Opinion: Liberal Democrat support in minority and other communities

3387203709_d0349346c3_bLiberal Democrats are thought to have benefited considerably from support in Muslim communities at the 2010 General Election.

This can be attributed both to the Lib Dems being the only party to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 1993, and also to Nick Clegg being the only party leader to consistently criticise Israel for its policies towards Palestinians in the years leading up to the Election.  This has caused some concern in the party that we may be losing Jewish votes. During the period of the coalition government there has been much more muted criticism of Israel and a fear that criticism of Israel will be (or be construed as) anti-Semitic.

There is now a danger of the party losing Jewish and Muslim votes, as well as those of many Church-going Christians, who often are well apprised of the issues because of pilgrimages to the Holy Land. We are also missing the opportunity to attract the votes of a significant portion of the electorate for whom human rights could be a key factor in helping them to choose between Labour and Liberal Democrat.

Instead of listening to those in the Jewish community who would defend Israel at all costs, the leadership should listen to and engage with those whose love for Israel still enables them to criticise it.  In doing so our Leaders would surely advance policies and values which are closer to those of the bulk of Lib Dems and might attract people who might misguidedly look to Labour as their natural home – forgetting just how badly human rights were neglected in the Blair/Brown governments.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Jim Boud

* 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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  • A Social Liberal 22nd Apr '14 - 3:42pm

    There is a difference, John, in giving a friend constructive critisism and pinioning your friends arms whilst his neighbour murders his children.

    For the record, I do not agre with Israeli building of settlements in the West Bank, nor of actions such as the assassination of a terrorist leader by firing a missile into the tower block he was in, but the Israelis have the right to live without having missiles fired into their country or suicide bombers turning city streets into slaughterhouses.

  • Gwyn Williams 22nd Apr '14 - 4:18pm

    2003 not 1993

  • I am a Jew and belong to Jews for Justice in Palestine. There are many diaspora Jews around the world who are appalled at the situation in Israel and Palestine where Palestinians are denied both human rights and justice. There are also many Jewish human rights organisations that try to take a stand against the Israeli policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing with the intention of colonising the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Jewish only settlements. (for instance Rabbis for Human Rights, ICAHD, Breaking the Silence. B’selem, Ta’aush and many more). I nearly left the LIb Dems because of what felt like betrayal of the Palestinians once the Party was in the coalition. I believe there are many like me who for various reasons feel that the Party has sold out on social care and human rights. I believe that it could only be of benefit to the Lib Dems to be seen as a Party of principles. Of course some people will be alienated, but the best way to lose votes is by trying top please everyone. As it is the party is succeeding in pleasing no one. The number of Jewish votes lost will be small, but the amount of credibility will be worth a great deal.

  • The soft-peddling on the Palestine/Israel question by the coalition is really quite shameful and spineless, although not quite as spineless as the stance taken by the previous government. However the use of the word “Jewish” rather than “Zionist” just plays into the hands of people who would cry anti-semitism at the first whiff of anti-Israeli sentiment.

  • Well done, John Kelly, stating clearly and concisely what has become apparent since 2010.
    The powerful lobby that promotes a view which many UK Jews and many Israelis find anathema has been able to render Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats spineless when it comes to commenting on what is happening in the apartheid state.

  • Further to my earlier comment please see link to The Institute for Middle East Understanding website —

  • Regardless of the conclusions one reaches on these very difficult questions — or even if one comes to no conclusion at all — surely we could agree that the Liberal Democrats’ position should be based on what is (a) in the best interests of the United Kingdom and (b) a morally responsible consideration of the present rights and future aspirations of *all* the peoples involved? And not on whether said position attracts more or fewer Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or other sorts of votes?

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Apr '14 - 10:25pm

    I stopped supporting this Party because of its lack of human rights on the bedroom tax and disability. Removal of funding for vulnerable children. Lack of interest on housing problems.

    Nothing to do with religion, just human rights and justice.

    I happen to support the need for change in Palestine but it has to be in both side’s.

  • Robson Brown 22nd Apr '14 - 10:48pm

    This is a bit confused, really. Support from British Muslims has nothing to do with whether the Lib Dems criticize Israel or not. At the moment it probably has a lot more to do with Jeremy Browne’s “national conversation” about the veil.

    Never mind that a certain Bradford East MP has already blurred the lines between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and it hasn’t been a million years since Jenny “Jews are harvesting organs in Haiti” Tonge either.

    Even if this made sense, the days when the LDs could pander to one demographic with a few flashy policies without really supporting them are long gone.

  • Best to keep religion(s) out of politics!

  • Britain is not the world’s policeman so it cannot impose a solution whatever people say on this thread.The country that holds influence over Israel is the one where its Christians are an organised political force who support Israel.
    Some of the most vocal critics of apartheid in South Africa were Jewish.Talk of apartheid is not that useful. Parts of northern Israel are mixed areas Anyway the basis of a peace settlement is now generally accepted as having two states.
    The best Britain can do is to be part of an international effort to bring about a lasting peace and this will not involve taking sides.

  • I do agree that the Party should only advance policies that it agrees with and should not pander to particular constituencies just to gain votes. In this case the Party’s position is quite clearly in favour of a Two State solution and regards the continued occupation of the West Bank as illegal under international law. If the Party believes this then it should join more forcefully with other countries/governments that want to see Israel withdraw from the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and say so loudly and clearly. In doing the latter it will also, I believe, attract voters rather than repel them and make an awful lot of Lib Dems who are really concerned about Human Rights feel much better.
    Those who share these views would be welcome to join Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine at http://www.ldfp.eu/join-us/
    Those not yet sure about should read what we believe is a very fair and balanced Position Paper on the Palestine/Israel issue at http://www.ldfp.eu/position/

  • To answer some of the points in this thread,, rather than write something myself I have extracted some words from Desmond Tutu’s speech in Boston in 2002 —

    In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. 
    On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

    I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: “Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews.”

    My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? 

    Israel has three options –
    revert to the previous stalemated situation; 
    exterminate all Palestinians; 
    or – I hope – 
    to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.
    People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful.

    Desmond Tutu The Guardian, Monday 29 April 2002


  • Helen Dudden 23rd Apr '14 - 9:11am

    @ Miriam. The Party is trying very hard to alienate itself for the future. That is the reason why so many of us have left.

    Working, for peace is something I believe in, but then I also believe in fairness and justice.

    This Party now makes choices, of how it wishes to be viewed to others.

  • John Tilly
    On my visit to Israel I met many Jews from Egypt and Iraq who were forced out of their homes. The Jews that lived in Iraq saw themselves as Arabs and spoke Arabic.
    I knew Palestinians when I worked in Kuwait. It had a large Palestinian population then. I remember one who was related to Munich Olympic assassines, when someone said the operation was unsuccessful, he said ,”Oh no we killed Jews”

  • Helen Dudden 24th Apr '14 - 9:39am

    There are of course two sides to the situation. This is long standing, and as we celebrate Passover and the land that for some was to become a haven for the future. Well recorded in both, the Torah and the Christian Bible.

    I think most of us who believe in a faith older than time, will not always agree with the decisions of the few.

    Yesterday, the Church of England delivered an open letter to the office of your coalition leader David Cameron, the Bishop of Oxford was met by police. I think that says it all.

    I happen to believe in the right to justice and freedom and caring for those who are needing care, no matter.

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