Opinion: Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel’s “Required reading” leaves a lot to be desired

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishReaders may recall that in May, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) aroused controversy by posting a link to an alleged anti-Semitic article about Ed Miliband on its Facebook page. LDFP was roundly condemned for posting this link which was quickly removed. An apology from LDFP followed soon after. It is with this case in mind that I am surprised at the lack of response to what the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) is promoting on its website.

Since 27th June, the LDFI site has featured a number of frankly outrageous articles. Contained within these articles are: baseless accusations of anti-Semitism; opinion pieces stating that protesters in London welcomed 9/11; interview write-ups condemning calls upon Israel to reduce civilian casualties; accusations that western journalists are feigning concern for the deaths of Palestinian children etc. At the time of writing, these articles still feature on the LDFI website. They are described collectively as ‘Required reading on the current situation in Israel and Gaza’.

Of course I understand that LDFI is ‘pro-Israel’ and as such can be expected to give an account of events that is sympathetic towards Israel. The articles do include the usual flawed mantras invoked by defenders of Israeli aggression. For instance, there are endless references throughout to Israel’s right of self-defence (but, as is typical, no mention of the fact that Israel, like everyone, only has right of self-defence by force if it has exhausted peaceful means to defend itself) and how Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel (with the standard omission that Hamas, long ago, joined the international consensus on a two-state solution which the US and Israel reject). These mantras, despite their serious flaws, can be expected and can just about be tolerated in discourse. However, the promotion of the articles within LDFI’s ‘Required reading’ should not be tolerated by Liberal Democrats.

First on LDFI’s list is a link to a piece by that champion of Lib Dem values Richard Littlejohn. Writing for the Mail Online, Littlejohn accuses recent anti-Israeli aggression protesters of ‘selectivity’ and attributes that selectivity accordingly, writing: “Underlying all this is nasty streak of anti-Semitism”. The fact that this anti-Semitism is “underlying” probably explains why Littlejohn doesn’t feel the need to present any evidence for this very serious charge. Littlejohn goes on to explain how said protesters are not only racist but truly callous and sadistic as “They’re [the protesting crowds] who cheered as the planes hit the twin towers.” Again, an outrageous claim for which Littlejohn presents no evidence.

Whilst many think David Cameron has been too soft with Israel, Col. Richard Kemp, in an interview by The Times of Israel, makes it clear that he thinks otherwise. The UK Prime Minster’s assertion that Israel “needs to do more to reduce civilian casualties”, according to Kemp, was not a “reasonable comment for an ally of Israel”. Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were already dead at the time Kemp said this. At the time of writing, the number of civilian deaths is approaching 2,000. Presumably Kemp maintains that despite the repeated attacks on Gazan schools and UN shelters, nothing more needs to be done to reduce civilian casualties and to ask Israel to do so would be unreasonable. The Times of Israel write-up of the interview concludes with praise for Kemp as “someone who gets it”.

It’s not just protesters and politicians that are on the receiving end of criticism within these articles. A Times of Israel’s opinion piece, promoted by LDFI bitterly condemns western media for reporting the civilian casualties. In the piece entitled ‘Those TV cameras responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza’ the author denounces those journalists that “feign concern for Palestinian kids, they are actually creating the environment for their deaths”. It’s unclear from my reading of this article what the author thinks Western journalists should be reporting if not the victims of the conflict.

Is the LDFI really happy to be promoting these articles, let alone representing them as ‘Required Reading on the current situation in Israel and Gaza’? As I have said, some mantras are to be expected and possibly tolerated from groups like LDFI. However, the content of these articles are something else entirely and beyond what we as Liberal Democrats can or should tolerate. I can only hope that this list of articles was lazily put together without a close examination of the content and, upon a bit of investigation, will be removed from the LDFI site.

[Comments on this post will be pre-moderated before they appear on the site.]

* Nicholas Pentney is a member of the Liberal Democrats in Torbay and youngest son of Ruth Pentney

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  • If even ‘Friends’ of the two sides show such distaste towards each other a lot of the time, what chance of peace in the war zone itself?

  • “For instance, there are endless references throughout to… how Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel (with the standard omission that Hamas, long ago, joined the international consensus on a two-state solution which the US and Israel reject).”

    In that case why doesn’t Hamas show it means it by rewriting its charter, which calls unequivocally for the obliteration of Israel?

    Mahmoud Al-Zahhar is one of the founders of Hamas, and regarded by many as its most senior leader. The following is an excerpt from an interview he gave in 2011. There is little room for ambiguity in what he says :-

    Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: At this moment in time, we say to you, first of all: We want Palestine in its entirety – so there will not be any misunderstandings. If our generation is unable to achieve this, the next one will, and we are raising our children on this. Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, and Israel cannot exist in our midst.

    Interviewer: But that was your past rhetoric. Today, you are talking about the 1967 borders…

    Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: I swear by Allah, this is what is on our minds.

    Interviewer: Today, you are talking about the 1967 borders.

    Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: Fine, but this is a phase. This is just a phase… Let me explain to you the difference between Fatah and us on this issue. We talk about the liberation of the pre-1967 territories, but we do not recognize Israel on a single inch of our land. In other words, this land will remain ours, and when the balance of power changes, we will regain it. We will regain the land, even if we have to do so inch by inch. So the difference between Fatah and us is clear. They sold out 78% of the Palestinian lands and consider them to be Israeli lands. They consider only 22% of the land to be Palestinian, and even that is subject to negotiation. Therefore, anyone who says that Hamas has accepted the 1967 borders… I would like to make something clear: We will establish a state on any piece of land, but without giving up on any piece of Palestinian land…

    Interviewer: That was not what you said in the past.

    Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: …We said in the past and we continue to say: Palestine in its entirety is Islamic waqf land, which cannot be relinquished.

  • I have said this for years. The role of groups like the Lib Dem friends of Israel is to ensure to the government does not take any meaningful action against Israel – i,e, sanctions – while allowing Israel to maintain its occupation.

  • Stuart, Hamas is a political organisation fighting what it considers a war against the illegal Gaza concentration camp. That day Israeli politicians see sense a begin meaningful negotiations, Hamas will be (i) forced to reconsider its rhetoric (ii) sidelined if it fails to do so. Remember, Hamas was originally funded by Israel to be a counterpoint to Fatah. It exists as part of this senseless conflict and when there are real moves to end it, Hamas’s raison d’etre disappears.

    Sadly, thousands more Palestinians will be slaughtered before any Israeli politician will have the courage to address this.

  • Just as a reminder, this is some of the material that LDFoP posted to, which the author hesitantly calls ‘allegedly anti-semitic’.

    “In his speech, Ed Miliband affirms his deep Zionist affiliation. The verdict on his reign is clear, Miliband should never have been the leader of a major British political party. He would have been better suited for a position as a local Rabbi or a part time job as an Israeli consular… The following speech serves to convince every proud Brit that the time is ripe to cleanse British public life of Zionists and Jerusalemites”.

    Up to you all as to whether the articles mentioned here are comparable. (Source is here http://hurryupharry.org/2014/06/26/lib-dem-friends-of-palestine-promote-atzmon/)

  • @Andy Crick
    “Stuart, Hamas is a political organisation fighting what it considers a war against the illegal Gaza concentration camp. That day Israeli politicians see sense a begin meaningful negotiations, Hamas will be (i) forced to reconsider its rhetoric (ii) sidelined if it fails to do so.”

    Andy, Israel was negotiating back in April before Hamas were allowed back in to the fold by being invited to join a Palestinian unity government. Not only did this move signal the end of the negotiations, but it is also reported that it may have inspired rogue Hamas elements (who are opposed to any kind of deal with anybody, including Fatah) to carry out the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths, which triggered off the latest escalations.

    Hamas should have been sidelined by all concerned a long time ago. What possible reason would Israel have for believing it was possible to negotiate with people who want its destruction?

    “Remember, Hamas was originally funded by Israel to be a counterpoint to Fatah.”

    I hadn’t heard that one before, so I googled it but the first few sites that came up were all ultra-wacky conspiracy theory sites. Do you have any kind of authoritative source for that?

  • My objection to Hamas is that some people keep mistaking these kinds of fruity religious fanatics for freedom fighters.They said the same thing about similar groups in Afghanistan. Syria, Libya, Egypt and probably other places too. The results are not good. And it’s the same tired mantra every time. .” But this time it’s different, they don.t really mean what they are saying. We can trust them, dealing with them is the only way to restore peace and stability “.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Aug '14 - 2:13pm

    Hamas was created from the Muslim Brotherhood which the Zionist government started to fund in 1984 as a counterpoint to what it saw as the dangerous unity being forged within the West Bank and Gaza behind the Palestinian Authority led by the largely-secular Fatah. The support of Fatah for a two state solution was considered to be the most dangerous threat to the plans for a single Jewish state. Setting up Hamas was seen as the most effective way of dividing Palestinians. When Hamas finally emerged victorious in Gaza, it also had the effect of creating a ‘little devil’ which the Zionists could both keep under control but also wheel out whenever they needed to justify support for actions such as illegal settlements etc.

    The only real threat to this strategy came about when the Oslo Accords marked the first glimmer of hope for a resolution of the Middle East conflict. It is worth remembering that the first suicide terrorist attack aimed at destroying ttwo state peace was not launched by Hamas or Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian faction. On Feb. 25, 1994, Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein entered the Mosque of Hebron and killed 50 Muslim worshippers as well as himself. Goldstein was a member of Kach, the terrorist organization founded by the late Meir Kahane, who also founded the Jewish Defense League in the 1960s in the United States and which also figured on the official U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations.

    The unprecedented massacre was calculated to set the stage for reprisal suicide bombings by Hamas and its split-off, Islamic Jihad. – setting into motion a cycle of violence that has never really ended. The Goldstein attack came at precisely the point when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Arafat began the formal implementation of the Oslo agreement which envisioned the establishment of a Palestinian state by 1998. The first Hamas-linked suicide attacks xommenced two months later, in April 1994, after Rabin and Arafat signed the agreement establishing the Palestinian National Authority, greatly-helping establish international legitimacy for Fatah’s Arafat-led government.

    Despite this terror campaign, the Rabin-Arafat alliance continued, only being broken with Rabin’s assassination by an Israel Zionist terrorist, in November 1995.

    Hamas and Netenyahu are essentially two sides of the same coin. Each has no belief whasoever in ever accepting anything other than total victory for themselves. After Rabin’s death, Hamas upped their own terrorist activity in pursuance of their strategy to influence Israeli public opinion to bring down the entire Oslo process. The election of Netanyahu fulfilled all their hopes, especially when he launched further provocations, which brought about the predictable Hamas response,and nearly brought the region to the brink of war.

    1n 1997, Netanyahu and Sharon launched a Mossad assassination attempt in 1997 against the Jordan-based Hamas official Khalid Mishaal. When the attempt ‘failed’ somehow Israel agreed to release Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin from where he had been rotting in prison since 1989. Yassin was allowed to return to Gaza to rally Hamas against the Oslo process in general, and Arafat in particular. Just in case Hamas wasn’t getting enough support, on Sept. 28 2000, Sharon led his march on the Islamic holy site Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

    What is on the LDFI site is definitely ‘essential reading’. It is essential to see how the distorted thinking is based. It is also wise to remember that just as Assad funded the fledgling ISIS and the USA started off Al Qaeda to tie the (soviet) Russians down in Afghanistan, the support of both Israeli governments and the US State department for the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt as well as Gaza) and its military wing Hamas was based upon the notion of ‘create a bit more irritation for my enemy in his own back yard ‘. These cynical actions, which cause the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of innocents over many years, eventually come back to bite /haunt you.

  • The charter of Hamas is a thought-terminating distraction from the real issue. It doesn’t necessarily translate to what their actual political goals are.

    After all, Labour’s constitution still calls itself a “democratic socialist” party.

  • Sarah Noble.

    This article is about the attitudes of LDFI & LDFP not the Labour party.

  • Sarah Noble

    <The charter of Hamas is a thought-terminating distraction from the real issue. It doesn’t necessarily translate to what their actual political goals are.

    Can you point to a senior Hamas figure questioning this part of their charter?

    Can you point to any action Hamas have taken that is inconsistent with this part of their charter?

  • Nicholas Pentney 23rd Aug '14 - 5:35pm


    ‘Can you point to any action Hamas have taken that is inconsistent with this part of their charter?’

    Yes. There are many. Perhaps most prominantly: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jan/12/israel

  • @Sandy: it’s a pretty apt analogy. Labour (even post-94) call themselves democratic socialists, but have they been that in the past twenty years?

  • @Tony Dawson
    Interested to hear that assertion related to the Israeli suicide attack. According to this page:


    Hamas had carried out two attacks prior to this (in 1993) and Islamic Jihad one in 1989.

    I think this whole thread, as the previous ones on this conflict is too one sided. Friends of Israel seem to want to support that despicable regime, Friends of Palestine seem blind to the reality of Hamas. Neither has any real wish to seek a peaceful solution, neither has any real liberal credentials.

    Yesterday Hamas executed over 20 people after a legal process that was at best seriously flawed and continue to send rockets towards towns and cities in Israel. Can anyone with a liberal world view support such an organisation? Israel continue to ignore collateral damage and seem to be impervious to international condemnation, can anyone with a liberal word view support them?

  • I need to say something which might sound naive: what would it take to being peace?

    There was a time when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully in Palestine, which shows that it is not impossible. It seems to me that supporting either side is to support them against the other and fuel the conflict. I am struggling to see a way of doing something which instead supports peace and reconciliation.

  • @Tony Dawson
    Thanks for that very useful contribution. It’s worth remembering that the Oslo peace accord was destroyed as much by Israeli terrorists as Hamas. As you say, both Netanyahu and Hamas are two sides of the same coin. Which brings me to Lib Dem friends of Israel…
    I suspect that the leadership of LDFI linked the “essential reading” articles not in order to say “look at this rubbish, this is what we’re up against” but because they actually supported the articles. If so, as a party we should reconsider whether or not as a party we should allow LDFI to exist and be called an Affiliated Organisation of the party. The current Israeli state is racist, apartheid and engaged in a campaign of terror against the Palestinian people who are treated as sub-human. So here’s the challenge to LDFI. Are you supportive of organisations like Jews for Justice for Palestinians and happy to reject the actions of the Israeli state publicly? If so, I support you. If not, you clearly reject everything the Lib Dems stand for and as such we should remove your organisation from the party.

  • jedibeeftrix 26th Aug '14 - 2:54pm

    In. Your. Opinion.

  • Julian Tisi.
    The current Israeli government is not racist or apartheid. No Jews have exactly the same rights in Israel as Jews. There are Arab members of the neesat, there have been Arab deputy speakers. Israel accepted Vietnamese refugee. on the only country in the middle east to do so. There are atheists, Christian and Muslims in Israel. Meanwhile black people are not allowed to use swimming pools in the Lebanon, Saudi Arabia bans non Muslim religious expressions, churches etc., Egypt expelled all its Jews and most Muslim countries discriminate against non Muslims as well as Muslim groups such as the Kurds. In Turkey, a moderate Muslim non Arab country Christians have to apply to the government to set up churches, in Pakistan Hindus are officially second class citizens and this is before we through Gender apartheid into the mix. Apartheid is legally enforced discrimination against ones fellow citizens on the grounds of race, religion etc. Since Israel does not view Palestine as part of Israel the charge of apartheid does not apply. It’s like saying border controls here and in America are acts of apartheid. We in fact discriminate against non European migrants whilst offering freedom of movement to our fellow Europeans. Is that apartheid? This is not to suggest that the blockade of Palestine by Israel and Egypt is not damaging.
    Now you ask will LDFI support Jews for justice for Palestinians. Well my guess is most would, but not if they are constantly asked to do so by people who seem to want to delegitimise Israel or differentiate between allegedly bad and good Jews as some sort of political badge of honour. By the Lib Dems need all the support they can get so why attack LDFI as some sort of illiberal impure group who must be driven into the political wilderness. On a personal level the endless debate on Gaza and the perception of perception of the Party ‘ line is somewhat embarrassing to me when I talk to any of my Jewish friends

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 26th Aug '14 - 10:48pm

    A couple of observations on this topic:

    1. Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli jazz musician of international repute, known for being (a) critically acclaimed for his music often collaborative with different styles and music of varying cultural background, and secondarily (b) as a loud, vocal Anti-Zionist Israeli who campaigned against the South African Apartheid regime in its day, and passionately believes it’s his responsibility for to decry the injustices and similar nationalist tribalism from where he came.
    He’s exactly the sort of person that Guidio Fawkes and similar people of the right loath as what they see as a ghastly moralising ‘trendy leftie’.

    He’s not a Brit or other non-Israeli talking about Israel, but someone who was raised there.
    Mr Atzmon has written a piece that lays into Ed Milliband for kow-towing to Labour FoI and believes the British Labour leader played on his roots to gain their support, as the Milliband family are not known for being Zionist. But he’s writing it from his perspective as an Israeli anti-Zionist. Hence his use of ‘Jerusalemite- if Guidio knew anything about Israelis (Jewish), he’d know that there’s a rift between Secular and religious wings and a rivalry of cultural attitudes between those in Tel Aviv & those in West Jerusalem (and occupied East) where many secular (though Zionist) Israelis view the religious wing who focus on Jerusalem as backwards & superstitious.

    I personally think Mr Atzmon is over-egging it in thinking that Ed Milliband has ‘deep Zionist Affiliation’- but he’s basically apoplectic that Ed Milliband for reasons of realpolitik- appears to have given up on his roots in a large (even if minority) British Jewish opinion that is at least vaguely unsympathetic to the secular Zionist cause & religious ‘Aliyah’.
    But Mr Atzmon is speaking from an Israeli political perspective, not a British one.

    2. Hamas and its original charter.
    It’s basically a howl to counter the very rejection of Palestinian/Arab cultural identity from the creation of Israel and pressing onwards with the concept of Eretz Israel.
    Why won’t they change it if they want peace? Because Palestinians who stand by it are not going to cut their flag to suit the sensibilities of the Israelis without seeing them change.

    Tony Dawson explains the context very well. The Israeli government is figuratively, and literally speaking, the midwife to the creation of Hamas.

    I can’t be bothered to start unpicking the blend of fact and myth that Glenn has weaved into justifying Israel as if it’s completely reasonable & we‘re all picking on it unfairly rather than at wickedness elsewhere. To be embarrassed to talk about problems with Israel to Jewish friends… isn’t it a wee bit ….prejudicial… to assume that Jewish= Friend of Israel?

  • Tomas’
    I’m not embarrassed about talking about Israel with Jewish.. I’m embarrassed at admitting to voting Lib Dem. Type Lib Dem and Jews into your search engine .

  • With Israel and Hamas agreeing a long-term cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, some trade and travel restrictions in Gaza are to be lifted – but the thorniest issues are to be resolved in a month, if the cease-fire agreement holds.

    In Gaza, news of the cease-fire was met with widespread celebrations in the streets, and the leaders of Hamas claimed that the agreement represented a victory for the organization in its struggle against Israel. “We declare the victory of the Palestinian resistance, the victory of Gaza,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman. “We achieved some of our instantaneous demands out of this battle. We become closer to Jerusalem and our Palestinian lands.”

    That claim, however, appears dubious at best. In agreeing to stop fighting, Hamas has achieved none of its core goals set out at the start of fighting. While the agreement will see a limited lifting of trade and travel restrictions, those measures are mostly similar to the 2012 agreement that halted a spate of fighting that year. Moreover, among the issues to be considered at a later date are Hamas’s demand for the construction of a seaport and airport in the Gaza strip. Several Hamas commanders were killed in the fighting. Cement and concrete will be allowed to enter Gaza under a monitoring mechanism to ensure that it has not used to rebuild Hamas’s military infrastructure.

    Israel’s leaders declined to declare victory in securing a cease-fire agreement, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated goal of the conflict — the demilitarization of Hamas — is also among the issues to be taken up at a later date. In agreeing to a cease-fire, Netanyahu did not put the agreement to a vote before his security cabinet, a likely indication that he was sceptical he would’ve found himself in the majority. While Netanyahu has succeeded in halting rocket fire from the strip for now, he has seen his poll numbers decline. Moreover, while Israeli armed forces have succeeded in eliminating large parts of the Hamas tunnel network into southern Israel, it is far from clear that they have been entirely destroyed.

    Attention now shifts to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been largely marginalized during the seven weeks of fighting. He said Tuesday that he will unveil a new initiative to secure a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Though details remain sparse, it is widely expected that this initiative will shift focus away from the American-led process and toward the United Nations, where the Palestinian cause enjoys wider support.

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