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Introducing Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine

June 1, 2015 3:06 PM
By John Kelly in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Palestine flagThe Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine exists to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party. The party's core values of liberalism, internationalism and support for the indivisibility of human rights and the rule of law make it the natural home in mainstream British politics for those determined to support the Palestinian call for recognition of their own State, for justice and their entitlements under international law.

Prior to 2010 the Party was recognised as the only one of the three main parties that could be relied upon to support Palestinian rights and oppose military aggression by Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank. In coalition government we were faced with a Prime Minister who courted the Israel lobby in the UK with a deferential attitude towards Benjamin Netanyahu, and who was among the first world leaders to congratulate him on his re-election following an overtly racist and divisive campaign. Middle East Monitor has an list of quotes from the new ministers in the Israeli government that ought to give even David Cameron serious cause for concern.

Lib Dem ministers had some influence in government - a limited restriction on arms sales for instance. Most of our backbench MP's, on a free vote, supported a Commons motion in favour of immediate recognition of the State of Palestine. Lib Dem Ministers however said little on the question of Palestinian recognition and were silent when the Palestinian Authority faced down the USA and referred the Gaza invasion of 2014 and the continued building of settlements to the International Criminal Court. Such are the compromises of power. Without the Lib Dems in government, the Conservatives might well have opposed Palestinian statehood (rather than abstaining). We also missed an opportunity by not including immediate recognition of Palestine in our Election Manifesto - to their credit, the SNP did so. Now we are in Opposition again we have a chance to regain our soul as a Party. We could start with a renewed commitment to human rights and in particular towards Palestinian human rights.

We deplore racism of any kind, including anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We categorically reject all forms of violence against civilians (including the disproportionate use of force) no matter who the perpetrators and the victims may be. We also strongly reject the conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israeli government policies. We deplore those who use the spectre of anti-Semitism to discourage pressure on Israel to abandon colonial and racist policies. We applaud those in the Jewish community such as Jews for Justice to Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Peace and Yachad, who yearn for peace and see Israeli government policies as a major threat both to peace and to human rights.

LDFP welcomes Lib Dems as members. We publish up to date information about Palestine on our website, on our Facebook page and on Twitter. We plan to have a stand at the Autumn Conference Exhibition and to hold a fringe meeting at the Conference.

* John Kelly is vice-chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine