Overview position statement of September 2016
The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine exist to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party.
The conflict has been going on for 100 years, and while providing a safe home for nearly 40% of the world’s Jewish population, Israel has deprived the majority of the indigenous (Palestinian) population of both land and livelihoods, while turning millions of them into exiles or internally displaced persons. The problem continues to this day, as we see Israel confiscating Palestinian land and water resources by force of arms, in what looks like a gradual process of ethnic cleansing.
Britain itself has a major responsibility for the situation, dating from World War 1 and the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917. Since 1967, it 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. Notably, it is doing whatever it can to discourage or ban ethical boycotts, and continues with this at a time of mounting Jewish religious extremism in Israel and a lurch to the far-right.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been souring our relations with the Middle East region for the best part of a century. 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, including Daesh, with a valuable recruiting tool and continues to do so. For this reason, we see the fair treatment of the Palestinians and a resolution of the conflict as important steps in assuring our own security, and in the pursuit of World peace.
It is often stated that this conflict is “complicated”, but we believe that it involves relatively 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. This can probably be achieved through the Arab League Peace Plan that requires Israel to recognize the rights of the Palestinians in return for recognition of Israel’s legitimate rights.
What has prevented a solution is that one side to the conflict, namely Israel, has very effective lobbies within western nations that give it much influence with political elites and near veto power over the decisions of the governments concerned. In Britain, the pro-Israel lobby is highly influential and certain elements of it engage 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 senior politicians, and this discourages public figures from speaking up, from engaging in rational debate, and pursuing the search for a solution to the conflict.
Britain and its allies should recognize Palestine as a sovereign state as soon as possible so as to level the playing field between the parties. At the same time, 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, 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. The main role of the UK and other Western Powers should be to apply the necessary diplomatic and financial pressure to persuade the stronger party (Israel) to negotiate in good faith and respect legitimate Palestinian rights, while the weaker party (Palestine) can negotiate freely without the duress inherent in occupation. The most immediate and obvious form of pressure is to assert unequivocally the illegality of settlements and to ban all trade with them.
We call on the Liberal Democratic Party to show leadership, by unambiguously supporting the Palestinians and pushing for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We should see this as a priority step in easing tensions within the Muslim and Arab world.
Lastly, we wish to make clear that we reject all forms of racism against Jews, Arabs, Muslims or others, as well as violence against civilians (including disproportionate force and force used without strict observance of the principle of distinction) no matter who the perpetrators and the victims may be.
Further information on this topic can be found on the following pages: