Opinion: Jewish and Muslim voting intentions

The Independent on Sunday headline on 9 November suggested that Jewish donors were deserting Labour because Miliband and Alexander have been so forthright in their criticism of Israel over the Gaza invasion this summer and their strong support for recognition of the state of Palestine.  A day earlier Jewish News published the results of a poll carried out within the Jewish Community.

The headline was that Jewish voters were 30% less likely to vote Labour because of its leadership’s stance.  What was much more interesting was that 19% say they would vote Labour compared with 15% who actually voted Labour in 2010 – i.e. at a time when the Brown/Blair governments had been pretty slavish in their support of Israel even during previous Gaza conflicts and the invasion of Lebanon.  Could this perhaps show that the most vocal leaders of the Jewish Community are out of step with the masses and that significant numbers in that Community in fact would rather support a Party that is highly critical of the present government of Israel?

What about the Lib Dems?  The same Jewish News poll suggest that we would only pick up 3% of the Jewish vote at the next election compared with 17% in 2010.  In 2010 our Party leader was the only one to have opposed the Iraq war of 2003 and who had strongly criticised Israel in recent years and we still got 17% of the Jewish vote.  One could argue that while he criticised Israel this summer, he was a bit slow off the ground and rather muted.  One could argue that he has allowed Ed Miliband to assume the role of protector of the Palestinians.  Could one therefore assume that perhaps the Jewish support we have lost is in part because we are not standing up strongly enough for Palestinian human rights as many in the Jewish community do?  Perhaps we are not seen to be with those Jews who are appalled by the Gaza conflict and by the continuing daily injustices and humiliations being heaped on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem?

Meanwhile where are the Muslim voters going?  A recent Ashcroft Poll suggests that 62.9% of Muslims will vote Labour in 2015 compared with 5.4% each for Conservative and Lib Dem. It is believed that 20% of Muslims voted Lib Dem at the last election and possibly 40% for Labour.  So there has been a massive haemorrhage of support from Lib Dems and even the Tories.  Baroness Warsi, since her resignation from the Cabinet, has warned the Tories that they have lost what support they did enjoy in the Muslim Community and she has criticised Lib Dem Ministers for not supporting her in Cabinet on Palestine.  (Her allegations were not publicly denied!) It seems we may also have squandered our position. Lib Dem support from the Muslim community was strong in 2010 because of our stances on Palestine and Iraq as a 2010 opinion poll showed.

The lesson seems to be that if we are sincere about our support for Palestine in its human rights and international law struggle with Israel, then our Ministers need to come out much more strongly on the key issues: recognition of the State of Palestine NOW and urging the Palestinian Authority to go to the International Criminal Court over Gaza.  They should also step up pressure on Israel through the EU by pressing harder for the suspension of the Israel EU Association Agreement,  until Israel stops settlement building and start to withdraw from all land “stolen” for settlements since that Agreement was signed.  By doing what is right we can expect to strengthen our position among liberally minded Jews and Muslims.

All comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* John Kelly is a member in Warwick District, Secretary of the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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  • I believe it would be better if we formed our views on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Israel/Palestine based on the morality of those situations rather than to boost our opinion poll ratings.

  • Daniel Henry 11th Nov '14 - 9:10am

    I got the impression that’s what John was ultimately arguing for, trying to re-assure our ministers that sticking to principles would actually boost rather than harm our polling.

  • @Richard – but that is what he said – “The lesson seems to be that if we are sincere about our support for Palestine in its human rights and international law struggle with Israel, then our Ministers need to come out much more strongly on the key issues: ”

    This is one of those occasion where what we believe is actually what will win us votes –

  • Thank you John for this analysis John and I hope our leaders read it and take their heads out of the sand they have been buried in since Nick Clegg became leader.
    We used to be the party that supported human rights, International Law and justice all over the world .
    I was proud to be a member, whether it brought us more votes or not.
    I was proud of a party who believed in freedom of expression.
    That party no longer exists but I live in hope and remain a Liberal democrat, waiting for the time when we become ourselves again

  • Miranda Pinch 11th Nov '14 - 10:21am

    I agree both with John and Richard. I believe that had the Lib Dems been seen to stand up for their ethos of human rights etc instead of bowing to the pressures from the Israeli Lobby and the coalition, then we might have retained more of the vote. As we are, we are just seen as weak-minded. I am Jewish in that my mother was a so-called ‘holocaust survivor’ though she would have hated that label, so under the Jewish rules of identity I am fully Jewish even though I am a non-practising Jew. I belong to Jews for Justice and other Jewish organisations because it is important that, as my mother did, we all shout very loudly indeed that the injustices that continue in Palestine and within Israel are not in any way, done in our name. There are plenty of us and the number is growing, just as there are plenty of Muslims and others who are appalled at a foreign policy that increases, rather than diminishes radicalisation, and supports and has alliances with countries that have fed various militant groups with arms and money for imagined strategic reasons based on perceived military advantage and access to energy sources, rather than anything to do with human rights or what might be in the best interests of the countries concerned. Just look at the mess that Britain and France created with the Sykes Picot Agreement of 1916, when we divided up the Middle East in an act of Empire Building, which has proved to be the base-line for much of the Middle Eastern conflict we see today.
    Any criticism of Israel is met with the powerful and rich Israeli lobby throwing its weight around with accusations of Anti-Semitism. Yes I have attended many many meetings and events and as well as countless internet discussions where it seems perfectly acceptable to condemn all Muslims, to incite violence and hatred towards them and to use abusive language about them in a way that would be totally unacceptable for any other group. Of course young Muslims are disaffected and turn to those who promise them something, rather than nothing at all.
    It is not too late to make a stand. It is not too late to improve the rating for the Lib Dems. We need to fearlessly (after all we have very little to lose) stand up for the core values that were once the reason I joined and the betrayal of which is the very reason many have left. Let’s show that we are different, that we do care and that we do have some sense of right and morality. Then maybe we can regain some of those we have lost. Yes there will be a lot of proverbial bloodshed, but in the long run it will be worth it, not just for the Lib Dems but for Palestine and the Middle East as a whole.

  • Iain Coleman 11th Nov '14 - 11:26am

    There is the possibility, however remote, that these voters are making voting decisions based on issues other than foreign policy.

  • The opinion poll data from Jewish News is very interesting indeed.
    When it comes to voting intentions it reports that there is virtually no support for Liberal Democrats.

    The Jewish community in the UK is very small. Much less than 1% of the population.
    There are other religious or ethnic groups in the UK which are much, much bigger.
    There are a few constituencies for example in North London where a concentration of Jewish voters may have some political significance. However, in well over 600 constituencies across the UK the Jewish vote is tiny.

    Why do Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders fall under the influence of the lobby that works on behalf of the Government of Israel, which does even represent the majority of UK Jewish voters?

    It would surely be better to have a UK foreign policy that puts the interests of the UK first and not the interests of the Government of Israel.

  • John Tilley – there is a missing “not” in your third para. But I think it’s clear what you mean . I agree with you and with Daniel’s view that sticking to our principles could actually boost our votes.

  • John Kelly — yes you are quite right, my third para should have been —

    Why do Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders fall under the influence of the lobby that works on behalf of the Government of Israel, which does NOT even represent the majority of UK Jewish voters?

  • Tony Harwood 11th Nov '14 - 7:12pm

    The post “This is one of those occasion where what we believe is actually what will win us votes” is I fear wide of the mark under our current leadership, who it appears are ideologically and instinctively pro-Israel, and hostile to any governments or movements in the region who oppose this beligerant colonist state.

    Clegg’s grotesque advocacy of the disastrous Western aggression against Libya, fueled by ‘dodgy dossiers’ and clumsy and now discredited propaganda, has bombed a relatively progressive state into bloody medieval chaos (though flows of cheap high quality crude to the West have been secured – so for the West ‘mission accomplished’ I suppose).

    The Lib Dem leadership’s obscene sabre rattling over bombing Syria to a US timetable was out of step too with the wider party and the country. However, in this case the votes of the Parliamentary Labour Party, through principle or cock-up, and brave Conservative and Lib Dem MPs averted the Coalition’s inevitable march to war, and averted the Levant’s inevitable collapse into even greater blood-letting. There is now of course a regrouping of the proponents for intervention in Syria under the banner of fighting Islamic State, so the warmongers may still get their chance to add even more outsider fuel to the fire of this brutal and increasingly sectarian conflict.

    The ‘Clegg doctrine’ on the Middle East is comparable to that of Tony Blair, and is equally as out of step with the mainstream of the party he leads. Foreign policy is hugely important to very many decent, well-informed people from across all religious traditions (and none). Indeed, on the doorstep it comes up as much as more parochial concerns – with residents’ analysis always more progressive than that of mainstream politicians.

    The common decency of the British is manifest in a revulsion to neo-imperialist aggression and meddling and the beligerant apartheid policies of the colonist regime. Any political party whose foreign policy in the Middle East (and beyond) is grounded in intelligent historically-literate analysis, underpinned by fairness and empathy, would surely attract popular support across British society.

  • Jonathan Davies 11th Nov '14 - 9:46pm

    Iain Coleman is right – Jewish people (and I guess Muslims, although I don’t know about that) will vote based on a wide variety of issues. These include the same issues as worry everyone else, plus specific concerns about religious freedoms.

    The Board of Deputies which is the representative body of the UK Jewish Community has published a manifesto for the General Election which is at http://www.bod.org.uk/content/BoD%20Manifesto%20v5_FINAL.pdf

    On behalf of the Jewish Community, it seeks support for ten commitments:

    1 Defend the right to a Jewish way of life, including kosher meat;
    religious clothing; circumcision; and flexible working to
    accommodate Shabbat and festival observance.

    2 Oppose all forms of hate crime, including Antisemitism,
    Islamophobia and other types of racism, promoting and enhancing
    community safety.

    3 Promote good relations, understanding and cooperation between
    all of the UK ’s communities.

    4 Support efforts to remember and understand the Holocaust, and
    strive to prevent any future genocide.

    5 Advocate for a permanent, comprehensive solution to the Israeli-
    Palestinian conflict, resulting in a secure Israel alongside a viable
    Palestinian state.

    6 Promote peace projects that unite communities, and resist
    boycotts that divide communities
    7 Affirm the importance of faith schools within the overall

    8 Support the provision of religiously and culturally sensitive youth
    and social care services.

    9 Promote a more just and sustainable future in the UK and abroad;
    supporting efforts to tackle poverty, climate change and human
    rights abuses.

    10 Celebrate and support Jewish heritage and cultural institutions.

  • A Social Liberal 11th Nov '14 - 9:58pm

    are you seriously saying that muslims vote for Labour because of their pro Palestinian, anti Israeli stand? If you aren’t then how will Labour coming over all anti Israeli suddenly get the notional muslim vote for the Lib dems?

  • Jonathan Brown 12th Nov '14 - 12:11am

    Good article, and some very good comments too.

    @Iain Coleman “there is the possibility …that these voters are making voting decisions based on issues other than foreign policy.”

    I’m sure there’s a great deal of truth in that, but
    a) that would imply that if they were turned off by support for Palestinian rights, they didn’t mind our stance enough to put them off voting for us before and
    b) I suspect that one of the reasons that they – along with many others – have stopped supporting us it not so much because of one particular policy change but because of a sense that we have moved away from our principles. For a party which used to proudly champion international law, human rights and by extension, Palestinian rights, to go so quiet on the issue in government is likely one example of why we have lost support.

  • Social Liberal – Yes I am seriously saying that at least one opinion poll is suggesting that there has been a huge shift in support to Labour in the Muslim community and it is reasonable to assume that Palestine has a lot to do with that. We were seen as the Party that best stood up for Palestinian human rights before the 2010 election and Labour has taken that mantle. I think it’s reasonable to assume that we could win back some of those voters if our support for Palestine was stronger. This does not being anti-Israel – it means putting pressure on the Israeli government to change its ways. It means bringing home to Israelis that if they elect governments that pursue illegal, inhuman, racist policies towards their Palestinian “subjects” and don’t genuinely move towards a two-state solution based on 1967 borders then they will cease to enjoy the privileges that the civilised world continues to provide to them.

  • Miranda Pinch 12th Nov '14 - 8:37am

    In reference to the Manifesto published by the Board of Deputies, I find the statement ‘5 Advocate for a permanent, comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resulting in a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.’ suspect in itself, even without looking at the details. There is no mention of equality of rights here. Why should Israel be secure and Palestine only viable? And what does ‘viable’ mean in this context? There is no mention within the report of the Israeli policies that seem designed to provoke Palestinian anger and violence through institutional violence and abuse towards those whose land they occupy. Yet again the document uses Hamas as a scapegoat, as if it was the cause of the problem rather than a result of the occupation and oppression. I think the document is a very clear indicator of the problem that those who really care about human rights and equality for all, face. It is certainly not a solution of any kind and does not speak for many Jews in the country and around the world.

  • Miranda Pinch 12th Nov '14 - 10:04am

    Well said, John Kelly.

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Nov '14 - 10:23am

    Jonathan Davies
    Thanks for the list of concerns for the Jewish community to consider when voting and of course the list concerns are wider than what is happening in the middle east. I’m sure the community will look carefully at our commitment to faith schools and the Jewish community’s right to serve in matters of education (granted since emancipation) in which they have an excellent record. Any party(or vocal group within a party) which agitates to downgrade the partnership between the Jewish community and the state, I’m sure will be regarded with a dim view in 2015.

  • Jonathan Davies – Thanks for sharing the Manifesto of the Board of Deputies – much of which I can empathise with. However it is worth highlighting the following extract on Jewish Values:

    “Numerous Jewish texts speak about the importance of caring for others and upholding their rights. Genesis 1:27 tells us that all people are created, “in the image of God”. if all humans are created in the ‘image of God,’ it follows that all human beings have an equal, innate dignity which must be respected.
    Jewish thinkers, biblical ethics and the experiences of the Jewish people have been crucial to the development of human rights. indeed, rené cassin, a principal author of the Universal Declaration of human rights in 1948, was profoundly influenced by the ethics of his Jewish background and the Jewish experience of the holocaust. UK Jewish nGos renécassin and the Jewish council for racial equality continue to articulate Jewish human rights concerns.
    the Jewish community applauds the UK for its actions to promote and protect human rights and making them part of its international agenda. as a community, we feel it is important for the UK to continue to advocate universal human rights both inside and outside its borders.”
    There does however seem to be a disconnect between this statement and the Board’s support for the cruel massacre this summer in Gaza and its silence in the face of daily harassment, human rights abuse and contempt for international law on the part of the Israeli government in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel needs its closest friends to be applying public pressure for change.

  • Peter Chivall 12th Nov '14 - 2:27pm

    At both the Glasgow Federal Conference and last weeks Eastern Region Conference the stall I was working on was within sight of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine. At Glasgow their stall was busy at all times with a constant stream of visitors. In Cambridge last week there was a similar relative level of interest. I did not see ay stall from Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel at either venue. I was close to the LD FoI stall in York. Very few people came to that stall and it was unmanned for much of the time.
    In Cambridge I was close enough to overhear the conversation between the person on the Liberal Youth stall and the person on the LD F of Palestine. From that I was able to deduce that one was a secular Jew and the other was a former unquestioning supporter of Israel. If support for Israel’s actions is disappearing the the current Israeli government have only themselves to blame. One can see at this rate support for Israel itself declining sharply over the next few years, and almost none of this will be because of any putative rise in Antisemitism in the UK. Rather, the reverse is more likely.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 12th Nov '14 - 3:43pm

    Always stand by your principles. As a Jewish-born Christian I support the State of Palestine whatever LD leaders might say. I hope Palestine gains full statehood soon and Israel elects a government which respects all people – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and all other groups. Unless Israel respects others it cannot be respected in return.

  • The argument here is odd as the reason to stand by your principles should be because they are principles not because they are popular.

    Iain Cole man is right it is very odd to assume that individuals who share a characteristic all vote in the same way and will all be swayed by a particular foreign policy stance.

    Miranda Pinch
    “Any criticism of Israel is met with the powerful and rich Israeli lobby throwing its weight around with accusations of Anti-Semitism”
    Did it occur to you that, if you feel your criticism of Israel is met with accusations of ‘Anti-Semitism’ it may be the method of your criticism not the fact that you make it. Terms like ‘the powerful and rich Israeli lobby’ make quite a few people’s skin crawl. I have concerns about the actions of the current Israeli Government’s actions but I wouldn’t want to be seen anywhere near someone trotting out old clichés.

    “Why should Israel be secure and Palestine only viable”
    I doubt that that is suggesting that both states can’t have both characteristics, more that the concern for Israel has been Security and the concern has been that a Palistinian State could be establish in such a way as to not make it viable. I don’t see that the descriptions imply a difference in status, simply historic concerns of each.

  • SIMON BANKS 13th Nov '14 - 4:43pm

    Absolutely, Richard, but may not our poor showing with both communities in the polls be the result of trying to hold the centre ground rather than do what Gladstone and Ashdown would have done and look for what was right?

    I do suspect, though, that the main factors behind our collapse in both communities are not connected to the Palestine/Israel issue, or at least, it’s seen as part of a pattern.

  • Miranda Pinch 13th Nov '14 - 5:24pm

    Psi. If I stood alone in being accused of being a ‘Jew hater’, ‘Anti-Semitic’ etc, for my views then I might give your accusation some credence. But as I stand with many who have been attacked, abused and reviled for daring to express their views about the behaviour of Israel, I am confident that what you are suggesting is not correct. I suggest that my comment about the Israeli Lobby can be verified by many, Jews, journalists, politicians, clergy and ordinary people who have often had jobs, standing, support or financial backing threatened for daring to express their views. That has happened quite recently within the Lib Dems and I know of many for whom I have very great admiration who have remained standing despite the condemnation. I too have suffered a fair share of abuse for my views from certain quarters.

    If as you say my comment about the inequality of the BoD statement is unfounded, then why express it in that way? My question about the meaning of viability was a genuine one. After all the Israeli idea of viability might be very different to that of Palestine?

    No one is suggesting that people sharing a particular characteristic will necessarily vote the same way, which is why I and other Jews object to the BoD or any other group claiming that they represent the Jews of the UK. I am sure the same applies to Muslims who will have varying views. The point I and other have made that the Lib Dems are more likely to regain votes by being see to stand up for their principles and not giving way to Israeli or any other lobby that does not stand for equality, security and human rights for all.

  • Jonathan Davies is a long standing member of the party and someone whose comments should be considered carefully.

    He provided a link in his comment to The Board of Deputies. There was a time when I happily distributed Board of Deputies leaflets to every home in my ward, because they were the best material available to counter the National Front. That was in the 1970s and perhaps I was naive. I would not be willing to blindly accept the words of the Board of Deputies nowadays – I do not know quite how “representative” an organisation it is.
    Over the last few days I have been reading what The Board says about itself.

    The link that Jonathan provided took me to the document The 2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto. It has taken me a few days to work through what is a lengthy document. every now and again there is a statement or a “Policy Ask” which is revealing, although not perhaps in the way that the writers intended.

    On page 17 there is he section headed –Israel and the MIddle East
    It contains the following —
    “…,,,the UK Jewish community has a very strong attachment to the state of israel. a 2010 survey by the institute of Jewish Policy research (JPr) showed that 95% of UK Jews have visited israel and that 90% view israel as the “ancestral homeland of the Jewish people”.

    My thoughts on reading this were “how amazing!”. Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in the 1940s and 1960s to become refugees elsewhere are not allowed to visit the place where they were born and which is in every real sense their ‘ancestral home’ . But 90% of UK Jews who merely “view” this land as their ‘ancestral homeland’ have been able to visit.

    Palestinian Christians who live in Gaza maybe less than an hour away from their ‘ancestral homeland’ have been refused permission to go back even to reclaim their own property and are demonised by the Government of Israel as a dangerous wing of Militant Islam.
    How must they feel when they read that 95% of a UK community have been able to visit this Palestinian ancestral homeland whilst they as Palestinians have not?

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