal of “prancing.” Unconcernedly, perhaps.

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '14 - 5:28pm

    John Kelly asked this, in his last two paragraphs:

    >> Where does LDFI stand? Is it with the bulk of the Party in opposing
    >> the Gaza blockade and the recent massacres? Is it with the bulk of the
    >> Party in believing that the settlements and the colonisation of East
    >> Jerusalem are illegal?

    Could LDFI please respond?

  • Sarah Ludford 19th Aug '14 - 5:30pm

    Thanks for the – completely unsolicited – nice words, Gary Bellamy!

    Andi Ali’s antics are quite amusing in a way, but since he is persisting in calling himself ‘Chair, Liberal Democrat Facebook Friends of Palestine’ and ‘President, Lib Dem friends of Gaza society’, which might lead the uniformed to conclude he runs some genuinely LibDem outfits, I wish all speed to John McHugo in sorting out the situation with party HQ.

  • BTW! I have never heard of the the people’s front of Judea – are they some lib dem outfit?

  • Richard Dean 19th Aug '14 - 8:58pm

    If the LDFI are not inclined to answer John Kerry’s two questions, perhaps I can give a perspective of an ordinary unaligned member of the UK public? This perspective may not be as informed as others, but it has a significance for both sides in the sense that it shows what some ordinary people think, and so shows the nature of the support or otherwise that each side may have.

    The Israeli naval blockade would probably be regarded as an act of war if Gaza was a state. So the question of Gaza’s statehood seems to have a legal catch! If the Argentinians blockaded the Falklands the UK government would send warships and soldiers to support diplomatic efforts to break the blockade. But I see no reason to hide behind legalistic semantics. The Israeli blockade is an act of war against a million and a half persons. That’s what it is.

    The occupation of disputed lands by Israeli settlers is more complicated. Israel claims to be a fully functioning state in which the government is able to deliver on agreements it reaches with others. But Joe Bourke’s post on a related thread suggests instead that Israel’s government is rather powerless. In a sense Israel is a state that is failing, perhaps always has been. An occupation that contravenes a treaty-like agreement would normally be regarded as illegal, but it seems to be the settlers and those that profit from them who are doing this, not the powerless government.

    Like many others, I regard the lobbing of missiles from Gaza into Israel as another act of war. It’s an act of war against several million civilians, and if Gaza was a state it would be condemned for that. In the West we have this quaint notion of what an honourable war is. Firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas would be regarded as dishonourable. This same would be the case for Gazans using the occupants of schools and hospitals as human shields, and for Israel disregarding the inevitable collateral damage and attacking those places.

    This conflict has been going on for the 50-odd years that I have been listening and watching the news, and as far as I can see virtually no progress has been made during that time. The only long-term solution is to develop trust and some form of inter-dependency between the sides – it’s worked to some extent in the creation of the EC/EU and it could work in the Middle East. But building trust and relationships is a slow process that takes courage and dedication on all sides, and it’s easily de-railed. Meanwhile the ordinary people on all sides suffer.

  • Richard Dean 20th Aug '14 - 2:22pm

    @Matthew Harris
    I would be personally ashamed to be associated in any way with that kind of semantics. There are something like 2000 dead, as a direct result of a choice by Israel to try to use military force to solve a political problem. At the very least a supporter of Israel should recognize that that was a terrible mistake.

  • Richard Dean 20th Aug '14 - 2:50pm

    Sky News this morning reports an incident that requires serious consideration.

    Israel’s military tried an extra-judicial execution which went wrong. Two civilians are dead instead, a woman and a child. The military expressed no remorse, at least none that was reported by Sky. The attack was apparently part of 60 such attacks that were a response to just 3 rockets from Gaza. That does not seem to me to be any kind of “proportionate” response.

    What appears to be happening here is that Israel’s military is desperately trying to snatch victory from the global PR disaster that it has created over the last few weeks. It is trying to beat the Palestinians into submission. It’s reminiscent of some of the worst regimes in history. And it is fanning the flames, not putting them out.

  • Richard Dean 20th Aug '14 - 8:09pm

    @Matthew Harris
    Actually I don’t know why you’re arguing with me. I didn’t use the word “massacre”. But I did recognize a reality in the way that many ordinary people recognize a reality. Neither side looks good in that reality. In this discussion, LDFP asked a few simple questions. LDFI appear to have been unwilling or unable to provide relevant answers, apparently preferring obfuscation, semantics, or silence. What message does that send?

  • Richard Dean 21st Aug '14 - 1:03pm

    @Matthew Harris.
    Why does everyone write “in a personal capacity”?

    To resolve a conflict, the underlying grievances and misunderstandings need to be addressed. And the factors and actors and interests who amplify those grievances and misunderstandings and use them to create the conflict need to be countered in some civilized and effective way. That can be a very hard thing to do, particularly for a long-running conflict like this one, where interests and self-interests and image and expectations and culture all get tangled up in a mess.

    Semantics may have its place, but interpreting the whole thing as a language problem is, to my mind, a way of avoiding addressing the real issues.

  • Richard Dean 21st Aug '14 - 3:07pm

    @Matthew Harris
    It is perfectly possible for a political group to answer a loaded question by first pointing out that it is loaded, and describing how and why they feel that way. So I don’t believe that as an explanation for the LDFI’s silence.

  • Richard Dean 21st Aug '14 - 9:25pm

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