Tag Archives: israel

Observations of an Expat: Poor Bibi

Spare a thought for Bibi Netanyahu. He is caught between a rock and several hard places. He is fighting external wars against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran; an internal war against his cabinet colleagues and a diplomatic one against the Biden Administration and most of the rest of the world, if not all of it.

The results of this complex picture could be Armageddon, stalemate or any one of the many in between scenarios.

While pondering the fate of the Israeli prime minister you may also want to consider all the other players who are dragging the world to the brink of a Middle Eastern abyss: President Joe Biden, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. They are locked in a dangerous escalating tit for tat dance of death.

Within the Israeli cabinet there is a four-way tug-of-war between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and War Cabinet Minister and Opposition Leader Benny Gantz. They all appear to hate and distrust each other.

According to sources, Gallant and Gantz have hardly spoken to each other since Benny Gantz beat out Yoav Gallant for the top military job ten years ago. Itamar Ben-Gvir is an ultra-Orthodox Jew who said Netanyahu should “go berserk” after Iran’s missile attack on Israel. He described Israel’s retaliatory attack on Iran’s third most populous city, Isfahan, as “lame.”

Gallant is not as extreme as Ben-Gvir, but not far off. Benny Gantz is the nearest thing to a dove that there is in the Israeli war cabinet. But even he is calling for the “total destruction” of Hamas. If elections were held today, Gantz would be prime minister.

All four men have conflicting views on a post-war Gaza. Netanyahu wants the army to take over. Gallant wants an ill-defined arrangement with the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority. Ben-Gvir is pushing for replacing the 2.2 million Gazan Palestinians with Israeli settlers and Benny Gantz is keeping his cards close to his chest, but hints at a politically slimmed down two-state solution.

Netanyahu, according to sources, deals with his rivals by ignoring them. All the major decisions since October 7 have been made by the prime minister without – or with the minimum – consultation.

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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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Observations of an Expat: Tyranny of the Majority

“Democracy,” Winston Churchill famously said, “is the worst form of government – except for all those other forms that have been tried.”

Then there is democracy unchained, or without the restraints of the rule of law and free speech.  Also known as “the tyranny of the majority” or the “will of the people” or, perhaps, “democracy flawed.”

These are elected governments with political leaders who have harnessed to their own pursuit of power a perceived threat to the majority, or a growing, vociferous and politically motivated minority.

There are far too many examples to choose from but let’s focus on Hungary, Russia, Israel, India and the US for starters.  In each of these countries, the leaders (or wannabe leader) have won the support of the majority of the population either through lies or by allying themselves with a social movement which promotes one section of society at the expense of another.

Technically speaking, Israel is a democracy with carefully monitored and oft-held elections. Its American supporters are keen to point out that it is the only democracy in the Middle East and this makes the Israelis their only rock-solid ally in the region.

Twenty percent of Israel’s voters are Arabs. As the occupying power, Israel is also responsible for two million Palestinians in Gaza and another two million on the West Bank – none of whom have a vote.  Their rights and concerns are totally ignored by Benjamin Netanyahu because his political base is conservative Orthodox Jews. The Israeli Supreme Court has attempted to protect Arab rights. As a result, Netanyahu is beavering away at dismantling the court and its powers.

Vladimir Putin was recently re-elected President of Russia with 87.5 percent of the vote. Such a large figure is of course suspect, but most observers accept that Putin would have won regardless. He has successfully portrayed himself as the only possible leader of a nation under attack from wicked, grasping Western enemies. His answer is that the best defense is a good offense which means the pursuit of Russian imperial ambitions.

Viktor Orban has cast himself in the role of anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic saviour of ethnic Hungarians and European Judeo-Christian values. “We must state,” said Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, “that Hungarians do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed; we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with that of others.”

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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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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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Tom Arms’ World Review

Baltimore

The Baltimore Bridge disaster was more than a fatal human tragedy. It was a commercial and trading disaster which starts in Baltimore and ripples well beyond American shores.

But let’s start with Baltimore and its immediate environs. When the Singapore-flagged container ship Dali crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge it closed a major land and sea route in and out of a city which is one of America’s most important as well as one of its most socially-deprived.

The 1.6 mile long bridge crossed the Patapsco River which is the major sea channel in an out of the Port of Baltimore which in turn is a major exit and entry point for America’s vital car trade. That sea channel is now blocked. In 2023 the port handled 52.3 million tons worth $80 billion. It directly employed 15,000 people and indirectly supported another 139,000 jobs. This is in a city known as the heroin drug capital of America and where residents have a one and 20 chance of falling victim to violent crime. Powder keg Baltimore does not need thousands to be suddenly laid off work.

The bridge carried a major highway – Interstate 695 – as well as well as spanning the entrance to the port. I-295 is a major arterial road connecting New York, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Last year it carried nearly 12 million vehicles. As the Easter weekend descends on one of the most congested areas of America, hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks will be forced to travel hundreds of additional miles on roads ill-suited to carry the extra traffic.

The impact of the bridge disaster will be felt well beyond Baltimore. Eighty percent of the world’s trade moves by ship. It is called the “global supply chain” and when a link in that chain is broken it affects shipping movements across the world. And a major factor in the price of goods is the cost of transporting them.

In recent years the biggest impact on the global supply chain was caused by the covid pandemic. But other factors have been a drought which this month disrupted the Panama Canal; the six-day blockage in 2021 of the Suez Canal by the giant container ship Ever Given; naval battles in the Black Sea as a result of the Ukraine War and attacks by pro-Palestinian Houthis in the Red Sea.

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge is one of a growing number of breaks in the increasingly fragile global supply chain which pushes up prices for us all.

Russia

Tajiks have lots of reason to hate Putin’s Russia. Tajiks attached to Islamic State-Khorashan even more so. They don’t need the Ukrainians, the CIA or MI6 to egg them on.

That is why there is universal scepticism towards Vladimir Putin’s allegation that the four Tajik terrorists who gunned down 130 people in Moscow’s Crocus City Hall theatre were acting in league with Ukrainian, British and American intelligence. The assertion is made more ludicrous by IS-K’s instant claim of responsibility.

It is unclear whether the terrorists were drawn from the estimated two million Tajiks living in Russia or if they come from Tajikistan or if they originated from Afghanistan where the Persian-speaking Tajiks make up 25 percent of the population. It is known that they are Muslims and that would be enough to turn them against Vladimir Putin.

Putin climbed to power on the back of genocidal war against the Muslims of Chechnya. It made him popular with ethnic Russians but a hate figure for the Central Asian Muslims who were once part of the Soviet empire and the Tsarist Russian Empire before that.

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Observations of an Expat: US Support for Israel Cracks

One of the rock solid, unwavering givens in the world’s diplomatic playbook has cracked – the 76-year-old bipartisan US support for Israel.

There will be repercussions for Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, Europe and the Middle East.

Since before 1948, support or opposition to Israel has been one of the world’s key political fault lines. Which side a government chose played a major role in determining their position on a host of other issues.

At the fulcrum of this fault line was support for successive Israeli governments from Republican and Democratic American administrations. More than $4 billion a year in military aid flows from Washington to Israel, and that is only the money that is known. Whenever Israel faced UN condemnation it could count on the American veto. And if it was attacked, America, supplied the latest weaponry. Israel was America’s only certain and democratic ally in the Middle East and Israel could not exist without America.

The public appearance of the crack was the Senate speech last week by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. He called on Israelis to vote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of office. And he implicitly warned that if the voters did not remove “Bibi” then American aid and political support was in jeopardy.

President Biden gave the Schumer speech the presidential seal of approval. It was, he said, “a good speech.” Republicans disagreed and the battle lines were drawn. Senate Minority leader accused Schumer of interfering in the democratic processes of a close ally. Donald Trump said that Jews who voted Democrat “hated Israel” and “hated their own religion.” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said he would be inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. This event is unlikely to happen because it requires the support of Chuck Schumer.

In a post-speech interview with the New York Times, Senator Schumer, said his disillusionment did not start with the war on Gaza. The impetus for him was the bromance between Trump and Bibi and the Trump-organised Abraham Accords which established diplomatic relations between Israel and several Arab countries without any consideration for the Palestinians. Netanyahu, said Schumer, made the crack inevitable when he decided that his interests lay with Trump and the Republican Party at the expense of the Democrats.

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Observations of an Expat: The Schumer Speech

Senator Chuck Schumer is America’s senior American politician. He is also the Senate Majority Leader. So when attacks the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calls for fresh elections to oust him, people sit up and take notice.

The left-wing of the Democratic Party love it, and it is doubtful that Schumer would have spoken without first clearing the speech with his close friend and political ally President Biden.

The Israeli government is furious. “Israel is not a banana republic,” it fumed. “Senator Schumer is expected to respect Israel’s elected government and not undermine it. This is always true and even more so in time of war.”

The Israelis words were echoed by ranking Senate Republican Mitch McConnell. As soon as Schumer sat down, McConnell jumped to his feet to rebut: “Israel is not a colony of America…. Only Israelis should have a say in who forms their government. Either we respect their decision or we disrespect their democracy.”

And therein lies the rub. With all its faults – and it has many – Israel is a vibrant democracy. Its oft-held general elections regularly achieve turnouts of between 60 to 70 percent. There is a lively free press and the public are free to take to the streets and demonstrate whenever—and they do, often. They also keep re-electing Netanyahu.

The latest opinion polls, are not, however, good news for the prime minister and his Likud Party. They show that Likud would drop thirteen Knesset seats from 33 to 20 if an election was held today. The big winner would be Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party who are expected to jump from 20 to 32 seats.

Gantz has called for a “two entity” solution to the Arab-Israeli problem. He has not, however, defined “entity” and so far has supported Netanyahu’s attacks on Gazans and refusal to accept a ceasefire. Israeli can no longer live alongside Hamas, he said, “this reality has to change.”

A Gantz government is unlikely to bring peace. This is because most Israelis are not in favour of the conditions that would create it.

For a start, to form a government, Gantz would need 61 out of the 120 Knesset seats. The problem is that – other than roughly 10 seats held by Israeli-Arab politicians—only one political party, Meretz, is wholly committed to the two-state solution. They currently have no Knesset seats and are projected to win only five if an election was held now. The centre-right Yesh Atid led by former TV anchor Yair Lapid, endorses talking with the Palestinians and an end to West Bank settlements. But it stops short of the two-state solution.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Keep your eye on Israeli politician Benny Gantz. He is currently the bookies’ favourite to be Israel’s next Prime Minister.

More importantly, he has hinted at a willingness to discuss the two-state solution.

This has put him in direct conflict with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right coalition members of his government. They are totally opposed to the two-state solution which is being pushed by the US, Europe, the Arab world and virtually everyone except Netanyahu and Co.

Gantz’s political flexibility earned him an invitation to visit Washington where this week he met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The visit was not cleared with Netanyahu who ordered Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, to do everything possible to sabotage the Gantz visit.

And when the minister-without-portfolio returned he was told by Netanyahu that “Israel has only one prime minister.” That prime minister, it must be said, has yet to receive an invitation to visit the Biden White House.

Gantz is leader of the National Unity Party. Like so many Israeli politicians he came through the ranks of the military, eventually becoming army chief of staff in 2012. Then in 2018 he decided to turn his hand to politics and very quickly emerged as the main opposition figure to Netanyahu.

After the October 7 attack by Hamas, Netanyahu invited Gantz to join a national unity war cabinet, along with three other members of his party

Gantz accepted and is in full agreement with Netanyahu on the need for total victory over Hamas. But the two men part company over what happens next.

Netanyahu is adamant in his refusal to discuss a two-state solution or anything even remotely resembling a two=state solution.

But in 2020, Gantz told the Munich Security Conference: “Eventually we will find ourselves a two-entity solution in which we respect Palestinian sovereignty and governance but we will be respected for our security needs.”

Despite repeated questioning by journalists and others, Gantz refused to define “entity.” But position was clear enough to prompt far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to describe Benny Gantz as the “weak link” in Israel’s war cabinet. This week Smotrich stood up in the Knesset and demanded that Gantz declare his opposition to the two-state solution. Gantz’s reply was a deafening silence.

Meanwhile the minister-without-portfolio continues to rise in the opinion polls and Netanyahu continues to fall. According to a poll this week by Israel’s Channel 10, voters believe that Netanyahu is prolonging the war for his own political ends. According to the poll, voters think that the prime minister knows that when the war ends he will unceremoniously be voted out of office and – without immunity from prosecution–face a series of long-standing corruption charges.

The Sudanese Civil War is a forgotten war. It shouldn’t be.

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7 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Resolution Foundation reveals £8bn pensioner tax bombshell in Budget
  • “All the hallmarks of a backroom deal”- Welsh Lib Dems react to decision to keep new controversial Senedd voting system
  • Donelan scandal: Lib Dems demand ethics advisor probe and Science Minister to step aside whilst investigation ongoing
  • Carmichael calls for UK ban on imports from illegal Israeli settlements
  • SNP cancel bus fund after spending less than 6% – Rennie
  • McArthur responds to news that more crimes will not be investigated

Resolution Foundation reveals £8bn pensioner tax bombshell in Budget

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget includes an £8bn tax bombshell for pensioners, analysis from the Resolution Foundation has revealed.

All 8 million tax-paying pensioners will see their taxes increase due to the freezing of income tax thresholds. This will leave the average taxpaying pensioner £1,000 worse off by 2027-28, – or an £8 billion collective hit.

Responding to the analysis, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Buried in the small print of this Budget is a disgraceful £8 billion pensioner tax bombshell.

People who have worked hard and done the right thing all their lives are being hammered by Jeremy Hunt with years of unfair tax hikes, leaving them an average of £1,000 worse off each.

This Conservative government has shown their true colours, pensioners are not their priority. They would rather cut taxes for the big banks than look after those who have given so much for so long to our society.

“All the hallmarks of a backroom deal”- Welsh Lib Dems react to decision to keep new controversial Senedd voting system

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have described the decision to keep the new Senedd voting system as having “all the hallmarks of a backroom deal”.

From 2026, votes will be cast for parties instead of individual candidates as part of plans to expand the Senedd.

Critics of the new voting system say that it takes power away from the voter and places it in the hands of political party bosses.

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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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How can we find peace?

A couple of week ago, I responded to a post in a Facebook Group trying to create a grassroots movement for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The post challenged us to outline our vision for peace, this was my response:

My vision for Peace isn’t a detailed plan. Simply, it is that Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs, Christians, Jews and Muslims learn to accept each other, learn that to live in that small sliver of land between the River and the Sea they must share it with people with a different background, different history, different beliefs but with a shared hope that their children can grow & thrive without the threat of war.

If we can achieve that, the details of the political solution will be easy to decide; unless we can achieve that, no solution will succeed.

There are two other pieces of writing I want to share here.  The first is an (long) article written by an acquaintance in Notts Friends of Standing Together titled There is no Magic Peace Fairy.   It tries to examine how people on both sides have become blind to the suffering of those on the other side, why good people are trapped by their own history to ignore the fact that most people on the opposite side also trapped in their history.  It is a hard read and made think about my own preconceptions and how open was I to having them challenged.

The other is a novel written by Haviva Ner-David called Hope Valley.  Set in 2000, after the failure of the Clinton/Arafat/Brak Camp David Summit, mostly around a Moshav in the Galilee that was built on the ruins of a Palestinian village cleared by the Hagenah during the 1948 war and the neighbouring Palestinian village where some of the refugees from the ruined village now live.  It looks at the intertwined lives of two artists, both with a serious illness, both with deep links to the land both who need to overcome their own misunderstandings & preconceptions.

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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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Tom Arms’ World Review

Surprise, Surprise, Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state solution.

The Israeli Prime Minister has never made any secret that he believes that the only guarantee of Israeli security is Israeli control of Palestinian security. On Thursday he reiterated his position.

Any Palestinian state, Netanyahu argues, would be dedicated to the overthrow of the Israeli state. And even if they publicly committed themselves to peace, Netanyahu wouldn’t believe them.

The primary responsibility of every country is defence. Ipso facto, there can be no Palestinian state—according to Netanyahu.

Most of the rest of the world believes that there are basically three possible outcomes to the Arab-Israeli Crisis: The Israelis wipe out the Palestinians. The Palestinians wipe out the Israelis. Or the two sides somehow work out a modus operandi that allows the two groups to live side by side in peace.

The Biden Administration was hopeful that the experience of Gaza would show that the only long-term opportunity for peace is a political solution which involves a Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu appears unfazed by Gaza. He told a press conference this week that Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also told them to stop the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security.

John Kirby, the US National Security Adviser, replied: “Israel and the US see things differently.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, sees the Middle East very much through Bibi eyes. His Abraham Accords were designed to circumvent the Palestinians and the two-state solution. Netanyahu’s continued intransigence could—at least in part—reflect his hope for a Trump victory in the November presidential elections.

A Trump Landslide?

Iowa was a Trump landslide. Or was it? Only 15 percent of the state’s 718,000 registered Republicans voted—the lowest turnout in years.

Why? There is no certain answer but here are a few possibles, starting with the MAGA camp: The weather was atrocious. Nobody in their right mind would risk leaving home to caucus in the sub-Arctic temperatures.

Also, the media named Trump the big margin winner before the caucusing started. Why bother risking frostbite to vote for one of the losers or even for the winner? Best stay warm.

Now, for the non-MAGA Republican perspective: We don’t want Trump, but none of the others can win, so why risk hypothermia for a wasted vote?

Everyone is an individual, even in Iowa. So chances are that there are 69,000 reasons why 85 percent of the state’s Republicans failed to caucus. But if that figure is extrapolated across America—then Trump is in trouble come the general election.

As any seasoned campaigner will tell you. The key to winning elections is to persuade as many as possible of your registered voters to get out and vote. Apathy can result in political disaster.

Taiwan

Conspicuous by its near silence in the aftermath of the Taiwanese elections is the voice of Chinese President Xi-jingping.

To briefly re-cap, the Chinese leader was loud in his election support for the Kuomintang but and condemnation for the incumbent Democratic People’s Party. This is because the KMT favoured closer relations with Mainland China based on the 1992 “one country two systems” concept. The DPP, on the other hand, is moving Taiwan closer to a quasi-sovereign independent state.

The DPP’s William Lai won the presidency, although the party has lost its majority in  parliament.

The US is in two-minds about the result. They want Taiwan in the democratic capitalist camp. But not necessarily as a sovereign Taiwan. This could provoke Beijing into a military solution which would drag in America’s Pacific-based Seventh Fleet.

So the State Department issued a rather anodyne statement which welcomed the fact that Taiwan held democratic elections, without focusing on the possible repercussions. Statements from Japan, the EU and NATO countries followed suit.

Beijing was, if anything, more anodyne, it has said virtually nothing about the election result itself. Instead it focused on the statements from the Western countries and basically said they had no right to make any comment because Taiwan is part of China. The diplomatic conversation then ended.

There could be lots of reasons for the Chinese not to take the argument further. There is no point. Xi is busy purging his military and party structures. The Chinese economy is sluggish. Or, he could be waiting for a Trump victory in November.

Is honour now satisfied in the Iran-Pakistan tit for tat missile exchanges?

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Donald Trump and NATO

While NATO and its partners pull together to protect world shipping it has emerged that ex-president Donald Trump has been doing his best to pull the Western Alliance apart.

According to French EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for EU defense issues, Trump told commission president Ursula von der Leyen that NATO is dead and that America would refuse to defend Europe.

M. Breton, told the European Parliament this week, that the threat was issued in 2020 during a private bilateral at the World Economic Forum between Trump and Ms. Van der Leyen.

According to Breton, Trump told the commission president: “You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and support you. NATO is dead, and we will leave. We will quit NATO.”

Trump then made reference to van Der Leyen’s previous job as German Defense Minister and added: “By the way, you owe me $400 billion because you didn’t pay. You Germans, you had to pay for defense.”

Trump is odds-on favourite to win Monday’s Iowa caucus for the Republican nomination.

Israel

Israel was the first to sign the 1948 Convention on Genocide. This is not surprising as the international law was a direct result of the horrors of The Holocaust.

This week, however, the Israeli government is appearing before the International Court of Justice at The Hague charged with the same crime that they levelled against Hitler.

The case is being brought by South Africa’s ANC government. It should be noted that there is little love between the ANC and Israel.

There is historic animosity between Jewish state and the ANC. Israel provided South African Whites with nuclear weapons technology and Mossad and the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) regularly exchanged information. Many South Africans also believe that the Likud government’s policies on the West Bank and Gaza are at least partially modelled on the Bantustans and pass laws of the apartheid era.

So, it is unsurprising that the South African government took the lead this week in pursuing a charge of “genocide” in the International Court of Justice in relation to Israel’s attack on Gaza. They claim that Israeli attacks and blockades that have so far cost 23,357 lives qualify as genocide under the 1948 convention that Israel was so keen to sign.

The lead lawyer, Adila Hassian, told the 17 judges of the ICJ that Israel’s actions show “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide.

At the end of the first day of a two-day hearing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted: “We are fighting terrorists. We are fighting lies. Today we saw an upside down world. Israel Is accused of genocide while it is fighting against genocide.”

The 1948 convention states that “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide. It further states that acts of genocide include: “killing members of the group; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group; preventing births and forcibly transferring children of the group.”

Usually the ICJ takes months to make a ruling. But South Africa has asked for an interim ruling which means that a decision may be published as early as next week.

ICJ rulings are final. There is no appeal. But they are not enforceable. Russia, for instance, was recently branded guilty of genocide in Ukraine. Putin ignored it. If the court rules against Israel Netanyahu will likely do the same. But Israel’s democratic mantle will be severely damaged.

Ecuador

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Israel

“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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Tom Arms’ World Review

United States (1)

Rudy Guiliani is broke. Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss wish Trump’s top legal adviser wasn’t. A US court has ruled that Guiliani has ruined their lives when he publicly and falsely accused them of tampering with Georgia election ballots.

This Friday a jury of eight was considering whether or not to grant their request for $43 million in damages. An award, which will almost certainly be academic.

Three divorces, a lavish lifestyle and backing Donald Trump’s election lie has destroyed the 79-year-old’s fortune.

The former Mayor of New York was a presidential  candidate in 2007. As such he had to reveal his assets. He said he was worth $18 million. Court accountants believe the figure was probably closer to $70 million. In 2017 he was earning $10 million a year in speaker’s fees alone, and had been doing so for more than 10 years.

He enjoyed the money. According to court documents, Rudy Guiliani in 2017 owned six homes, belonged to 11 country clubs and spent $12,000 a month on cigars.

The fall started with divorce from his wife Judith.  She took a big chunk of his assets and alimony payments of $43,000 per month. But Giuliani’s biggest mistake was joining Donald Trump’s personal legal team in 2018.

By 2020 he was his top lawyer and closely connected with Trump’s election lie. This led to a $10 million defamation suit by an ex-employee and additional law suits from election computer manufacturers Smartamatic and Dominion Voting.

In 2022 the Internal Revenue Service took out a lien on his Florida condo because he had failed to pay $500,000 in taxes. In August of this year his own lawyers sued him $1.4 million in unpaid legal bills. His current net assets are $1 million. His known current liabilities (and there are more to come) are $1.9 million. He is bust. Backing Trump has a price.

United States (2)

Republicans may be shooting themselves in the foot over their planned impeachment of President Joe Biden.

There seems to be little doubt that the president’s son Hunter is guilty of a number of bad things. But despite months of deep digging by Republican congressmen, no one has been able to uncover a shred of hard evidence linking the president to his son’s business dealings.

Nevertheless, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives appears determined to start impeachment proceedings against President Biden.

Impeachment is a serious business. It takes a lot of time and effort. While an impeachment is in progress Congress is focused on little else. That means debates over government spending, immigration, Ukraine, Israel and climate change are all put on the legislative backburner.

These are all important issues for the American electorate. They will not thank Republican congressman for ignoring their interests to pursue a political vendetta without evidence to back it up.

Ukraine

It has been a bad week for Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky. In Washington he hit a brick wall in an attempt to release $61 billion in aid.

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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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Tom Arms’ World Review

Anti-semitism

Anti–Semitism is rocketing worldwide. In London, the Metropolitan Police, reported that that incidents of anti-Semitism increased 1,350 percent since October 7. Similar figures are emerging from the US, France, Germany, the Netherlands….

This is because the Israeli government has become a symbol violent oppression and far-right intolerance based on religion.

And the sad fact is, too many people conflate Judaism with Israel. They fail to recognise that there are a sizeable number of Jews in Israel who do not support Netanyahu and there is an even larger number of Jews outside Israel who do not support his Likud-led coalition.

However, a large number of people instead wrongly believe that the actions of the Netanyahu government are a mirror reflection of the views of worldwide Jewry. This is partly because Israel was created as a homeland for Jews and all Jews have the right to citizenship in Israel.

In a way the global wave of anti-Semitism is in the interests of Netanyahu. It reinforces the view of Jews as victims and allows him to claim that he is fighting for all Jews. Otherwise, why would people be attacking innocent Jews outside Israel?

It is complicated and sad. For many years – while successive Israeli governments struggled to establish the Jewish state against the odds – the link between Israel and Judaism worked in favour of world Jewry. Now that Israel is seen by many as oppressive and undemocratic it works against then.

West Bank

Spare a thought for the West Bank. In fact, focus on it, because if you fail to do so, it may well erupt into an even more violent conflagration then what we are seeing in Gaza.

The West Bank, unlike Gaza, is not under the control of Hamas. It is nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority which in turn is controlled by the remnants of the PLO. In reality, however, security on the West Bank is in the hands of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) which means Israel controls the West Bank.

Eighty-two percent of the West Bank’s residents are Palestinians. The remainder are Jews. They are illegal because since 1967 the international community has refused to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territory and branded most of the Jewish settlements as illegal.

There are an estimated 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Most of them are Orthodox Jews who claim the land as part of God’s contract with the Jews.

As the number of Illegal settlers have increased so have demands that the West Bank (Judea and Samaria of the Old Testament) be formally annexed. To help matters along, some settlers have taken to attacking Palestinian settlements, driving them out of their homes and, in some cases, murdering them.

Some members of the current Israeli cabinet are, in fact, illegal West Bank settlers. One of them, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is responsible for security issues. He has been seen in recent weeks handing out guns to settlers on the West Bank.

Since 7 October the settlers have increased their attacks on West Bank Palestinians partly because they see an opportunity and partly to pre-empt retribution by West Bank Palestinians in support for their countrymen trapped in Gaza. According to the UN, nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in settler attacks since 7 October. The UN adds that the Israeli army has done nothing to stop the attacks.

There is little that West Bank Palestinians can do in response. There have been demonstrations in Ramallah, Hebron or Nablus, but security is tightly controlled by the Palestinian Authority working in conjunction with the Israeli military. For the moment they have a lid on the security situation. But then, they thought they had a lid on Gaza.

USA Republican Party

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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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Observations of an Expat: A sad tale

The story of Israel is possibly the world’s oldest and saddest. It stretches back Millennia to God’s land deal with Abraham and encompasses wars, slavery, a long and bitter diaspora, pogroms, and the Holocaust.

And that is just the Jewish side. On the Palestinian side (or if you prefer, Arab), there is colonialism, wars, displacement, refugee camps, unemployment, and their own diaspora.

But let’s start with the Jews and relatively modern history. In 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration which set aside the British mandate of Palestine (as it was then known) as a homeland for the Jews. But there was a proviso, Jewish rights were not to be realised at the expense of the resident Arabs.

This obvious contradiction led to The Israelis fighting against the British and Palestinian Arabs for the right to create their own state.  In 1948 they succeeded and emerged as underdog heroes; rising from centuries of discrimination and the horrors of the Holocaust. However, the tactics they used to achieve their political success was terrorism.

When the infant Jewish state defeated the Arab armies in 1948, 1967, 1956 and 1973 its leaders morphed from terrorists to soldiers. Now they were heroes carving a modern successful nation out of an arid wilderness.

But there are two sides to every story. If the Jews are the most oppressed people in 3,500 years of history then the Palestinian Arabs are possibly the most oppressed in modern history.

It is true that in 1947 they were offered a separate Palestinian state in an UN-partitioned Palestine. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight they should have accepted the deal. But at the time they saw no reason to give up the land that their families had lived on for centuries. The Jews said their God had given them the land. But the Jewish God was not their God.

In fact, it was not the Palestinians themselves who fought in 1948. It was mainly the Arab states with the help of poorly equipped and ill-trained Palestinians. The Arab states were more interested in an anti-colonial war to stop the establishment of a Western outpost in the Middle East than they were in upholding Palestinian rights.

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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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Tom Arms’ World Review

Trump

Trump has been too tight-fisted for his own good. That is the judgement of number of those observing the trial of ex-president Donald Trump on racketeering charges related to his alleged efforts to subvert the Georgia electoral process.

So far, three lawyers and one bail-bondsman out of 19 of Trump’s co-defendants – have flipped, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the ex-president.

One of the main reasons for their change of heart is believed to be astronomical legal fees. America’s top legal eagles are expected to turn up in the Georgia courtroom for the Trump trial. Their fees can be as high as $5,000 per hour and each defendant is expected to have two or three attorneys each for the six-month trial.

The fees for just one lawyer could run to $3.6 million. The latest co-defendant to change sides is Jenna Ellis. Her crowdfunding page raised $216, 431 for legal fees – a drop in the proverbial ocean. This means that most of the co-defendants face the prospect of bankruptcy unless they turn against Trump.

The ex-president may have been able to retain their loyalty by paying their legal fees. He has refused to do so. All the money being raised by his crowdfunding efforts is going to his legal fees alone, except for what he can siphon off for his presidential campaign.

There are other reasons for bail bondsman Scott Hall, and lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro to switch sides. Agreeing to help the prosecution means that prison time has been more or less ruled out. And the lawyers are hoping that the most they will be found guilty of is a misdemeanour. If the jury opts for a felony charge then they will be disbarred and lose their legal license.

There are, however, risks in turning against Trump. He has repeatedly proven himself to be a vengeful man with thousands of followers prepared to harass those who turn up against him and even issue death threats. And death by shooting is a very real danger in America – as the people in Lewiston, Maine discovered this week.

Israel

Why are we waiting? Is the question being asked by thousands of Israeli soldiers camped on the Gaza border and in the street cafes of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a ground invasion of Gaza to end the power of Hamas once and for all. But so far no Israeli boots have trod on Gaza ground.

There have been a lot of exploding artillery shells – an estimated 8,000 of them. And there has been a watertight blockade which has left 2.2 million Gazans without food, water, electricity and vital medicines. As a result an estimated 6,000 Gazans – many of them women and children – have died, and the world’s sympathy is shifting from Israel to Gaza.

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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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Tom Arms’ World Review

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin must be delighted by the Gaza Crisis.

It ticks a number of Moscow’s foreign policy boxes. For a start, it distracts the world from his war crimes in Ukraine and allows him to point the blame finger at America’s absolute support for Israel.

Russia’s Middle East policy is complicated. It supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but Putin also has a close personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has used that relationship to stop Israel from sending weapons to Ukraine.

Russia has also refused to go along with most of the rest of the world in branding …

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