Tag Archives: israel

Liberal Democrats call for radical new approach to Israel/Palestine conflict

The Liberal Democrats have called for more trade with Palestine and Israel, more resources for peace and upholding of international law by ceasing trade with illegal settlements.

Liberal Democrat members have today passed a motion at party conference calling for a new approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The motion, the first on Israel/Palestine at Lib Dem conference since 2017, reaffirms the party’s call for immediate recognition of the state of Palestine alongside calling on the UK Government to commit further resources to peace.

The Liberal Democrats have become the first UK political party to formally support the creation of a peace fund for the region to build trust between Israeli and Palestinian communities, modelled on similar schemes previously used in Northern Ireland.

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Towards peace in Israel and Palestine 

I was only 19 when I first visited the West Bank in 1964 but was sufficiently gripped that, after studying the region’s history at university, I retained a strong interest in the area thereafter. The Israel-Palestine conflict seems far less amenable to a solution today than it did then. That is why I greatly welcome Conference’s Motion F39,’Towards a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine’.  There are two particular issues I should like to flag up. 

The first concerns UNRWA, the UN agency of Palestine Refugees for which I worked in the 1970s. As we watch the refugee crisis in Afghanistan it is easy to forget the Palestinian one. Unlike Afghan refugees, Palestinians never wished to be resettled and resisted attempts by the UN and Arab states. They demanded the right of return, adumbrated in General Assembly Resolution 194 (1949)  (which reflects Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). For political reasons, that return has not happened. Today, they are stuck in a terrible limbo, without full citizenship rights (except in Jordan’s East Bank) and in the case of the Gaza Strip, where they are some 80% of the population, suffering awful privation under Israel’s permanent siege. We must support the woefully underfunded UNRWA robustly, to sustain needy refugees whose right to the same freedoms we enjoy has, after seven decades, still not been realised. Support for UNRWA also has the self-interested virtue of helping reduce the tensions that lead to violence. 

The second issue concerns respect for international law as the bedrock of the international order. Nothing in that body of law is so crucial to this conflict as the Fourth (1949) Geneva Convention (4GC), dealing with the rules governing military occupation following the 1967 war. In law ‘occupation’ is a temporary situation, which can no longer be said of Palestine where it has been unlawfully prolonged. Why is 4GC so important? It was the inadequacy of existing rules (dating from 1907) as well as the Axis Powers’ comprehensive disregard of them, 1938-45, which impelled the drafting of the four Geneva Conventions in 1949. All four open with the requirement that all States party to them undertake to ‘ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances’, now recognised to mean that all State signatories have a responsibility to ensure that the protagonists in this particular conflict abide by the Convention’s terms. It goes on to forbid wilful killing, collective punishments, house demolitions, settlement of the Occupier’s own nationals in occupied territory, and much else besides. It lists ‘grave violations’, requiring signatory States to detain and charge individuals believed guilty of such crimes if such persons ever enter their own territory. For political reasons States have been loath to act. Whereas the West has been quick to punish Russia over Crimea, it declines taking similar measures against friendly states, a lack of consistency that smacks of hypocrisy to much of the world. 

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World Review: Israeli spyware, Cummins, Tokyo Olympics and Haiti

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms asks, who you believe, Cummins or Johnson?

Spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents. The Israeli government’s denials of not being involved is fooling no one. The arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws, has led to riots but his arrest was only the spark. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon was the man behind the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moisie.

On more cheerful news, it is a minor miracle that the Tokyo Olympic Games are happening.

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World Review: Biden bombing, lawyers circle Trump, trade deals, vaccination and Suma

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms looks at the dilemmas that faced Joe Biden as he ordered an attack on pro-Iranian militia in Iraq. In another dilemma, Biden could hold up any talk of a UK-US trade deal if he thinks that the Good Friday Agreement is threatened or damaged by Boris Johnson’s tactics on Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, prosecutors are getting closer to Donald Trump. The charging of a Trump Organisation employee could provide more information about Trump’s financial dealing. The organisations’ assets will also be frozen and banks are likely to call in their loans. former South African President Jacob Zuma has been jailed for contempt of court. And Israel is providing an object lesson in Covid complacency.

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World Review: Israel, cyber-attacks, Ethiopian elections and Trump trumping his book

In today’s briefing from our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms look at congestion, vaccination and schooling in Israel. The NATO summit allowed Joe Biden to stress that the Trump Era was over and “America is back”. And Biden is prepared to retaliate for any cyber attacks from Russia. Elections are due in Ethiopia on Monday – they are “worthless”. Finally, Tom talks of Donald Trump’s new book. Move over the Bible and the Koran, this will be “the greatest book ever.” Should this “great” book be called “Trump Through the Looking Glass”? Suggestions on a title are welcome.

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Change of Guard in Tel Aviv – what hopes for peace?

It’s a momentous day because Netanyahu has been voted out of office and like his predecessor Ehud Olmert now faces the prospect of jail and so will hopefully disappear. He leaves power as Prime Ministers often do because he lost. But as Anshel Pfeffer in today’s edition of Ha’aretz points out, he is overall a winner.

The man who was written off so many times as a passing and inconsequential politician, even after his first term as prime minister in the 1990s, became Israel’s longest-serving leader – even longer than the founder, David Ben-Gurion. Someone who managed to hold onto power for 15 years didn’t lose, even if he was forced out at the end.

According to Pfeffer all previous Israeli Prime Ministers thought that the problems between Israel and Palestine had to somehow be solved, otherwise the rest of the world wouldn’t leave them alone.

(Netanyahu) ..was the first to recognize the fatigue of world leaders, as well as that of Arab dictators, over the Palestinian issue. As a ruthless pragmatist, he correctly assessed that as time passed, his fellow statesmen would prefer economic and security ties with Israel, and that the Palestinians had nothing to offer.

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My Jewish journey to understanding Israel and Palestine

As I watched with horror, the escalating flames in Jerusalem, and their reverberations around Israel and Gaza, it was bitterly ironic that preview screenings of my film, The Tinderbox, are running now.

Five years ago I set out to make a single film that would allow audiences to understand what’s been happening in Israel/Palestine for the past century. Despite being told that there must already be historically rigorous, balanced documentaries clarifying past and present context, I have been unable to find another. This notwithstanding, after two years it became clear that despite being a BAFTA/RTS-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary film team, I and my colleagues were going to have to make this film unpaid. No one was interested. Thankfully, crowd-funding enabled us to pay for many of the costs that couldn’t be deferred and three years later the film is being distributed.

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Save Palestine by rediscovering the British Liberal tradition

Right now, as events unfold in Gaza, a test case is emerging for British Liberalism, and European Liberalism more broadly, the response to which will say a lot about the state it is in within Western Europe. That test case is the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

For too long, some liberals have been indifferent to the persecution of Palestinians by the Israeli state, with the honourable exception of the Liberal Democrats. A lack of forceful criticism or forbidding expression of objection to the actions of the Israeli state, in the case of Emmanuel Macron, is to the disgrace of the noble cause of liberalism. That is why British liberals need to rediscover their liberal heritage to save the reputation of liberalism as something more than what cynics dismiss as mere talk.

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Observations of an Expat: Israel – The Problem is Internal

The current fighting in Israel is different. It was not sparked by a suicide bomber from Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority or an Arab state. Hamas did not decide to test its rocket capability with a random attack.

No, this time the cause is the long smouldering fuse of discontent by the Palestinian’s living inside Israel. And because the roots are internal, the problem is even more intractable and dangerous.

Not all the Palestinians fled Israel during the 1947-1948 war of independence. Some of them simply refused to go. Some actually savoured the thought of living in a democratic country. The descendants of these stay-at-homes now comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population.

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Violence in Israel and Palestine – Layla Moran’s Urgent Question

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The Urgent Question put by Layla Moran in Parliament yesterday exposed the gulf between government rhetoric and any attempt to deal with the real causes of the horrific violence unleashed in Gaza and elsewhere in Israel and Palestine over the past few days.  Asked time and again for the government’s response, James Cleverly told the House the government was ‘urging restraint’ on both sides.  Layla’s call for clarity on questions like support for UN Security Council resolutions was met with the bland response the government would be trying to “encourage an end to the violence”.  Asked by Layla when would be the time to recognise the state of Palestine, if not now, Cleverly just ignored the question.

The spark which ignited the current wave of violence was the proposed illegal evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, and it was Conservative MP Crispin Blunt who challenged Cleverly to spot the difference between the UK’s response to that and its response 25 years ago to illegal settlements in Har Homa.  Cleverly replied that “the UK’s position on settlements is of long standing,” unintentionally making Blunt’s point for him.  What we did in the past had no effect, and we intend to keep doing it.

Underlining the futility of the Cleverly’s assurances that we have strong diplomatic ties with Israel and can have a “powerful” influence, Benny Gantz, the Israeli defence minister, has announced that “we will not listen to moral preaching against our duty to protect the citizens of Israel”, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says “we will inflict blows on (Hamas) that they couldn’t even dream of.”  The British government calls for restraint and a proportionate response, and Israeli ministers proudly announce they are not listening.  The disproportionate response the IDF boasts of carrying out in Gaza is explicitly outlawed under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime.

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Tom Arms World Review: 28 March 2021

In this week’s review, our regular correspondent Tom Arms looks at yet more mass shootings in America and the struggle for stronger gun control. He turns his attention to events in Israel and the failed Sino-American summit in Alaska. Europe has been at times teetering on the edge of vaccine wars and it is the 50th anniversary of the seventh fastest growing economy in the world, Bangladesh.

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Israel/Palestine in 2021

As 2021 approaches and as Trump prepares for an undignified exit from the White House, can we hope for some positive moves towards a peaceful settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict?  Joe Biden may in due course try to get the peace process going, but nothing much will happen for a few months until yet another Israeli election has taken place in March.

There are also plans for long overdue elections in Palestine which may lead to a power shift to a younger and more credible generation of political leaders.  Even if Netanyahu loses (and all liberal democrats will surely pray for …

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Observations of an expat: Pakistan – next to recognise Israel?

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Wafting through the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and across the parade ground of military headquarters in Rawalpindi is an interesting political rumour: Will Pakistan be the next Islamic country to recognise Israel?

If it does it will not be so much a feather in the Israeli-American cap as a full-sized Native American war bonnet. Only Saudi recognition would beat it as a diplomatic coup.

But is the rumour likely to become a reality? Diplomats say that such a move is possible. But set against the brick wall of political realities it is highly improbable.

For a start, the political, social, economic and cultural conditions in Pakistan are completely different from those in the countries that have recently recognised Israel—Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. The UAE is an extremely wealthy states ruled by absolute monarchs. Their largely pliant population is happy to stay out of politics as long as the oil money keeps rolling in. Bahrain is not enormously wealthy, and its population is divided between Sunnis and Shias. But the ruler is an absolute monarch and in lock step with the UAE.

Sudan is not so wealthy. But its diplomatic position has been bought by Washington. As one of the centres of Islamic terrorism, it languished for years on America’s economic blacklist. US aid and investment is now pouring in.

Pakistan, in comparison is poor and its politics are Byzantine. The per capita income of the 212.7 million Pakistanis is below that of Sudan at $1,357 a year. They are 154th in the world wealth stakes.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a perfectly competent and charming man, but he is politically circumscribed. The real power in Pakistan is the military—the sixth largest in the world. The prime minister is allowed to operate freely, but only within parameters established by the military, especially the army. If he steps outside the parameters than he runs the risk of removal—even a military coup.

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Observations of an expat: Shifting Arabian sands

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The recent establishment of diplomatic relations and business ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates raises a host of questions, hopes, problems, issues and consequences.

Is it good or bad?  In the constant shifting sands of the Middle East where tribal loyalties overlap with religious and ethnic rivalries it is probably best to say that it is a bit of both, and the need for a supreme balancing act will continue to be the order of the day.

The UAE has at least partially opened the diplomatic floodgates and other Arab countries are expected to soon follow. It is reckoned that the next Arab country to establish links with Israeli will be the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was among the first to congratulate both Israel and the UAE on their bold move. The reason? Sunni king Al Khalifa is terrified of Iran. The Persians have long claimed the island as part of their territory, and 60 percent of the population is Shia.

Next on the likely list is Oman. The late Sultan Qaboos regularly acted as a mediator between Arab and Israeli interests. In 2018 he hosted a visit to Muscat by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Omanis have been praised for their regional diplomacy, not only between Israel and the Arab world, but also between Iran and Arabia.

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Observations of an expat – Israeli memories revived

The ongoing debate over anti-Semitism within the British Labour Party plus Israel’s planned annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank has revived old memories of a visit to Israel.

The year was 1976. I was invited as a guest of the Israeli government.

The reason for my invitation was that I was a young (27) American recently appointed diplomatic correspondent. The Israeli government regarded – with some justification – the bulk of the British foreign affairs writers as a pro-Arab write-off. But an American-born diplomatic correspondent at the heart of the British journalism establishment had the potential to be a real coup.

They were, in theory, right. Americans imbibe pro-Israel sentiments at their mother’s breast. This is probably the result of the Jewish lobby, Holocaust guilt, Biblical teachings, Israel’s democratic government in a sea of absolute monarchies and dictatorships and, finally, Israel’s geostrategic position in the oil-rich Middle East.

When I arrived in London, I, like most of my countrymen, was pro-Israeli. When I stepped off the plane at Tel Aviv I was still pro-Israeli. And for the next few days the Israelis worked hard to confirm my opinion. They set up interviews with Teddy Kollek, the charismatic mayor of Jerusalem, foreign minister Yigal Allon, scandalous Mandy Rice-Davies who had set up a couple of night clubs in Tel Aviv, and even organised a dinner date with the talented, beautiful and young prima ballerina of Israel’s state ballet company.

To make certain that I travelled safely from A to B the Israeli foreign office provided an air-conditioned limousine and a young Israeli diplomat to keep me out of trouble, answer questions and entertain me. He was charming – until about halfway through the trip.

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Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Statement on the proposed Israeli annexation of the West Bank

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) would like to express our deep concern about plans by the current Israeli Government to annex large swathes of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

We are strong supporters of the State of Israel and a negotiated two-state solution; however, we believe this action by the Government of Israel is neither in the best interests of the State nor the Israeli or Palestinian peoples. Significant parts of the UK’s Jewish diaspora have voiced both concerns about and opposition to these proposals. The proposed annexation, reportedly scheduled for 1st July also has the potential to impact Israel’s political, diplomatic, and economic challenges, including their hard-won peace deals with Egypt and Jordan in addition to their burgeoning relations with the Sunni Arab states.

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Netanyahu’s annexation plans must not go unchallenged

Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn, reacting to the new Israeli government’s intention to annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, put it well. ‘Thou shalt not steal’, he said.

Unfortunately, Binyamin Netanyahu has little time for this type of directive. Encouraged by the so-called US ‘peace plan’ for the middle east, he wants to introduce legislation to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, to begin the process of annexation. He had originally planned to declare this today, and while there might be a delay to the announcement, by all accounts his intention has not changed.

This must not go unchallenged. International law is clear. …

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Our promise to the Palestinians

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Britain appointed itself the ruling power in Palestine after the First World War mainly because it suited British geopolitical ambitions, but our government solemnly acknowledged a “sacred duty” to safeguard the rights of all the people of Palestine when British rule ended.  However, in 1948, Britain, bankrupted by World War II and dealing with the collapse of its empire, forgot its promise to the  Palestinians, and left them to their own devices.  The Jewish state of Israel was created in roughly the part of Mandate Palestine designated by the United Nations, and the rest was ceded to Egypt and Jordan.

This all changed after the 1967 war, in which the Israeli army overran large parts of neighbouring countries.  The areas they occupied when the fighting stopped were effectively the parts of Mandate Palestine which Israel had been unable to claim when it was created in 1948.  Continued military occupation is allowed in the immediate aftermath of a war, but occupied territory must be handed back, and permanent settlement by people from the conquering power is illegal.

Despite that, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and part of southern Syria immediately in June 1967, and have remained as an occupying military power in the West Bank and Gaza until the present day, some 53 year later.  During that time the Palestinians have struggled to have their rights recognised, mostly through peaceful protest and negotiations sponsored by third parties.  Some have resorted to violence, and there have been acts of terrorism, particularly in the early days of the PLO.  The Israeli response is usually disproportionate retaliation, based on the idea that ‘collective punishment’ means violent protest rebounds on the local community.  Collective punishment is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was ratified by virtually every country in the world, including Israel, but like the illegal settlements, it has been tolerated by the world community for decades, and rarely generates more than mild rebukes.

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Observations of an expat: Coronavirus exploitation

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A pandemic is a perfect excuse for politicians to exploit public fear for their own political advantage—and many of them are doing just that.

Let’s start with Trumpland where the administration’s mishandling of the pandemic means that the country is fast heading for a world-beating 100,000-plus deaths. Trump is using coronavirus to stoke the fires of Sinophobia. China has been the US administration’s chief bogey since 2016 when advisers such as Steve Bannon were warning that a Sino-American war was inevitable. The anti-Chinese stand is also proving popular with the voters in an election year with 70 percent of the electorate critical of China.

China’s President Xi Ji-ping is just as bad. Between Beijing and Washington an increasing number of outrageous conspiracy theories have been launched by both sides. The Chinese have also used the pandemic to boost military operations in the South China Sea and is selectively dispatching its medical equipment to countries where it thinks it can establish a stronger foothold. It has also used Covid-19 to crackdown on Hong Kong dissidents and is claiming in capitals around the world that its relatively successful handling of the pandemic demonstrates the superiority of the country’s political system. The latter claim is a leaky bucket as increasing doubt is poured on Beijing’s death statistics.

One of the most blatant pandemic power grabs is in Hungary. President Viktor Orban has managed to persuade his parliament that the danger of the pandemic means he should rule by decree for an unlimited period. As a result, the already sycophantic press has been further muzzled and public protests have been banned and in some cases criminalised.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, released thousands of prisoners from jail—except the political prisoners. He has also blocked fundraising efforts by opposition city councils in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

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What’s happening in Israel and Palestine?

While international focus has been on Covid-19, one could be excused for thinking all was quiet in Israel and Palestine. Benny Gantz, who got one more seat for his coalition than Netanyahu in the January elections, tried to form a government initially which included Arab and Centre Left support. He failed, as did Netanyahu with the far right. The two of them have now agreed terms for a centre-right coalition, in which Netanyahu becomes PM for the first 18 months and then Gantz follows.
The Netanyahu/Gantz agreement specifies a timetable formally to annex East Jerusalem and the West …

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The response to Trump’s peace plan should be – recognise Palestine now

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As we leave the EU, we need to show that we are not Trump’s poodle. Britain must therefore publicly be seen to reject the wholesale attack on the rule of international law that is unfortunately an important element in Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”, his plan for peace between Israel and Palestine.

Although the “deal” contains positive elements, such as aspects of its vision for cooperation in economic development, nothing can hide the fact that it contains a diktat to be imposed on the Palestinians that deprives them of their right of self-determination (whilst brazenly maintaining that the contrary is true), as well as the territorial integrity of the Palestinian land that Israel occupied in 1967.

The “deal” has understandably already been described as creating “disconnected Bantustans” rather than a Palestinian State. If it is successfully implemented in the form in which it is published, it is likely to mean the end of the two State solution and become the focal point for a struggle for equal rights for Arab and Jew between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. It also has the regrettable appearance of trying “to buy” the Palestinians so as to induce them not to insist on their rights. That is creating anger far beyond Palestine.

The plan claims to recognise the realities on the ground. This assertion must be called out.

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Observations of an ex pat: Netanyahu – opportunity or setback?

Netanyahu has won a fifth term as prime minister of Israel.  On the face of it this is terrible news. Benjamin Netanyahu (“King Bibi” to his supporters) is a right-wing, ultra-nationalist, militarist populist who is the biggest single obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Or is he? And if he is, is that good or bad?

Modern history has shown that the most obstinate political leaders are sometimes the best ones to achieve the required breakthrough compromise.  Richard Nixon’s history as a hardline anti-communist meant that he was the only one who could open the door to Mao’s China. A similar move by a Democrat liberal would have been attacked as a “sell-out”

 It required compromise by hardliners Anwar Sadat and Menahem Begin to end decades of war between Egypt and Israel.  In Northern Ireland tough men Ian Paisley and IRA leader Martin McGuinness were the only two who could have struck a workable compromise.

While Netanyahu has been beavering away at the hustings, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former lawyer Jason Greenblatt have spent two years hammering out a Middle East peace proposal. The plan is wrapped in the tightest of secrecy cloaks. The only ones who know the details are Kushner, Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israeli David Friedman and Kushner and Grenblatt’s aide Avi Berkowitz.  President Trump is regularly briefed on the broad brush, but his twittering fingers are kept away from the details.

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15 December 2018 – today’s press releases

My apologies for lateness, but it’s been Opera Night in Needham Market, and we’ve been kept up by an Armenian soprano… And no, that’s not a metaphor…

Only two today, but one of them turned up just before midnight, so don’t say you aren’t getting them fresh.

Lib Dems: Diplomatic move by Australian Government is ‘deeply unhelpful and disappointing’

Responding to reports that the Australian Government have recognised the state of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plan to move their embassy there from Tel Aviv once a peace settlement is reached, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

This move from the

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How Israel frustrates Palestine’s education

In the current issue of Times Higher Education (13 September), you’ll find a piece by Palestine’s Raja Shehadeh, about the way Israel discourages foreign faculty from teaching in Palestine.  Precisely half of the 64 foreign academics working in Palestine, have been adversely affected by denial or restriction in their permission to work, over the past two academic years. 

Once a university has invited a foreign academic to join its faculty, Israel uses an opaque two-tier system of control, through the Civil Administration in the occupied territory and, if an application clears that hurdle, the power of veto by Israel’s Interior Ministry.  The process is uncertain, Kafkaesque and has every appearance of being discriminatory, to impair the fundamental purpose of education, the dissemination of knowledge and the deepening of understanding. Unable to plan their future, such applicants give up, seeking employment elsewhere. Some Palestinian-born faculty educated in the US or Europe have also been denied residency. 

Israel’s handling of these applications seems tainted with illegality. In his ground-breaking book, Occupier’s Law, published in 1985, Shehadeh showed how the Civil Administration in the West Bank, which issues (or withholds) work permits, was created as part and parcel of ‘solutions for the legal problems encountered in achieving the goal of annexing the West Bank without its inhabitants,’ itself a profoundly illegal process. 

The second tier of Israeli control, however, lies within Israel’s Ministry of the Interior, which issues (or withholds) entry visas for residence in the Occupied Territory. Even where visas are issued, visa extensions may be denied on the grounds that foreigners may not reside in Israel for more than five years. But they are, of course, residing in the Palestinian territory, not in Israel. Under the Laws of Occupation, it may be debatable whether this illegally transfers powers that should remain within occupied territory. Yet it clearly transgresses operative clause 5 of the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (December 2016), which requires all Member States, and that of course includes Israel itself, ‘to distinguish in all their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.’  

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Apartheid in Israel?

Is the Nation-State Act, approved by the Israeli parliament last week, really as bad as its critics suggest?  Jonathan Freedland, Guardian journalist and occasional writer in the Jewish Chronicle, clearly thinks so.  Neither he nor the Chronicle have been willing to criticise Israel very much in the past, but this has been changing in recent weeks.  His article of 27 July lays it out clearly:

“It… (the Act)…says that the right to self-determination in Israel is a right that applies to Jews only and that Hebrew is the state’s only official language, with Arabic now granted merely a “special status”. The combined effect of those two moves is to tell the one-fifth of the country that is not Jewish and whose mother tongue is Arabic that they are second-class citizens.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which is always very critical of its government’s treatment of Palestinians, had an article the following day with the sub-heading The nation-state law is a sickening rejection of equality for all of Israel’s citizens. 

Many are now saying that Israel itself, and not just the Occupied Territories, now meets the UN Definition of an Apartheid State.  Article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines Apartheid as follows:

“The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts….committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

Reaction to the new law has of course been greeted with anger by Arabs, dismay by European governments (whose concerns are as usual ignored by Israel) and, significantly, there has been strong criticism in Israel itself.

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Layla on Palestine

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran has been writing for Politics Home on Palestine. The first MP of Palestinian descent, she has special insight into the troubles experienced and what the solutions might be. You can find the full article here, but to get you started here is an excerpt.

Working with our EU partners, now more valuable than ever before, the UK Government must meet the expectations on its special responsibilities and influence in the Middle East. The US has left the field, UK Government Ministers cannot hide away. And we

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UK participation in Eurovision 2019 in Israel would condone “outrageous human rights violations”

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I’m just back from Lisbon where I was lucky enough to have a stageside position for the Eurovision Song Contest last Saturday. Apart from a nasty stage invasion during Surie’s performance (with which she dealt brilliantly), the whole thing went without a hitch.

Portugal were Eurovision Song Contest entrants for 53 years before they won it in 2017. As a result, they were desperate to welcome everybody to their country and to put on a fantastic experience. That they did. Apart from anything else, Lisbon must have been the most LGBT+ friendly capital city in the world during the last week or so.

This was a “bucket list” trip for me. A one-off. Any temptation to become an annual Eurovision camp follower was cut short with the prospect of a 2019 contest in Israel.

From a musical point of view, Israel deserved to win last Saturday. The scoring system is, nowadays, fairly balanced between national juries and the vote of viewers throughout the 42 participating countries. So, they won fair and square.

On Sunday I was resolved to resist any 2019 Eurovision trip to Israel. While I might one day tour Palestine, Israel and Jordan as a triplet itinerary, visiting specifically Israel for Eurovision would feel like condoning injustice.

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A response to the Conference debate on the Balfour Declaration

Shalom alechum, alsalam ealaykum, peace be with you.

Peace, Peace in the land between the river & sea is what we should be working for.

And, to put it mildly, the motion we passed at Conference on Sunday does not do that. Indeed, by passing it, it means we probably won’t get another chance to debate the Palestine/Israel conflict again for some time.

I tried to get the motion referred back to the FPC and to ask them to bring back a better, more comprehensive motion next year as the one we passed today is the lowest common denominator that is acceptable (begrudgingly) to two interest groups in the Party, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine and Lib Dem Friends of Israel.

It does nothing to say what we, as a small political party far away from the area, can do to advance the cause of peace between Palestine & Israel and, believe me, there is much we can do.

We could be learning more from groups like “Solutions not Sides”, we could be inviting speakers from One Voice, YaLa Young Leaders, Ta’ayush and similar organisations, we could be listening to those who work every day to break down the barriers (both physical & mental) between the two nations.

The motion also contains factual errors, for example, line 35 refers to “pre-1967 borders” but no such borders existed as they were Armistice Lines that marked the end of conflict in 1949, they were never meant to be the final demarcation between Israel & its Arab neighbours.

What is worse, all amendments to correct errors and improve the motion have been rejected by FCC. No reason has been given for this rejection.

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The Independent View: Jewish opposition to Israeli policies

Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2002, there has been significant Jewish opposition in the UK, Western Europe and the United States to Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian land, and to the repressive measures Israel takes against Palestinian resistance. Jews for Justice for Palestinians, now with nearly 2,000 signatories, is by far the biggest Jewish peace group in the UK or Europe. JJP is a founder member of European Jews for a Just Peace, the federation of 13 peace groups in 10 European countries.

JJP’s core beliefs can be summarised as:

Palestinians have the right to their own state in the areas occupied by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, no less than Israel has the right to a secure existence within the 6 June 1967 borders. Israel must negotiate in good faith to withdraw to the 1967 borders, subject to an agreed, equitable land swap to accommodate the built-up areas in some of the settlements.

Violence against civilians is unacceptable, no matter who commits it.

Israel must acknowledge its responsibility for the 750,000 Palestinians who were driven out or fled in 1947/49, and who, with their children and grandchildren, make up today’s Palestinian refugees. Israel must negotiate a fair and practical resolution of the issue.

Our beliefs are based on the humanitarian values of Judaism, universal values of human rights and international law. As disquiet about Israel’s policies has grown, our beliefs have become common and are now shared by many in the community. All this was established by the meticulous City University survey “Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel”, published in 2015.

The survey shows that Israel plays an important part in the identity of most Jews, but also that, far from there being widespread support for Israel’s policies among Jews, there is actually a wide diversity of attitudes, as one would expect to find in society generally. Depending on the question asked, responses varied from large majorities opposed to Israeli policies to significant minorities opposed.

Some examples will suffice to show the diversity: 

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

The Israeli occupation gets worse and worse

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory – West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza – continues and deepens week after week.  The occupation is of course illegal under international law – as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions which were adopted after World War II.  As a reaction to Germany’s colonising activities in Eastern Europe, they specifically prohibit the colonisation/absorption of land conquered in war (in this case 1967) into the territory of the conquering country.  Just this weekend Netanyahu has confirmed his determination to continue the settlement enterprise and never to give back any land that has been stolen.  This has been reported in Haaretz, the Iiberal Israeli newspaper, which is the source of much of the information in this post.

In Gaza, the siege continues and this prevents the rebuilding of the territory after the last Gaza conflict (2014) and inflicts daily misery on the inhabitants.  In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it is estimated that over 3500 Palestinians have been arrested this year alone.  Many of these are children and every day I read reports of new overnight arrests – children and adults taken from their beds by Israeli soldiers.  Settler violence towards Palestinians has increased dramatically and the Haaretz and Israeli NGO’s regularly report on this.  The settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians are protected by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) whose soldiers rarely intervene.  Prosecutions of settlers for such crimes are almost unheard of.

A particularly serious development has occurred these past two weeks which has really incensed some European governments.  With the start of the new school year the Israelis have decided to demolish several schools.  Some of these have been funded by the Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian governments.  This has been documented this week in an article in the Independent (also confirmed by Haaretz) which reports that 55 schools in the West Bank are currently under threat of demolition.

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