This is highly interesting in the context of the debate being had in the UK Labour Party about Israel, Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The article points out that the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) organisation is launching a new campaign, “For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace”; the rebranding was launched at Labour’s annual conference last month.
Apparently it’s about persuading the UK government to support the creation of an international fund for peace between Israel and Palestine, that would back projects to promote coexistence, peace and reconciliation.
But the article states that this ignores the occupation of Palestinian lands and other abuses by the Israeli army, and suggests that the strategy is intended to distract people away from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that is currently popular.
It is also attractive because it seems more positive than simply denying Israeli crimes and provides a useful substitute for anything approximating external pressure on Israel to end its systematic and worsening human rights violations.
In other words, the campaign advocated by Mr Austin – the man who told Jeremy Corbyn to “sit down and shut up” while the Labour leader was castigating former prime minister Tony Blair in the light of the Chilcot Report on the Iraq War – is an attempt to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.
Instead, author Ben White suggests the following as key elements of any discussion on Israel and Palestine.
Keep them handy, and check them against what advocates – on either side – say.
If a group, or MP, is not talking about the following, then you should ask why.
First, asymmetry. Is the framework one of occupier and occupied, coloniser and colonised? If the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is being presented as one of two equal partners with shared responsibilities, then you’ve got a problem. The Palestinians are stateless, dispossessed, displaced, and occupied. Failing to reflect that is either a product of ignorance, or disingenuousness.
Second, international law. Is international law, or global human rights treaties, a benchmark or reference point? West Bank settlements, for example, are a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a key part of an apartheid regime. If you’re not hearing about that at all, or if settlements are waved away as an issue to be resolved in negotiations, that’s another red flag.
Third, and perhaps most crucially, accountability. It is possible to acknowledge the occupation, criticise Israeli violations of international law, but still oppose any efforts designed to end Israeli impunity. So what about an arms embargo? What about a boycott of Israeli and international institutions and companies complicit in the colonisation of Palestinian land?
Asymmetry, international law, and accountability. It’s not perfect or comprehensive. But if an MP or lobby group is skipping one or more of these key elements, then there is good reason to doubt their intentions, even if they profess support for “peace” and Palestinian statehood.
Why do people still believe the Conservatives are more likely to raise their living standards than Labour, even though they understand that they have become worse off over the last five years?
Why do political commentators brand Ed Miliband a “useless” leader, when even former Torygraph stalwart Peter Oborne has admitted he has been responsible for extraordinary successes and has challenged the underlying structures which govern Westminster conduct?
Let’s look at the first claim, courtesy of the latest Mainly Macro article by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis. He makes it clear from the start that people are being denied the facts; otherwise the economy would be the Conservative Party’s weakest point in the election campaign.
Look at the evidence: Since 2010 we have endured the weakest economic recovery for at least 200 years, with a steady fall in real wages (masked in average figures by the huge pay rises awarded by fatcat bosses to themselves). “The government’s actions are partly responsible for that, and the only debate is how much,” writes the Prof. “Living standards have taken a big hit.”
He continues: “There is no factual basis for the view that the Conservatives are better at managing the economy, and plenty to suggest the opposite. However this belief is not too hard to explain. The Labour government ended with the Great Recession which in turn produced a huge increase in the government’s budget deficit. With the help of mediamacro, that has become ‘a mess’ that Labour are responsible for and which the Conservatives have had to clean up.
“The beauty of this story is that it pins the blame for the weak recovery on the previous government, in a way that every individual can understand. Spend too much, and you will have a hard time paying back the debt.”
It’s a myth; the facts disprove it easily – so the Tories avoid the facts at all costs.
But why be concerned, if Ed Miliband is such an awful excuse for a Labour Party leader. Didn’t David Cameron describe him as “weak” and “spineless” to Scottish Conservatives only a fortnight ago?
Not according to Peter Oborne. Writing in The Spectator, he has praised Miliband because he “has been his own person, forged his own course and actually been consistent”.
Oborne praises Miliband for “four brave interventions, each one taking on powerful establishment interests: the Murdoch newspaper empire, the corporate elite, the foreign policy establishment and pro-Israel lobby… There is no doubting Mr Miliband’s integrity or his courage.
“Opposition is an essential part of British public life. Oppositions have a duty to challenge government and to give the electorate a clear choice. Ed Miliband has done precisely this and yet he has been written off. Does this mean that no opposition dare offend the big vested interests that govern Britain? Is this really the politics we want?”
It’s the politics the Conservative Party wants.
Professor Wren-Lewis notes that Miliband’s opinion poll ratings are low “because most people just see unglamorous pictures of him and note that he does not have that Blair appeal.
“That could be changed if they saw him in a one on one debate with Cameron, so there was never any chance that the Conservatives would let this happen. The debates last time had huge audiences, so no one can dispute that democracy has been dealt a huge blow as a result of what the FT rightly calls Cameron’s cowardice.”
He goes on to say that Cameron’s refusal to debate one-on-one with Miliband is “a key test” for the media, with Cameron counting on them letting his spin doctors dictate what people are allowed to see.
If that is true, then it seems Cameron has miscalculated.
Broadcasters have said the three TV general election debates planned for April will go ahead, despite Cameron saying he will take part in only one.
“It means Mr Cameron – who has rejected a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband – could be ’empty-chaired’,” according to the BBC. Perhaps they really will put a blue chicken on the podium, as was suggested on this blog yesterday!
John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.
Perhaps the broadcasters were provoked by Cameron’s claim that they were the ones responsible for what he called the “chaos” surrounding the TV debates, when it is clear that he has been responsible for delays and indecision.
The end result is the same. Cameron has denied himself the chance to stand up and defend his record against an Opposition leader who is increasingly starting to come through as The Better Man.
Will the debates be enough to change the mind of the general public and mitigate against the mass ignorance nurtured by the Tory Press?
That will be up to Mr Miliband. If his performances in recent Prime Minister’s Questions are any indication, it should be a walkover for him.
Words of wisdom? This evening’s vote was not about freeing Palestine but about recognising it as a state in its own right. That being said, Mandela’s words provide a possible context for the decision.
MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion calling on the government to recognise Palestine as a state.
The House voted by 274 to 12 to adopt the motion, which states that “this House believes that the government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel”.
It was amended to include the words “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.
The vote is non-binding on the UK government but may be influential internationally. An initial amendment would have had the UK government recognising Palestine on the conclusion of peace negotiations with the Israeli government but this was not selected for debate.
Among the 274 MPs who voted in favour of recognising Palestine was Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been repeatedly reviled by many of his political opponents as a Zionist. The move makes a mockery of such people and their displays of outrage.
The BBC article states that current UK government policy is that it “reserves the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.
Cameron’s official spokesman is quoted as saying: “The government’s position is very clear and hasn’t changed, so I think that is a very clear indication of the British government’s approach.”
Readers of this site made it perfectly clear that they overwhelmingly support recognising Palestine’s statehood now, with no conditions attached. This option gained no less than 86.5 per cent of the vote.
Cameron’s choice – to recognise Palestine later – garnered just three votes.
A rocket is fired between combatants in the Israel-Palestine conflict during July. If the UK government recognises Palestine, could this change the way the international community views the situation there?
Much though this blog maligns the BBC News website, it does come out with the occasional scrap of news, such as the fact that MPs are to vote on a backbench motion to officially recognise Palestine as a state.
“Labour backbencher Grahame Morris will present the motion on Monday as MPs return to the Commons,” the report states.
“The motion has the full backing of the Labour shadow cabinet, the BBC has been told.
“The vote is symbolic and would not change government policy but could have international implications.”
It goes on to say that backbenchers are likely to add an amendment, simply to say that this would be a contribution towards securing a two-state solution for the conflicts between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people.
In the light of the violence that flared up in July, this all seemed fairly straightforward – but it seems it isn’t. The Independenthas reported that the amendment is part of an “internal revolt” from “pro-Israeli” members of the shadow cabinet over a decision to “force” them to support the proposal.
To be frank, it all seems very childish, especially when considering the number of deaths – mainly of Palestinians but also of some Israelis – and the destruction of homes and property.
But what do you think? Originally this was going to be a question about Labour but considering the pettiness of the squabble, let’s rise above it: Should the United Kingdom recognise Palestine as a state? Please vote.
What do you think of the Labour Party conference this year? It’s a loaded question and one that is bound to elicit loaded answers.
The propaganda machines of the other parties have been working overtime to discredit Her Majesty’s Opposition, with Scottish people who wanted independence (the minority, let’s remember) claiming Labour lied to them, UKIP supporters adamant that the party is full of child abusers (based on a BNP propaganda website, which should tell anyone with a brain all they need to know), and of course the Tories doing what they usually do – blaming all the country’s problems on the last Labour government while stealing the family silver.
You never hear ‘No’ voters saying Labour lied, do you? You never see UKIP supporters complaining about racism in their own party. You never see Tories calling for genuine reform that helps the 99 per cent, rather than the tiny minority that they represent.
So let’s look at what Labour is proposing. Let’s make a list – because, you know what? Mrs Mike was watching coverage of the conference yesterday, and even she tried to tell Yr Obdt Srvt that Labour wouldn’t keep its promises. If we have a list, we’ll be able to check the promises against what they do, after a Labour win next May.
So let’s see what Ed Miliband promised. He outlined six “national goals”, and he called for 10 years in which to hit them. You may very well ask: Has he been reading Vox Political? Recent comments questioning Labour’s intentions have been answered with the simple observation that it takes time to change the direction in which a country is travelling (or in the UK’s case, lurching), and Miliband’s words echo that sentiment. He can’t do everything in one day. It does take time. Let’s look at those goals.
Halve the number of people in low pay by 2025, raising the minimum wage by £60 a week or more than £3,000 a year.
Ensure that the wages of working people grow with the economy (something that is glaringly missing from the Conservatives’ ‘economic recovery’, meaning that – for the vast majority of us – it isn’t a recovery at all). Miliband said: “What’s amazing… is that statement, that goal is even controversial. It used to be taken for granted in our country that’s what would happen.” He’s right – look at today’s article from Flip Chart Fairy Tales that Vox Political re-published.
Create one million jobs in the green economy – neglected by the Conservatives – by 2025, committing to take all the carbon out of electricity by 2030; start a Green Investment Bank; devolve powers to communities to insulate five million homes by 2025, saving energy and heating costs
By 2025, ensure that as many young people will be leaving school or college to go on to an apprenticeship as currently go to university. It really is as though he’s been reading Vox Political. A long-standing gripe of this blog is that governments have concentrated on academic achievement while neglecting the education of people who have more practical aptitudes. This is a very welcome change.
By 2025, be building as many homes as we need, doubling the number of first-time buyers in the UK. Vox Political would prefer to see far more social housing; perhaps this will come as well but it wasn’t part of Miliband’s promise. Nevertheless, the pledge to build 500,000 new homes should make housing more affordable again for people who aren’t spectacularly wealthy or don’t have wealthy family members.
Finally, to create a world-class 21st century health and care service, funded by a clampdown on tax avoidance including tax loopholes by hedge funds that will raise more than £1 billion, proceeds from a mansion tax on homes above £2 million, and money from tobacco companies. Total: £2.5 billion (per annum, it seems). Some have said this is not enough when the NHS is facing a £20 billion shortfall but we must remember that this deficit only appeared recently and could be the result of Tory scaremongering, or the private companies introduced by the Tories leeching money out of the system to fatten their shareholders. More details were due from Andy Burnham today (Wednesday).
Oh yes, you see Andrew Lansley’s hated – Yr Obdt Srvt really cannot find the words to show how vile this diseased piece of legislation really is – Health and Social Care Act will be repealed by a Labour government. If you don’t care about any of the other measures, you should vote Labour for that reason alone.
So those are his six goals. But what’s this?
“It is time we complete the unfinished business of reform of the House of Lords so we truly have a Senate of the nations and regions.” Considering the way Cameron has been packing it with Tory donors, rather than people of any expertise (as it is intended to contain) this can only be a good thing.
“And it is time to devolve power in England.” What a blow against the Tories who have been claiming Labour want to delay or destroy such a process! Miliband is talking about “devolving power to local government, bringing power closer to people right across England”. That seems to be an indication that he wouldn’t create a new, expensive English Parliament but would give power back to the current councils – power that has been leeched away from them by centralising Conservatives and the previous, neoliberal, incarnation of Labour.
There’s more. He wants constitutional reform. But unlike David Cameron, who wants to impose changes from above, so that they only benefit people who are already rich and powerful, Miliband wants to make it a matter of public discussion. Those who can’t be bothered to take part will only have themselves to blame if they don’t get what they want.
There were promises on foreign policy – to stand up for the UK in Europe, in contrast to Cameron’s strategy which Miliband blasted: “When David Cameron comes calling, people don’t think he’s calling about the problems of Britain or the problems of Europe. They think he’s calling about the problems of the Conservative Party. And here’s the funny thing… If you’re elected the Chancellor of Germany or the Prime Minister of Italy or the President of France, you don’t really think you were elected to solve the problems of the Conservative Party.”
More solid was the promise to recognise the state of Palestine and actively seek a solution to the problems of that part of the world we might call – in an attempt to be fair – the Holy Land: “I will fight with every fibre of my being to get the two state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side.” Many detractors have wrongly claimed that Miliband is a Zionist, determined to support the Israeli government’s use of vastly superior firepower to eliminate Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank; they had better think again – and look very hard at David Cameron, whose government has done as little as possible to protest at what has been happening.
And Miliband also said he wanted Labour to fight discrimination against same-sex relationships around the world. That may not seem as important to some people, but in some places it is just as easy to be killed by homophobia as it is to be killed because of your religion. Personally, Yr Obdt Srvt finds same-sex relationships unattractive – but it takes all sorts to make a world.
That makes six more goals! Double the value.
These are all good aims. All of them, if seen through, will be good for the UK.
So there’s your checklist, with 12 – not six – goals on it. If you support Labour next year, you’ll be able to check Miliband’s progress against them and you’ll have a chance – halfway through his 10-year plan – to stop him if he’s not making it happen.
Alternatively, you can say to yourself – as Mrs Mike did last night: “He doesn’t mean it. They’re all the same. It’s not worth voting,” or any of the other things the Tory campaign chief Lynton Crosby would like you to believe, and you can sit on your thumbs at home. That would be a vote for the Conservatives to carry on raping your country and ripping you off.
If Labour win in spite of people like that, then they will still benefit from the changes Miliband wants to introduce, along with the rest of us. If the Conservatives win because of those people, then we will all lose – apart from a miserably small band of super-rich, super-selfish, super-arrogant and entitled exploiters who tell Cameron what to do.
Framed that way, it isn’t really a choice at all, is it?
A rocket is fired between combatants in the Israel-Palestine conflict during July. If the UK government recognises Palestine, could this change the way the international community views the situation there?
This will sort out the children from the adults in the House of Commons.
According to Scriptonite: “Backbenchers have secured a vote for the House to recognize the state of Palestine. The title of the debate will be: THE FUTURE OF THE TWO STATE SOLUTION IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE. The debate will take place on 13 Oct 2014, it will be six hours long and happen in the main chamber. It will be a debate on a substantive motion: ‘That this House calls on the government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.'”
The article warns: “It’s the government, not the House that recognises states. Plus, it’s a BBD [backbench debate] so the motions are non-binding. Essentially, the vote will be an expression of the will of the House.
“If it’s a ‘yes’ vote the government and any subsequent government would be pressured towards recognising Palestine. It would be a PR disaster for the govt. to refuse to recognise Palestine if MPs expressed their will that Palestine should be recognised.”
If any of you are hoping that this will mean the withdrawal of the UK’s support for Israel in the ongoing situation regarding Palestine – don’t get your hopes up.
A backbench debate on sickness and disability ended with an overwhelming majority in favour of the government commissioning a cumulative impact assessment of the effect of ‘welfare reform’ on claimants, and nothing came of it.
The Scriptonite blog has been out in the field, making a documentary about the latest conflict between Israel and Gaza, and blogging about the experience. Be warned – what follows may not be for the faint-hearted. It is posted here without editorial comment as a reminder that Israel/Gaza has not gone away.
“Today we are up early to film in Khuza’a, a town in Khan Younis, Gaza. Around 12,000 people live in this previously vibrant place, with its beautiful buildings in an array of colours. It sits in southern Gaza Strip, near to the Israeli border.
“Now, it is mostly destroyed.
“Crumbling buildings, their innards spilling into the streets, stretch as far as the eye can see. The heat is almost unbearable, the road dissolved to sand, and people are everywhere. They are talking, clearing the street of rubble, sheltering under makeshift tents – their new homes, amid the rubble of their obliterated houses and apartments.
“What happened here, between July 23rd and 25th, almost defies belief. Israeli forces wreaked a havoc the likes of which most of us could never imagine. Human Rights Watch have stated that repeated war crimes were committed by Israel on its brutal attack of Khuza’a. Their report reads:
Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza’a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents.
These included repeated shelling that struck apparent civilian structures, lack of access to necessary medical care, and the threat of attack from Israeli forces as they tried to leave the area.
Israeli forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Khuza’a, but no Palestinian fighters were present at the time and no firefights were taking place.”
“F-16s appeared in the skies at around 4am on the 23rd of July, 2014. First they dropped gas on the town, sending residents fleeing in panic, or choking, stricken in their beds. Those who could not leave their homes were blown to oblivion within them, or shot where they lay. Those who fled were fired on by Israeli troops.
“One woman attempted to flee, carrying her baby son. She reports that an Israeli sniper shot him dead in her arms, and told her to leave him on the ground before they would let her leave.”
Reality check: All you need to know about this issue is wrapped up in the fact that Vox Political had to add the words “NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!” to an image that should – obviously – be treated as satirical.
What a paradox: While the Jewish state of Israel is criticised for treating Palestinian Muslims the way Hitler’s Germany treated them, history is repeating itself for British Jews who are being targeted for exactly the same treatment.
Gaza means Jews across the world may now be perceived as both perpetrators and victims.
Antisemitic attacks in the UK were up 42 per cent on the previous six months in July, because idiots can’t tell the difference between citizens of Israel and British Jews.
Attacks on Jewish people in the UK between January and June had already risen by 36 per cent.
Undoubtedly the increase in hate crime, described by Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust (in The Guardian) as a “wave of racist intimidation and violence”, has been fuelled by media coverage of the Israeli military action in Gaza that began in early July.
It is easy to understand why, when one examines the casualty figures: Almost 2,000 Palestinians have died, while the Jewish casualties number less than 100. Tens of thousands of people attended a rally in condemnation of these deaths in London yesterday (Saturday).
What has gone unnoticed – especially by the antisemitic thugs – is that Jewish communities in the UK are also “filled with grief for the people of Gaza”. As Rabbi Miriam Berger states in The Independent, “No Jew in Britain could possibly relish this loss of life.”
British Jews are citizens of the UK, not Israel. They have nothing to do with the political process in that – foreign – country and it is clear that many of them disapprove of actions that have led to such a marked loss of life.
It is to all our shame that they have fallen foul of the kind of people who cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. These thugs would probably attack a soap actor in the street if a storyline made a villain of their character.
Demonising people who have done nothing wrong will only make a horrifying situation even worse.
Three days after it started, the ceasefire between the Israeli military and Hamas terrorists (one might describe both sides as terrorists in this instance) ended with the resumption of rocket attacks by what the BBC describes as “Palestinian militants”.
Hamas said it had resumed the rocket attacks because Israel had failed to meet its demands.
This raises several issues.
Firstly, is Hamas saying that it wanted Israel to capitulate completely to every demand made by the Palestinians? That was never going to happen because Hamas is not in a position of power. If Israel wanted, it could pound the entire Gaza Strip into rubble and defy the rest of the world to do anything about it. Both sides seem determined to be unreasonable about what negotiation can achieve, and cavalier about the fate of their own civilians while hostilities continue.
Secondly, Hamas is stupid to risk losing international sympathy by sending rockets towards Israeli civilians. With 1,890 Palestinians dead, against only 50 Israelis, many onlookers have seen this as a ‘David and Goliath’ contest, with plucky Muslims utterly outmatched by their Jewish neighbours – but these attacks suggest that it is a false interpretation; we are watching two equally vicious politically-motivated opponents acting in their own interests, without a moment’s thought for the collateral damage.
Thirdly, a saying has been doing the rounds, here on the Net, for some time now. It contends that a definition of madness might be the belief that doing the same thing repeatedly will yield different results. By this definition, the leaders of Hamas must be mad. With Israel reacting in typical manner, their leaders must be equally unhinged.
Israel has refused to negotiate while Hamas is firing upon its citizens, and that very violence is a good reason to refuse other Palestinian demands, such as the release of prisoners (to add to the violence?) and lifting the blockade of Gaza (to allow terrorists access to more deadly weapons?) – but of course this makes Israel appear the overbearing bully in this situation.
Let’s be honest – it was futile to expect a three-day ceasefire to resolve the situation. The more one examines it, the more reminiscent it becomes of the Irish Question. Peace in Northern Ireland was gained over a period of around 10 years – and remains fragile to this day. Even now it must be defended, to prevent either side from returning to the old ways.
For peace efforts to have any chance of success, talks must be overseen by an impartial mediator, with no interest – either moral or financial – in either side.
And that means the UK is ruled out of the process straight away.
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