AGM and after

Dear Members
 At our AGM on Wednesday,we altered our constitution to include associate members: –
…. An Associate Member shall be a person who, while in sympathy with the aims of the Liberal Democrat Party as set out in the Party’s constitution, is not currently a member of the party but wishes to be associated with the aims and objectives of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and is not a member of any other political party. Associate members shall pay the same annual subscription as members of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and are entitled to attend its meetings but shall not have the right to vote at the AGM or other membership meetings.
John Kelly was voted in as our new Vice Chair: a considerable help to our small executive. There were many ideas put forward as to how we can operate most efficiently as a lobby group, so the discussion on ‘future activities’ will be ongoing. More in the New Year……..
I am aware that it is not easy for those out of London to get to Lobby Day which was the largest and most successful ever, judging by the numbers of MPs who had meetings.  But please, it is never too late to write your MP as I have just done to Kate Hoey – see below.

National Lobby Day for Palestine – Gaza

It seems almost unbelievable that with the tacit consent of our government, Israel has operated a blockade against Gaza for seven years, the chief victims of which are women and children. Anaemia affects most children in Gaza and one third of pregnant women. Ten per cent of children under five suffer from stunting, the effects of which are lifelong.  

We have allowed Israel deliberately to ruin fishing, agriculture and other industries, leaving a hard working and talented people dependent on aid. Since the Egyptian military’s campaign to destroy  tunnels between Gaza and Sinai, the Gazans who have managed (at a price) to buy goods through the tunnel industry ( a trade which has killed over 235 Palestinians and injured over 597)  are becoming increasingly desperate for food.   Since Gaza’s sole power plant stopped working on 1 November electricity has been operating for only six hours a day. The shortage has resulted in the shutdown of sewage treatment facilities. Operating theatres, dialysis units, intensive care and premature baby units are all under threat. 95 per cent of drinking water is unsafe.  

The international community may or may not intervene to save lives in the current crisis: but we need politicians to run the gauntlet of Israeli lobby intimidation and say to Israel  ‘Enough’ 

 The Foreign Secretary has publicly stated ‘’It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience.’‘ So will he intervene and insist the Gazan people be treated as human beings?    Please could you write to him, insisting that ‘‘raising our concerns’’ is not enough, and that real pressure must be applied to make Israel lift its illegal blockade and allow fuel, and other essential supplies into the Gaza Strip immediately without restriction?  

Gaza was one of  3 lobbying topics, but letters are best short, and in the current fuel crisis ( see Amnesty below) it is a priority.  I feel strongly that complicity in the siege of Gaza utterly shames us as a nation.

This, on the other hand, is our Prime Minister speaking at a Downing Street reception for the Jewish Festival of Hanukah as reported by Richard Morris who writes a Palestine /Israel blog:

“I am with you and with the Israeli people, genuinely. As far as I’m concerned, an enemy of Israel is an enemy of mine. A threat to Israel is a threat to us all. “I can promise you this: Britain will stand with Israel, Britain will support Israel, Britain will keep the pressure up on Iran. We do not want you to have a nuclear-armed near-neighbour, a nuclear threat facing your country… We share that feeling and show you our solidarity.’’

As Morris comments. ‘Who gave Cameron  the right to make these promises on our behalf?’  Does he really wish such solidarity with a state that openly practises racist and apartheid policies, the current transfer of the Bedouin being but one example? ( good info from the Huffington Post)

The comment on the Iran/Geneva deal, while cautious,  is overwhelmingly in favour. In the Guardian, as many of you will have seen, Jonathan Friedland includes this fascinating detail:

Intriguingly, Obama’s policy of restraint found a supportive echo in the Israeli securocracy: it was the loud, sometimes public opposition of current and former military and intelligence chiefs that made it all but impossible for Netanyahu to contemplate air strikes against Iran. It turns out that it was the fruit of a deliberate, planned effort by Washington, patiently creating what one analysis calls a “United States lobby” within the Israeli security elite. Now established, there is no reason why that same US lobby could not be mobilised to pressure Bibi again – this time on the Israel-Palestine track.

And a typically sane analysis from the International Crisis Group

So while ‘facts on the ground’ are increasingly dire, there is evidence that Israel is losing its grip……

At an executive meeting of the America Studies Association in Washington DC,  37 out of 44 speakers from senior professors to undergraduates all endorsed  an academic boycott of Israel. If not yet among British politicians, fear of speaking out seems to be waning.
Lastly – remember Nick Clegg’s demand that Jenny Tonge apologise for making the totally reasonable comment following the Haiti earthquake, that Israel should institute an enquiry to clear its name over the ‘harvesting of organs’ accusation? Plainly the Israeli lobby were protesting too much.

Sally FitzHarris
Secretary, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine