Tag Archives: gaza

Tom Arms’ World Review

Middle East

A quick round-up on Gaza, Israel, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, America and everywhere else that is affected by the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

President Biden’s “outrage” following the killings of World Central Kitchen aid workers resulted in an apology and two new aid routes: The Erez Crossing and the port of Ashdod in southern Israel. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that as a result 400 aid trucks went through to Gaza immediately after the presidential fury. UN officials said the figure was actually 223.

Disenchanted State Department officials – of which there are a growing number – say that …

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Sometimes sorry just isn’t enough

Wednesday was a day filled with sorrow and reflection as I learned about a tragic event unfolding in Gaza. A missile strike by the Israeli Defence Force claimed the lives of seven individuals associated with the World Central KitchenAid organization. Among them were three British citizens: John Chapman, James Anderson, and James Kirby. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives in this catastrophe, particularly those working tirelessly to alleviate the severe food shortages plaguing the people of Gaza.

The mission of World Central Kitchen, to feed the most vulnerable under dire conditions, where some have had to resort to animal feed for sustenance, is nothing short of heroic. This calamity, however, casts a shadow on their noble work, revealing the precarious nature of providing aid in conflict zones.

The admission by IDF Chief Herzi Halevi, attributing the strike to misidentification, does little to assuage the gravity of the situation. The meticulous targeting of vehicles marked with the World Central Kitchen emblem seems to point to a breakdown not just in the fog of war but in accountability and oversight by one of the world’s most technologically advanced militaries.

In a separate, equally disturbing event, a suspected Israeli strike demolished the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. This act, resulting in the death of seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), escalates tensions further and breaches the sanctity of diplomatic missions, a cornerstone of international relations.

These events have reignited the discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict, underscoring the urgent need for peace and the problematic nature of ongoing arms sales to Israel. Calls for a ceasefire from former Supreme Court Justices and reconsideration of support for UNWRA highlight the potential complicity in serious violations of international law.

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Observations of an ex pat: Suspend arms shipments to Israel

Selling weapons to Israel is a breach of international law.

This is not my opinion. It is the judgement of 600 British legal eagles, including three former members of the UK Supreme Court. They have been joined by 130 parliamentarians and the three main Opposition parties have demanded a debate on the issue.

It is also the verdict of the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Japan and Spain. They have all suspended arms shipments to Israel.

All the above agree that Israel is breaking a number of international laws with its attacks on civilians in Gaza. Furthermore, that countries that supply the Israeli government with weapons are complicit in breaking those laws.

So what laws is Israel breaching? To start with there is Article 7 of the UN Arms Trade Treaty which “prohibits the export of arms where is an overriding risk that the weapons can be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

It is an international law which has been enforced by Britain in the past. In 2019 the British Court of Appeals used it to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia based on the Saudis indiscriminate bombing of Yemen.

There is also the 1948 Geneva Convention Against Genocide, which, ironically, was enacted as a response to the killing of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. This convention prohibits “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group.” It goes on to describe the prohibited acts: “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the group as a whole.”

The Israeli government and their supporters say that claims that they are breaching international law are “nonsense.” But, so far the Israeli Defence Force has caused the death of more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza and seriously injured 52,000 more. Eighty-five percent – 1.9 million people have had their homes destroyed by Israeli bombs. Gaza’s hospitals are medical rubble. Israel’s refusal to allow food and water into Gaza have created famine conditions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that Gazans are “the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded.”

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Layla Moran reports that her family is safely out of Gaza

Some good news from Layla Moran:

She adds:

Thank you to all who have followed their story. But while theirs ends with reunification, having lost one along the way, this atrocious war rages on. I won’t stop working until we achieve not just an end to violence, but peace once and for all.

As a Palestinian, Layla has been a powerful voice on the war in Gaza, especially as she is our Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Back in December she talked to Channel 4 news about her extended family who were holed up in the church in Gaza.

For now we are just grateful that Layla’s family are safe.

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3 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Aid worker deaths: Davey calls on government to suspend arms sales to Israel
  • Royal Mail proposal to cut second class deliveries: Another slap in the face
  • London Lib Dems response to Khan economic announcement
  • Worst hit rivers for sewage dumps revealed as Lib Dems call for new Blue Flag status
  • Rennie responds to CalMac boss stepping down

Aid worker deaths: Davey calls on government to suspend arms sales to Israel

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to suspend arms sales to Israel, following the deaths of seven aid workers including three British nationals in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

The deaths of these British aid workers in Gaza is an absolute disgrace. These brave people were trying to help starving families in Gaza.

Clearly, the thought that British-made arms could have been used in strikes such as these is completely unacceptable.

The government must take swift action to suspend arms exports to Israel. We must redouble our efforts to secure an immediate bilateral ceasefire.

Royal Mail proposal to cut second class deliveries: Another slap in the face

Responding to the news that Royal Mail wants to reduce second class deliveries to three days a week, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These plans are a slap in the face for families being asked to pay more for less.

The cost of first and second class stamps has gone up sharply in recent years. It risks creating a cost of postage crisis, as people feel forced to pay for first class stamps because second class delivery days are being slashed.

People shouldn’t have to pay the price for Royal Mail’s failure, after executives missed their delivery targets and paid themselves eye-watering bonuses.

London Lib Dems response to Khan economic announcement

Responding to Sadiq Khan’s joint economic announcement with Rachel Reeves today (Weds), Rob Blackie, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, said:

Labour’s plan ignores London’s biggest economic problem – Brexit. Labour are too scared to say that Brexit has damaged London’s economy, making us poorer and costing us jobs.

For instance, technology companies now have to spend time and money complying with two data laws, one each from the EU and the UK. And too many European citizens in London are made to feel unwelcome.

As Liberal Democrat Mayor I will campaign to fix the damage done by Brexit, and bring in a London passport to protect London’s EU citizen rights.

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25 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Cameron must address the Commons not just Tory MPs on 1922 Committee
  • Lib Dems welcome motion passed by UN Security Council
  • Rennie responds to former Scottish Government adviser dismantling independence claims

Cameron must address the Commons not just Tory MPs on 1922 Committee

Commenting on the reports that the only Conservative MPs on the 1922 Committee will be given the opportunity to question Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron this afternoon, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

When we’re facing such serious national security threats, it is outrageous that only Conservative backbenchers will hear from the Foreign Secretary and have the chance to question

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Observations of an Expat: Middle East Movement

Finally, there appears to be a glimmer of progress on the Gaza front.

In the unlikely venue of a New York ice cream parlour, President Joe Biden, revealed this week that he is hopeful for a ceasefire by Monday.

And almost simultaneously, Muhammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, resigned to make way for a reorganised government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip which could provide an outside chance of leading to recognition of a State of Palestine.

The departure of Shtayyeh comes amidst a flurry of diplomatic meetings involving American, British, EU, and Arab state officials in Riyadh, Paris and Doha.

What appears to be emerging is an agreement for a “temporary” ceasefire of “some weeks” which would involve the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages; the freeing of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and a massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

That appears to be the bones of a short-term agreement. The long-term is more problematic because it involves a revival of the two-state solution and recognition of a reconstituted Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state.

The idea was mooted back in January by British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron as part of a carrot and stick approach that involved British support for Israel as the flip side of the diplomatic coin.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Alexei Navalny is dead.

His body lies in a prison morgue inside the Arctic Circle. It is generally accepted that he was murdered, or at the very least Vladimir Putin is responsible for his death by sentencing him to a frozen penal colony.

After days of standing at the prison gates, Navalny’s mother was finally allowed to see his body. But she has been denied permission to take it away for burial.

Instead she was told that she had to agree to agree to a secret burial at a hush-hush site. Otherwise, Lydmilia Navalny reported, “the authorities said they would do things to Alexei’s body.”

Putin is clearly afraid of Navalny the martyr. He is afraid that a public burial at an accessible site will become a focal point for those opposed to his corrupt oligarchical rule.

Navalny was not even cold on his morgue slab before the Russian media machine was trying to spin him out of the Russian story. The state-controlled news machine was late in reporting his death and its accounts were, at best perfunctory. There was no contextual information to explain why he was in prison and one commentator refused to use his first name.

From Putin himself there has been a deafening silence. This is unsurprising. In the past, the Russian president has refused to use the opposition leader’s name when directly asked about him at press conferences. He clearly hopes that the dearth of reports by the media will result in Navalny becoming a non-person as well as dead.

This maybe the case in Russia, but it isn’t working in the West. Navalny’s wife Yulia and their 23-year-old daughter Dasha have already been quick to pick up the baton. Navalny’s 15-year-old son Zahar is probably not far behind.

But will the West listen? Yulia made a major impact when she spoke at the recent Munich Security Conference and Dasha joined her mother in an emotional White House meeting with President Joe Biden.

But Biden and the Europeans were a receptive audience before Alexei’s death. The nut that needs to be cracked is the MAGA Republicans. When Trump was asked by Fox News to comment on Navalny’s death he refused to blame Putin and focused on linking Alexei’s death to his own legal problems. We are both persecuted victims of the state, he claimed. Trump added that Navalny should never have returned to Russia after being treated in a German hospital for novichok poisoning.

Navalny knew he would be sent to prison as soon as he returned. He explained the move by saying that he could not expect his followers to overcome fear of Putin’s rule if he did not himself demonstrate bravery by returning to certain imprisonment.


The world is divided on a ceasefire in Gaza. Political leaders in Europe, America, Japan and Australia are generally behind the proposal for a “temporary ceasefire,” the return of the hostages and a massive increase of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

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Layla Moran’s speech in tonight’s debate: We need to stop this now

I thought about putting Layla’s speech in the last post, but I didn’t want it getting lost. Her clarity and wisdom and persuasiveness, and her liberal desire to bring people together have been a huge credit to her and to this party in recent months. We can all be incredibly proud of her, especially when this has been so personally painful for her.

She spoke in the debate and her words in full are below:

I am speechless at the way this debate began. As the House knows, there has been scant opportunity for me to tell the story not just of my family or the hundreds in the church where they are in northern Gaza, but of Palestinians on the ground and, indeed, those who lost people in the horrendous attacks on 7 October, whether through murder or abduction. I am grateful that we have this opportunity. In the hours of debate in front of us, my first ask of anyone who speaks after me is, please, to hold all those people in their hearts as they say what they say. I believe sincerely that this House is moving towards a right position, and I will explain what I think that is in a moment. On the suggestion that this House is in some way against a ceasefire—I would hope an immediate one, however the semantics play out in the votes later—can we please try to send a message in particular to the Palestinian people perishing in their tens of thousands on the ground, and to those hostage families that, fundamentally, we need this to stop now? I do not care what we call it.

I should have started by drawing the House’s attention to my entry in the register of interests. I sit as an unpaid adviser on the board of the International Centre for Justice for Palestinians.

Last week I went to Israel and Palestine with Yachad, and I will start with a story. On the first day, we went down to the southern border with Gaza, to a place called Nativ Ha’asara, a place I have visited before. We met an incredible woman called Roni, who had lost family members—16 from that kibbutzim had perished. As I went there, I looked across at northern Gaza. I saw the plumes of smoke. I heard the drones and the “pop pop pop” of the gunfire, and I broke down. As I walked back through the village, Roni, an Israeli peace activist, took me to one side, gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry”, which I said back. We both cried and held each other.

It is important to remember that although those voices of peace in Israel have been silent for some time, many of the people killed on that day were allies of the Palestinian people who had been calling for decades against the occupation, calling out Netanyahu’s Government, and condemning Ben-Gvir and Smotrich. It is for that reason that I welcome the sanctions on those extremist settlers, because there is a direct link between the right wing elements of Netanyahu’s Government and those extremist settlers. The amendment that the Lib Dems tabled to the motion stated that we should not finish there. We need to continue those sanctions on those people and their connected entities.

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Ed on tonight’s drama in Parliament: We need an urgent end to the humanitarian catastrophe

So I managed to sleep thoughout tonight’s drama.

Waking up to a phone glowing with WhatsApp messages, I realised there had been a bit of a rammy in the Commons. I checked out the BBC summary and my immediate and instinctive reaction is that the Speaker had been right to allow votes on three distinctive positions on such a huge issue. The SNP’s motion called for an immediate ceasefire, the Government’s called for a humanitarian pause and Labour’s had a bit more meat on its bones about how you actually get to a lasting peace. Normally on an opposition day, you’d get the motion and a Government amendment. It is unusual to have a third option, but in this instance, it made sense to reflect as broad a consensus as possible. He could have done better by including a fourth option, ours.

Ours said:

Expresses its devastation at the mounting humanitarian disaster in Gaza with tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians killed, millions displaced and thousands of homes destroyed; calls on the Prime Minister to oppose publicly and at the UN Security Council the proposed IDF offensive in Rafah; further urges Hamas to unconditionally and immediately release the over 100 hostages taken following the deplorable attacks on 7 October 2023; notes the unprecedented levels of illegal settler violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories left unchecked by the Israeli Government; welcomes the recent sanctions by the UK Government against four extremist Israeli settlers who have committed human rights abuses against Palestinian communities in the West Bank; urges the UK Government to sanction all violent settlers and their connected entities; calls on the UK Government to uphold international law and the judgments of international courts under all circumstances; further notes that the only path to regional security is a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with Hamas not in power; condemns Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assertions that there is no future for a Palestinian state; and further urges the UK Government to call for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Gaza, which will allow an end to the humanitarian devastation, get the hostages out and provide an opportunity for a political process leading to a two-state solution, providing security and dignity for all peoples in Palestine and Israel.”

You would hope that when discussing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters and most dangerous conflicts we have seen in a long time, the Mother of Parliaments would model generous, collaborative behaviour. It was not beyond the wit of the SNP to work with the other opposition parties to bring together something that truly reflected the will of the House.

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The Gaza conflict and the hierarchy of oppression

Many years ago Winnie Mandela, wife of Nelson Mandela was considered to be a hero. She had to suffer for years whilst her husband was in jail, maybe for life. Yet she still carried on the struggle for freedom against apartheid South Africa.

I also considered her a hero, then one day she announced “With our boxes of matches, and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country”. What she was describing was a horribly sadistic method of murdering someone. In that instant, for me, she was no longer a hero. She was in fact a very nasty person. I was pleased that Nelson divorced her, although I also felt sorry for him that she had turned out this way when he was in jail. Yet for many people she remained a hero, including by left wing progressives who normally oppose the death penalty, presumably for it’s cruelty.

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Tom Arms’ World Review


“The Day After Gaza” – as the discussion about what to do after the fighting is called in Israel, is the number one topic in the Israeli cabinet.

Not surprisingly, the coalition government is hopelessly divided.

On the far-right side are the representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox parties led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They want to “encourage” the Palestinians to leave the Gaza and replace them with Jewish settlers.

A shade more reasonable is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who wants Israel to retain overall security control while working with a multi-national force in Gaza. Palestinians would be free to manage day-to-day affairs as long as they did not “commit any hostile actions against Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to officially unveil his ideas in cabinet, but he has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In it he said he had three goals – destroy Hamas everywhere; demilitarise the Gaza Strip and “deradicalise” Palestinians.

The first goal, presumably involves assassinating Hamas leaders in foreign countries. This has the potential of being construed by the host country as an act of war. It certainly would not help Israel’s image.

As for demilitarisation, Gaza is already officially demilitarised. Everyone can see how well that has worked.

The third is new and startling Netanyahu claims that at the root of current problems is a Hamas-controlled education system which has radicalised the Palestinians against Israel. He wants to re-educate or “de-radicalise” Palestinians through a revised educational system. This smacks of the re-education camps of China, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia….

Taiwan and China

2024 will be a big election year. Four billion people in more than 70 countries will be trooping to the polls.

Some of the elections will be a sham. Russia is a prime example. I can predict now that Vladimir Putin will win.

Others are real and important. They include the US, UK, EU, India, South Korea and Mexico. One of the most important and potentially consequential elections occurs next Saturday in Taiwan. The result will determine if the 24million Taiwanese move away from or towards Mainland China.

The voters’ decision will have a major impact on the actions of Xi Jinping’s China, and this turn has the potential of dramatic consequences for the rest of the world.

The Taiwanese elections are both presidential and legislative. At the moment both the legislature and the presidency are controlled by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). The President, Tsai Ing-wen has served two terms and is barred from standing for a third.

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The Gaza war continues…

Baroness Morris of Bolton begins her New Year message as President of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) as follows:

In 1984, a group of doctors and humanitarians, horrified by the massacre of Palestinian civilians they had witnessed in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, grouped together to form Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). For them, medical relief wasn’t just about saving lives, but was a tangible act of solidarity with a people who had suffered so much for so long.

Forty years later, amid the heartbreaking scenes we are witnessing in Gaza, the future for Palestinians appears bleaker and more uncertain than ever before. Families have been torn apart, homes destroyed, and countless lives shattered. The healthcare system is on its knees. Two million people are now hungry.

We can’t turn on our TVs or radios without a daily report of more civilians being killed – :children, journalists, healthcare workers, staff of UN agencies and NGOs.  The Liberal Democrats are the only national party in the UK to have unequivocally called for a ceasefire.  The majority of Tory MPs seem intent on egging on the Israeli war machine.  Labour is more divided, but its leadership has lost its moral compass – as so often happens with that party on international issues. This interview with Keir Starmer illustrates the point.

What can we do as a small party in Parliament to influence the direction of travel? The situation looks dire.  Israeli PM Netanyahu seems determined to carry on destroying Gaza and indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians so he can declare victory over Hamas and complete his revenge for the frightful horrors perpetrated on October 7th.  Members of his cabinet – led by Ben Gvir – are calling for Gaza to be cleansed of Palestinians and settled by Israelis.

In addition, in the West Bank, Israeli settlers have escalated attacks, murders and rampant destruction of Palestinian land and property, unchecked by the IDF and supported by powerful Israeli government ministers, Itamir Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. 

What is just as disturbing is the attitude of many Israelis towards Palestinians.  My must read/listen item of the Christmas period was an interview by Owen Jones with Gideon Levy. Levy is the son of Holocaust survivors.  He served in the Israeli army and has become one of Israel’s leading journalists. He has spent much of his time in the West Bank covering and criticising the practices of settlers, the Israeli army and successive Israeli governments. It is well worth listening to this interview which sadly demonstrates how the dehumanisation of Palestinians has become accepted by the majority of Israeli citizens.  Levy argues that only external pressure from abroad is likely to change Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and end its illegal occupation (something quite explicitly recognised by our party when it passed resolution F39 in 2021).

Two of my least favourite listens of recent weeks have been an interview (in French)with Belgian TV and a speech in Germany, both by Yair Lapid the Leader of Yesh Atid, our supposed sister party in Israel.  Uncompromising in his support of the present military assault, he showed absolutely no remorse or sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel and in the TV interview was also questioning the idea of a separate state for Palestinians.

In 2003 our Party was the only one to take a strong and moral position on the Iraq war.  The Party was almost totally united on this – only Paddy Ashdown and a few others thought differently.  After some initial hesitation Charles Kennedy played a leading role in the biggest anti-war demonstration; and, as a matter of fact, 2005 was our best election year since the 1920s. Many people who are still active in the party joined because of our stand.

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What’s the future for Israel and Palestine?

It is now more than two months since the Hamas attack in southern Israel, and the bombing and shelling of Palestinians in Gaza continues.  Many of us have marched in support of a cease-fire, but the marches have achieved nothing, so it must be time for a rethink.

The horrific, murderous the attack on October 7 had its roots in Palestinian resentment, and arguably the seeds were planted by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s decision during the First World War to donate part of a foreign country we didn’t own to a people who’d suffered abuse and discrimination in Europe for hundreds of years and wanted somewhere to go that wasn’t Europe.  

Others say the current conflict in Gaza is simply the consequence of Hamas behaving “like animals” on October 7.  There are proximal causes and more deep-seated ones, some of which go back a very long way – for some Jewish fundamentalists the claim to ownership of Judea and Samaria goes back thousands of years.   Many other more recent factors are involved, like the funding of Hamas by Qatar (among other countries) and the funding of Israel by the US, which have made the Palestinians pawns in a game driven by the geopolitical ambitions of others.     

What is being lost in the debate over which part of history is most important is the fate of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and increasingly in the West Bank, with bombs falling, bullets flying, and starvation and disease now gaining hold.  Since October 7, more than 20,000 people have been killed, upward of 50,000 injured, and hostages are being held.  Around two million people in Gaza are living in a devastated waste land, short of water, food, electricity, shelter, medical aid, and hope that the world will do anything to alleviate their suffering. 

If the world community is going to move on from simply grandstanding, the obvious first requirement is an end to the fighting.  Calling for Israel to stop hasn’t worked, but if we think that only Israel has the power to end the war we are missing an important point.  Israel has said it won’t stop until Hamas is defeated or surrenders, so the sooner Hamas lays down its arms the better.

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Layla Moran talks about her family who are trapped in Gaza Church

Layla Moran has been talking to the BBC about the plight of her family members, who remain trapped in a Catholic Church in Gaza. One family member died last month and her fear for the others is clear.

The Liberal Democrat says her family are “days away from dying” without access to water or food.

Her relatives and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem say a mother and daughter were killed inside the Holy Family Church complex on Saturday by sniper fire.

Members of Ms Moran’s extended family – a grandmother, her son, his wife and their 11-year-old twins – are Christian Palestinians who sought refuge inside the church after their home was bombed in the first week of the war.

They have been staying on mattresses along with dozens of others in rooms in the Holy Family Church for more than 60 days.

“I’m now no longer sure they are going to survive until Christmas,” Ms Moran told the BBC.

The conditions sound horrific and terrifying:

The five remaining members say they now no longer have access to food or water, and the last remaining generator – which was pumping water from wherever they could get it – has stopped working in the church.

They say soldiers entered the church compound in the last 24 hours and took over a room in a building.

Earlier in the week, the family heard shots being fired and saw bullet casings in the church compound. They say two men were killed on Tuesday while they were coming and going from the building – a bin collector and a janitor.

Layla said there was no indication why the church had been targeted:

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Tom Arms’ World Review


Remember Ukraine? A reminder: It is the East European country sandwiched between Russia and Poland which Russia invaded in February 2022.

You would be forgiven for letting it slip from your political consciousness. Six months ago it and its president Volodomyr Zelensky were being hailed as the “democratic shield” protecting the West from land-hungry autocratic Russia.

Now it has been pushed out of the headlines the corridors of concern by the war in Gaza and whichever crisis comes next.

The problem is that Ukraine cannot afford to slip off the front pages. It needs a successful PR campaign to stay in the war and keep the shield intact. Its armaments industry and its population are limited.

Russia’s manpower pool is four times the size of Ukraine’s. Its historic label is “steamroller.” Its armaments industry is ten times larger and was preparing years before the war started. It is also receiving weapons from Iran, North Korea and possibly China.

It is weapons that are particularly important at the moment, especially artillery shells which are used by both sides to hold the enemy at bay. Russia is estimated to have fired 22,000 rounds a day during the summer to stymie the Ukrainian counter-offensive. The Ukrainians fired 5,000 rounds.

European members of NATO promised Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery shells by the end of 2023. It will fall well short of that target, although several European countries–  including Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Finland and the Baltic states—have started to increase their armaments production. However, a lot of the increased production will go towards replacing depleted national stocks.

America, is, of course, the historic “arsenal of democracy.” But President Biden’s promised support is being held up by Republican congressmen who either want to divert money to Israel or feel that Ukraine is solely a European problem.

If the defense of Ukraine is left entirely to Europe then the hard-pressed European economies will have to increase armaments production even more. At the current rate, the million promised rounds is only enough to keep the Ukrainian guns firing for another six months.

UK and Rwanda

Britain’s Rwanda asylum issue is morphing into a constitutional crisis. At stake is the independence of the British judiciary, a long-established cornerstone of the country’s democratic foundations.

The UK Supreme Court recently threw out government plans to fly asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda. The basis of their decision was that the proposal was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on Refugees and three British acts of parliament relating to asylum seekers and refugees. Rwanda was not safe, ruled the court, because its government was likely to return asylum seekers to the country from which they had fled. This is known as refoulement.

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Where next for Gaza?

It is now 5 weeks since the terrible massacre perpetrated by Hamas on mostly civilians in Israel, killing over 1400 people, Jews & Arabs, Israelis, Thai & Nepalese and kidnapping more than 240 into the tunnel network inside Gaza as hostages. This was a savage attack, with people killed in front of their children, in front of their parents. Old people, young people, even babies, were not spared. Nothing that has happened since should hide that simple brutality of the actions of Hamas. This went beyond a raid into Israel, it was a pogrom against civilians whose only crime was that they lived in Israel. 

It also broke an existing ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that had allowed a slow (far too slow) relaxation of the blockade of Gaza, that allowed an increasing number of Gazan residents to work inside Israel & provide for their families. There was also the tantalising possibility of an agreement with Saudi Arabia that would have included measures to ease the plight of Palestinians which has now gone because of Hamas’s actions.

However, none of this is an excuse for the actions of the Israel Government. By acting in the way they have done, the Netanyahu Government has lost the goodwill from around the world it got after the October 7th.

It has allowed itself to be drawn into a fight on Hamas’s terms.  It has been culpable in the killing of thousands of Gazans of all ages, many of whom were not members or even supporters of Hamas. It has invaded Gaza with no clear idea of how to extract itself after the fighting ends. It has embroiled the Israeli Military in a war it cannot win however many Hamas militants (and Palestinian civilians) it kills, simply provided a ready supply of new volunteers bent on revenge for the death of their loved ones.  It has made the release of the hostages taken into Gaza more difficult. It has made finding a resolution to the wider conflict and providing long term security for Israel far more complicated.

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Israel-Gaza conflict: Liberal Democrats call for immediate bilateral ceasefire

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey and Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP have today called for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The purpose of such a ceasefire, which must apply to both Israel and Hamas, would be to get aid in, get the hostages out, and provide space to realise a political solution, ultimately with two states and a lasting peace.

Ed Davey has set out this proposal in full here.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP commented:

A lasting peace and a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee

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Yesterday’s ugly scenes show why the Conservatives must be beaten

I so wish that the focus of yesterday’s marches had been on comforting all those affected by the horrific events in Israel and Gaza and calling for more international effort to find a lasting peace in that region. It’s really important that a relatively small number of ultra right wingers don’t detract from that.

However, the right wing thuggery can’t be ignored, especially as they were emboldened by Suella Braverman’s comments this week.

Those right wing extremists don’t reflect our country. They may think they have the blessing of the Home Secretary but most British people find them utterly repulsive. If Sunak can’t fire Braverman for inciting them because he’s too scared of the right wing extremists in his own party, I despair.

And if he can’t fire her before Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgement on Rwanda flights could give her an excuse to resign in high dudgeon, then he really needs to have a word with himself.

The consequences of such divisive tactics on our society are there to see and I don’t think the majority of reasonable people in the country will want to see more of that on our streets.

The suffering of our fellow human beings in Gaza prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets of London, overwhelmingly in peace and solidarity. I have been on such marches before. It does worry me though, that people continue to chant things that people will read as anti-semitic or to appear to display support for an organisation who murdered, kidnapped and tortured. Why do that? I’ve always thought that if a marginalised group tells you that the use of a particular phrase is a specific attack on them, you need to find a more inclusive way to make your point and this is no different.

Words really matter. Most people on these marches just want to see peace and an end to human suffering. These events always attract a few people who have more extreme views than that and expressions of hate need to be dealt with, wherever they come from.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael spoke of the importance of minding our language.

The horrific cases of antisemitism and support for terrorist organisations that we have seen on the streets of London today need to be totally condemned. It has no place in our society.

Likewise, the violence of the far-right mob earlier and their disrespect of Armistice Day must be utterly condemned. These people are a disgrace towards everything that they claim to represent.

The police need to be commended for their professional and brave work in dealing with these most challenging of circumstances. We should all extend them our gratitude for keeping us safe.

Those who have participated in this hate and disorder should feel the full force of the law.

Many communities are rightfully anxious and fearful right now. We should all be mindful of our words and actions so that we do not stoke further divisions and tensions.

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9 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Sharp rise in mortgage arrears should “ring alarm bells in Downing Street”
  • NHS waiting lists: Sunak’s pledge lies in tatters
  • Welsh Lib Dem leader gives her reason for voting for Senedd Gaza ceasefire motion
  • Braverman: What on earth will it take for Sunak to do the right thing?

Sharp rise in mortgage arrears should “ring alarm bells in Downing Street”

There has been an 18% rise in homeowners in mortgage arrears over the past year, the latest UK Finance figures have revealed.

The data shows there were 87,930 homeowners in mortgage arrears worth at least 2.5% of their outstanding loan in the third quarter of 2023, up from 74,420 in the same period last year.

The Liberal Democrats said the figures show families are facing “mortgage misery” and reiterated their calls for a Mortgage Protection Fund, with targeted support to prevent people losing their home, funded through scrapping tax cuts for the banks.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This sharp rise in mortgage arrears should be ringing alarm bells in Downing Street.

The Conservative Party crashed the economy and is now forcing ordinary families to pick up the tab.

Homeowners facing mortgage misery should be offered a rescue scheme, with targeted support to protect those most at risk of losing their home. It is the least this government could do after the economic damage they have caused.

NHS waiting lists: Sunak’s pledge lies in tatters

NHS waiting lists have reached a new record high of 7.8 million. It means that the waiting lists have grown every month since Rishi Sunak made his pledge in January that they would fall.

Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP said:

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The Gaza War – what should or could happen next

Layla Moran in her webinar to over 1,000 Party members last Thursday gave us much to think about. Layla reminded us that what often distinguishes us as Liberal Democrats is our strong sense of empathy and humanity, which naturally leads to a respect for human rights and international law. It is difficult not to be traumatised by the horrors we are witnessing on our screens day after day and feel heartfelt sympathy for the victims themselves, their surviving friends and family, and especially those who are here in the UK, worrying about their family members being held hostage by Hamas, …

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Layla Moran briefs members on Israel/Hamas war

Last night, Layla Moran briefed over 1000 Lib Dem members on the party’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas which started when Hamas murdered, tortured and kidnapped Israeli citizens living near the border with Gaza on 7th October.

I understand it was one of, if not the most, well-attended party webinar ever, showing the extent of the concern and interest amongst Liberal Democrats. Layla set out the party’s thinking and took questions for over an hour.

For Layla, this has a very personal dimension. Members of her extended family are taking refuge in a church after their home was bombed. Speaking on Kuenssberg on Sunday, Layla spoke about how people in Gaza had gone from asking themselves where they could go to be safe to thinking about where they wanted to be when they died. She described the “tortuous” wait for news from them when the internet went down.

Last night, she spoke with such wisdom, compassion and insight and set out the key principles behind the Liberal Democrat approach:

  • Concern for the human beings affected in both Israel and Gaza
  • Prioritising aid getting into Gaza
  • Condemnation of the Hamas atrocities
  • Recognising Israel’s right to defend itself and rescue the hostages
  • The war must be fought according to the rules, and anyone who breaks those rules needs to be investigated
  • There needs to be a pause or pauses to get aid into Gaza and let people out if they want to leave
  • We need to look to the future and keeping trying to make the hope of a two state solution a reality, even if that looks distant at the moment.

She completely rejected any notion that we have to pick a side in this. People in both Israel and Gaza are suffering and our primary concern has to be to make their lives better and safer. She talked of the solidarity she felt with the Jewish community in Oxford and how important it was to have vigils where Muslims, Jews and everyone else grieved together and comforted each other. She was very worried about increasing anti-semitism and Islamophobia in this country.

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Ed Davey: An update on our response to the Israel-Gaza Conflict

Ed Davey has sent out an email, which we reproduce here in case you haven’t seen it.

I was horrified to wake up on 7th October to the awful terrorist attacks in Israel, which we have condemned unequivocally. I have been heartbroken and dismayed to see the scenes of violence in Israel and Palestine over the past two and a half weeks.

It is hard to watch the news right now. We continue to hear reports of the brutal terrorism of Hamas, which still holds more than 200 Israelis hostage in Gaza. And now we have a situation in Gaza which is

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Observations of an Expat: Threading the diplomatic needle

An American-led offensive is desperately trying to thread a narrow diplomatic needle and prevent the Gaza Crisis from exploding into an uncontrollable wider war.

Joe Biden, Olof Scholz and Rishi Sunak have all been to Israel this week. Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni will soon follow.

Together they are known as “The Quint” and they are all preaching the same message: 1- Support for Israel and its right to defend itself. 2- Total condemnation of Hamas. 3- The need to differentiate between Hamas and Palestinians. 4- The urgent need for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza residents 5- Prevent the red mist from blinding Israel to the wider consequences of a no-holds barred invasion of Gaza. 6- Deter Iran.

The foundational premise of the diplomatic offensive is that American support for Israel is granite-like. The oppressive security-heavy policies of successive Likud-led governments has chipped away at American backing. But the American-buttressed plinth on which Israel sits is so large that it is unlikely to ever be reduced to rubble.

Alongside Israeli over-reaction is the associated problem of Iran’s reaction to the Gaza crisis. Its foreign minister (Hossein Amir Abdollahian) has threatened to activate the “Axis of Resistance” if Israeli forces move into Gaza. In fact, Tehran may have already done so. On Thursday the American warship USS Carney intercepted Israeli-bound missiles fired by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. US troops in Syria and Iraq have suffered drone attacks and Hezbollah has launched missile attacks from southern Lebanon.

In response to the Iranian threat, the US has moved two aircraft carriers into the eastern Mediterranean and 2,000 additional troops into the region. Washington said they are meant as a deterrent.  On the diplomatic front, Washington is relying mainly on Qatar to act as a go-between. The Gulf kingdom has good relations with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran as well as playing host to 10,000 American troops. Japan, which has reasonable diplomatic relations with Tehran, has also offered its services.

The immediate focus of the Western countries is humanitarian aid to Gaza. This is a signal to the Arab countries that while condemning Hamas, they do not hold the Palestinians as a whole responsible for their actions. President Biden has pledged $100 million. The EU has trebled its assistance to Gaza to $75 million and the UK has increased its aid to $12.8 million. Canada and Japan have upped their aid to $10 million each and Australia is sending $32.4 million in aid to Gaza

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Observations of an ex pat: Worst and much, much worse

Too often the choice facing international decision makers is not between good and bad but between bad and worst. In the Middle East, at the moment, it appears to be between worst and much, much worse.

The possible consequences of the likely Israeli reaction to the attack by Hamas are terrifying and potentially global in their impact.

Let’s start with Israel itself. The overwhelming majority of Israelis are calling for massive retribution for a terrorist assault which left 1,300 dead, 3,300 injured and 150 held hostage in underground Hamas dungeons. It would be difficult for any Israeli government to ignore the public demands. For arch-conservative Benjamin Netanyahu it is nigh impossible.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has formed an emergency government of national unity. He has also called up Israel’s 350,000 reservists who will be added to the 150,000 Israeli troops on active service. The bulk of this force are already massing on the Gaza border waiting for the whistle to launch a ground offensive.

There will also be major deployments on the borders with Lebanon and Syria to prevent Hezbollah from joining the fray. And in the West Bank to control Palestinians there.

Massive and painful retribution appears inevitable. But what detailed form will it take and how will the world react? Gaza has been subjected to Israeli ground offensives and occupations in the past. These have resulted in a temporary reprieve. But each has been costly in military lives and cash expended. Neither has solved the long-term problem. Successive Israeli governments have failed to grasp the fact that oppression is not a long-term security solution.

This Israeli offensive is likely to be different. Already they have imposed a total blockade of Gaza. No food, water, energy, medicine or any goods of any kind are allowed into one of the most densely populated and impoverished strips of land in the world. A million residents in the northern half have been warned to immediately move to the southern part of Gaza, and all Gazans have been advised to leave their homes.

But they have nowhere to go. Their only other land border is with Egypt which has refused them asylum and has worked with Israel to enforce a long-term blockade. The possibility of a heavy handed response is very real. How the world reacts could result in fearful consequences.

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Struggling with complexity – the continuing crisis in Israel and Palestine

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

I often think of these wise words when reading “hot takes” on social media on whatever issues are on the front page at a given time. As a lawyer, I tell my junior colleagues that the correct initial answer to any legal issue is often “it depends” and to distrust attempts to oversimplify the complicated.

As we have all grappled with yet more tragic news from Israel and Palestine, we have seen commentators and politicians often explain their thoughts by saying that the issues are “complex”. This is undeniably true but at the same time, though complexity should caution us against glib, easy answers, it should never be an excuse for failing to engage with rights and wrongs.

In my professional life, I engage with complicated legal issues by trying to break it down into constituent parts as much as I can. Through this I can sometimes get a greater understanding of the whole and, at the very least, it allows some answers to be agreed along the way. So this week, I have tried to do the same in my personal engagement with the situation in Israel and Palestine.

In doing so, like readers of this short article, I have tried to read widely. I have benefited from communicating with an Israeli friend living in Jerusalem and from reading the wisdom of our own Layla Moran MP – with her writing from the perspective of being the only British MP of Palestinian heritage while embracing a deep commitment to peace and justice in the Middle East for Israelis and Palestinians alike. I also spent time talking with a colleague who is passionate about the plight of the Palestinian people.

I struggle to say what I think about the totality of it all, but I can identify building blocks along the way where my personal view is clearer. I am not seeking to offer answers to everyone but rather I’m sharing my process in case that is helpful to anyone.

So, what do I believe?

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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.
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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’.

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Gaza: Senior Lib Dems speak out against Hamas, urge continuing ceasefire; and Lib Dem Friends of Israel issue statement

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishThis weekend’s Guardian published a letter from five senior Lib Dems – including Sir Alan Beith MP, Lord Dholakia and Baroness Sarah Ludford – condemning Hamas and urging both sides in the conflict to continue their ceasefire in Gaza:

As Liberal Democrats, we are totally committed to the state of Israel being able to live within secure borders, and wish to see the removal of the existential threat to Israel’s security by an internationally recognised terrorist group, and the creation of a viable

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Lib Dem Chief Whip on David Ward: “I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet”

David WardThree weeks ago, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East David Ward tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. The following day he issued an apology, saying:

I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

That wasn’t quite the end of the matter, though. The Lib Dem disciplinary process required a meeting between the party’s Chief Whip, Don Foster, and David. That’s now taken place, and it’s been decided there will be no further action. The Yorkshire Post has published the statements issued by both:

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