Opinion: Why Liberal Democrats should respond positively to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s questionnaire

In an election Campaign in which none of the Parties has wanted to talk very much about foreign policy, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been asking candidates their views on a variety of questions related to Palestine and then urging the c.200,000 people on their mailing list to consider these responses before deciding how to vote.  On average that represents 300 supporters per constituency – more than the margin that decided the election in a handful of seats in 2010, including some of ours.

Over 800 candidates have responded.  I did a check a few days ago and found that only half of the Lib Dem candidates in constituencies that we held last time have responded.  Some of the responses, for instance from Martin Horwood, Layla Moran, Andrew George and John Hemming were particularly strong. Others responded rather weakly and seem to have been following a rather weak brief supplied by Party HQ.

Liberal Democrat candidates who haven’t yet responded should be aware that Greens have been particularly punctilious about responding and doing so positively to PSC questions, which were:

Do you agree with the following statements:

  1. I urge the UK Government to uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel.
  2. I consider the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and unjustifiable.

In achieving these principles, what are your views on the following steps that a future UK Government could take:

  1. Do you agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine?
  2. Do you agree that the blockade on Gaza should be lifted immediately?
  3. Do you agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain?
  4. Do you agree that the EU Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations?
  5. Do you agree that the government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law?

According to PSC, the incumbent candidates and/or the main challengers have replied in most of the critical marginal seats; this demonstrates that Palestine is one of the key issues that could make a difference at this year’s poll. Take a look and see if and how candidates have responded  and please contact them if their responses aren’t yet included.

More than 9 out of 10 candidates across all parties, who have responded, have especially shown their support for an immediate lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza for humanitarian, construction and/or trade purposes.  The lifting of the blockade was one of the terms of the ceasefire signed by Israel and Hamas in August 2014, following a 51 day assault on Gaza. However, more than seven months later, restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory remain as tight as ever.

The blockade of Gaza of course predates last year’s conflict.  Our Party conference in the Spring of 2009 passed a motion urging the British Government to press for the suspension of the EU – Israel Association Agreement (under which Israel enjoys special trade privileges but also undertakes to uphold human rights) until the blockade of Gaza is lifted.  This is still Party policy.

The majority of the candidates who have responded also support the recognition of Palestine as a way of putting pressure on Israel to accept the two state solution within 1967 borders.  Liberal Democrats voted for a motion to this effect in the House of Commons last September.

Please urge your candidates to respond positively to all 7 questions, if they haven’t already done so.  It would be the right thing to do and might gain some votes from people who might otherwise think the SNP, the Greens or even Labour are stronger supporters of Palestinian human rights.

* 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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  • Only the Labour candidate in my constituency has replied but not to all the questions. I am not sure about recognising Palestine (the Labour candidate in my constituency asks which Palestine?). Once I was a firm supporter of the two state solution, but as there is no progress being made, I am considering whether it might be better to give all Palestinians in the world a right to return and have full citizenship of a joint Israel-Palestine state. I think Israel should be able to stop arms being imported into Gaza and so would qualify my answer if I was a Parliamentary candidate.

    I think Israel should have trade sanctions imposed. However I am not sure how Palestinians feel about it, as it is likely to adversely affect them.

  • As a Lib Dem candidate I’ve replied to their mail on this matter a couple of times and they’ve not updated their site. Too busy to chase it up!!

  • Alex Macfie 28th Apr '15 - 7:55pm

    We as liberals should be saying plague on both their houses. Both sides in the conflict have their share of bigots, and we should not be taking one side or the other but supporting liberals on both and otherwise having nothing to do with it.

  • Jonathan Brown 28th Apr '15 - 10:19pm

    Good article John.

    @Michael BG – Palestinian civil society groups and the PSC here in the UK support the banning of illegal settlement produce being sold in abroad so although in the short term some Palestinian workers may suffer it is the agreed wish of most Palestinians. And of course, buying illegal settlement produce helps to sustain and expand the settlements which won’t help even those Palestinians who work for them in the long run.

    @Alex Macfie, we should indeed support liberals on both sides – basically we should be consistent and uphold our own principles – but as one of the key players that created the current mess I’d say we have an obligation not to ‘have nothing to do with it’. As liberals who care about international law and human rights, I’d go so far as to say we ought to have a very keen interest in it!

  • Gareth, apologies – at PSC just about caught up with responses so if yours isn’t up tomorrow it means we haven’t received it, or can’t find it. Will try and email you if that’s the case.

  • @ Jonathan Brown
    “@Michael BG – Palestinian civil society groups and the PSC here in the UK support the banning of illegal settlement produce being sold in abroad so although in the short term some Palestinian workers may suffer it is the agreed wish of most Palestinians.”

    Maybe I wasn’t clear. I support the call to stop trading with the illegal Israeli settlements. I was asking if we should go further and impose trade sanctions on the whole of Israel.

  • Im pro palestinian but this list of questions is so partisan its not going to achieve anything.

  • Miranda Pinch 2nd May '15 - 5:16pm

    Our PPC, who has a chance of winning here in Winchester, says that in all her extensive canvassing and meetings she has never once had the issue of Palestine or even foreign policy come up. I know she is sympathetic to the human rights issues of the Palestinians and that she is working her socks off. I have had to accept that she does not feel that answering the questionnaire is her main priority in the run up to the election. I am not happy with that, but feel that it is more important right now to help her get elected if at all possible, than to push her on this one. She knows that if she is elected then I will expect a lot from her.

    I expect that Jackie in not alone in that response to the questionnaire. Our present Conservative has answered the questionnaire quite extensively and I must say that many of his answers give me cause for concern. The fact that foreign policy is not on most people’s agenda gives our PPC cause for concern and she has raised the subject herself at hustings.

    So I am left with trusting that Jackie will be elected and trusting that once she is in office, she will be true to what she has so far shared with me on the subject of Israel and Palestine. Both sadly will have to remain open until after next Thursday!

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