Voters will ask you your view of this ongoing conflict, notably about the legality of the Israeli occupation, British responsibility for it and, the recognition of Palestine. We have therefore prepared the briefing below which we believe is consistent with Lib Dem values and Party policies. We hope it will prove helpful.
If you receive a questionnaire from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), we strongly suggest you respond.
PSC has a mailing list of over 200,000 people which equates to over 300 per constituency and they are to be found everywhere from Shetland, to Devon to Kent and to Aberystwyth. PSC publishes the results on its website so that local people can see how their candidates feel about this quintessential issue of human rights and international law.
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Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine Briefing for Parliamentary Candidates
The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine exists to fight for human rights and equality for all living in Israel and Palestine whatever their religion or ethnicity.
The Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 was instrumental in creating the State of Israel on Palestinian land, but without consulting with those already living there. While we accept the existence of the State of Israel within the 1967 borders, we believe that the British Government should take responsibility for its failure to fulfil its promise to the indigenous people of Palestine stated within the Balfour Declaration that, while providing for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…, nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …”.
In 1948 the Palestinians were dispossessed and dispersed so that today they have become a nation of 5 million people under Israeli occupation in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, 6 million in refugee camps or in exile and 1.8 million as citizens of Israel. The damage done to Palestinian society, culturally, economically and socially, is indisputable and needs to be acknowledged at the highest level.
The Balfour Declaration led to the creation of a state for Jews but the Palestinians have remained stateless. At the same time, it has stirred up considerable anger among Arabs and Muslims and (while it must be stressed there are many other causes of Islamist militancy) has provided violent extremists with a valuable recruiting tool and continues to do so. In this way, it has contributed to insecurity in the wider world.
Since 1967, the British government has done nothing effective to dissuade Israel from its occupation of Palestinian territories. The Conservative Government elected in 2015 has collaborated overtly with the pro-Israel lobby that springs to the defence of Israel whenever its policies are subject to any real criticism and engages in systematically smearing as “anti-Semitic” people who dare criticise the actions of the Israeli government. The persistent and intimidating rhetoric is often uncritically echoed in the media and by a wide range of senior politicians who have (irresponsibly) jumped on the bandwagon.
Government has moreover approved a new definition of anti-Semitism which risks confusing legitimate criticism of Israel with genuine cases of anti-Semitism. The effect of all this is to discourage public figures from speaking up, from engaging in rational debate, and pursuing the search for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is a lamentable state of affairs in a country like the UK that has enjoyed freedom of speech for over 300 years.
In October 2014, the British Parliament overwhelmingly voted to recognise the Palestinian right to statehood. The British Government and its allies should implement this as soon as possible, with a view to levelling the playing field between the parties. They should also use their undoubted clout to persuade Israel to halt and reverse its illegal settlement policy and encroachment on Palestinian land, water resources, fisheries etc. It is then up to the Israelis and the Palestinians whether they negotiate a “two-state” or a “one-state” solution, and how they handle the most contentious issues involved on the basis of each side’s rights in international law.
It is often stated that this conflict is “complicated”, but we believe it involves straightforward issues of human rights and international law. We also believe that the conflict is soluble, given concerted pressure from Britain and its western allies on which Israel is dependent for trade, technical cooperation and military aid. Above all, we in the UK need to recognise that this is “our problem”, rather than simply treating it as a conflict between far away people.
We call on the Liberal Democratic Party to show leadership, by unambiguously supporting the Palestinians, pushing for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while standing up to lobbyists who seek to close down honest debate about the topic. We should see these as priority steps in easing tensions within the Muslim and Arab world.