Palestinians left on the fringe at most party conferences

October 6, 2011
Sarah Benton


Ed Miliband on ‘outsider’ Jewish heritage

By Jennifer Lipman, Jewish Chronicle

Ed Miliband has once again referred to his Jewish roots in his party conference address.

The Labour leader, who was chosen for the post on Rosh Hashanah last year, spoke of how his parents fled the Nazis then came to Britain “and embraced its values”.

He told party members and MPs at the Liverpool event that his parents were outsiders who had built a life for their children in a new country. He said his parents’ experience made him “determined to break the closed circles of Britain”.

Mr Miliband’s father was the socialist thinker Ralph Miliband. Born in Belgium, he met another Jewish refugee when he arrived in Britain. Marion Kozak came from Poland, but escaped at the start of the Nazi occupation.

The Miliband brothers are not practising Jews, although Ed Miliband honoured tradition by smashing a glass at his wedding earlier this year.

Taub: Labour sending wrong message on peace process

By Martin Bright, Jewish Chronicle

Opposition leader Ed Miliband told a packed Labour for Friends of Israel reception at his party’s conference in Liverpool on Tuesday that backing the Palestinian bid for statehood was the right thing to do.

In a speech that was warmly received he said he understood that for some in the room this was a difficult decision to accept. But as negotiations had not moved on he believed it was “right to support the Palestinian wish for the upgrading of their status at the UN”.

However, the loudest applause came when he said: “In the end the only way forward is a negotiated solution”.

Mr Miliband emphasised that support for Israel within the party remained strong and pointed to the example of Labour’s support for the change to the law on universal jurisdiction: “We were right to take the decision to support the principle of what the government is doing,” he said.

He was joined on the platform by Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, whike several other shadow cabinet members including Jim Murphy, Ivan Lewis and Ed Balls also attended the event, as did rising Labour stars Chuka Ummuna and Luciana Berger

Daniel Taub, the new Israeli ambassador to the UK, was courteous but direct in his response. He asked where the genuine friends of the Palestinians were to advise them to take a different course. He said support for the Palestinian bid for statehood was a distraction from the path to genuine negotiations. “It is sending a message to the Palestinians that you don’t have to make tough choices for peace,” he said.

Mr Taub also condemned the TUC for its decision to review its relationship with the Histadrut: “It is a tragedy when progressive bodies play a non-progressive role.” He noted that 430,000 people had taken to the streets of Israel to campaign for social justice and called on people on the liberal left to recognise the significance of this movement.

He said added that the Arab Spring showed people across the Middle East wanted the same freedoms enjoyed in democracies such as Israel.

But he also sounded a warning about the anti-Israeli nature of some of the demonstrations: “How quickly new freedoms turn into old hatreds,” he said.

The reception was the first since the organisation became a membership organisation under the leadership of new director Jennifer Gerber. LFI chair John Woodcock MP paid tribute his predecessor David Cairns, who tragically died earlier this year.

Ms Gerber praised Mr Miliband’s “very warm words of support for LFI, for Israel, for peace and for a negotiated two state solution”. She said of the reception: “The turnout was fantastic and demonstrated the support LFI has across all levels and parts of the the Labour Party.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander’s speech to Labour Party Conference


Thank you for that welcome.

We gather here in Liverpool after a year of extraordinary change across the world.

In the last year, the Arab Spring has seen the downfall of old autocrats and old assumptions.

When Ed Miliband gave me this job in January, an uprising in Tunisia was in the news, but it wasn’t yet on the front pages.

Within days, ordinary people across the Middle East – from Tunis in the West, to Damascus in the East – took to the streets.

When their governments told them to go home they ignored them.

When the batons came out, and then the machine guns, and then the tanks… they refused to retreat.

No one in the West had seen anything like this for a generation.

And so when I later met some of those young people in North Africa, I asked them “why has this wave of change occurred now, after decades of brittle stability?”

And they told me “when you’re looking at satellite TV pictures, or when you see more and more people saying online that they are part of the protests…

“… old friends, even friends in other countries…

“… all refusing to back down… ‘it gives you hope’.”

Ponder those words….”it gives you hope.”

Because that hope has changed history.

Conference, let’s be honest with each other.

Too often in the past, the West has backed stability over democracy in the Middle East.

So I’m so proud that this year, this Party, chose to stand with these young people, and against the old autocrats.

That choice meant I could stand on the street in Tunis a few months ago and look them in the eye.

And it means I can look you in the eye today and say: when there is violence in Syria,
in Bahrain, and in Yeman we are on the right side of history.

And so let us say today from this conference to President Assad, we cannot and will not accept your violence against your own people, we will use every diplomatic measure to stop it. You must go, and go now.

But of course the Arab Spring has not changed everything in the Middle East.

So in opposition, as in government, we will continue to stand with and support the cause of negotiated peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

We must stand with the young people in Jericho who want to see an end to illegal settlement building, an end to blockades and, yes, the establishment of an independent viable Palestinian state recognised at the United Nations.

And we must also stand with the young people in Tel Aviv who want to go to a nightclub or get on a bus without fear and want to raise their children in a secure Israel, recognised by its neighbours across the Arab World.

Conference, since accepting this role I have been open in saying that I understand, that the loss of life, and the loss of trust that followed the Iraq war still casts a long shadow.

But in March, when it came to Libya, we debated these issues with another shadow hanging over us: the promise from Colonel Gaddafi to destroy Benghazi – a city larger than Liverpool.

It would have been open to us to say no, this is too hard, it’s not our call, we should leave well alone.

But to allow that to happen would have been wrong: wrong for Libya, wrong for Britain, and wrong for Labour.

With Ed Miliband leading us, we got that judgement right.

So Conference, let us again show our appreciation and respect for the incredible bravery of our British Armed Forces. They risked their lives to save the lives of others.

Their work is, we hope, coming to an end.

So too is the work of Britain’s forces in Afghanistan.

That conflict has been a far longer, far costlier, and far more painful conflict for Britain.

It has been part of an international effort to make Afghanistan more stable and our world more safe.

And after many years of sacrifice Britain’s task now is to manage that transition and ensure that as our forces step back, there are Afghan forces ready to step up.

Conference, our forces have already served in Afghanistan for a decade.

And just this month we remembered the horror of September 11th.

We have witnessed a difficult decade for the world – that began with a terror attack, and that ended with an economic crisis.

So my challenge as your Shadow Foreign Secretary is to set a new course: to develop a new foreign policy for a new decade.

And it is to frame that new approach, when across Europe, parties of the left are losing more elections than we are winning.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the centre left was defeating the right. Now the centre right is defeating the left.

Out of power in Germany. Out of power in France. Out of power in Italy. Out of power in Sweden.

And Labour’s new approach must be built on the understanding that Britain’s strength abroad begins with strength at home.

So we need to set out how Britain can earn its living, and pay its way in the years ahead.

The real question for the new generation isn’t about the reach of Brussels – it’s about the rise of Beijing.

For with power and money moving East, no country has an alternative but to work in partnership with other countries.

Conference, these new challenges are daunting but it is our enduring values that will be our guide.

Our party cards remind us that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.

That means urging decisive action in the eurozone when British exports, British jobs, and British prosperity are all at stake.

That means working to find shared solutions to shared problems from global climate change to global trade.

And that means having a foreign policy that is realistic about what we can achieve alone, but idealistic about what we can achieve together.

Because Conference, I am optimistic about our country’s enduring strengths.

Despite everything, despite the riots, despite the cuts and the deficit and despite the flatlining economy.

Britain today is so much better than its Government.

… Britain has strengths that we should acknowledge, celebrate and deploy.

The only country with a seat at the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, NATO and the Commonwealth.

It was Desmond Tutu who said a promise made to the poor is a sacred thing. So I am proud that this is a country, thanks to the path set by Labour, that is on track to meet our aid promise to the world’s poorest people.

A country that is home to the BBC World Service, and a National Health Service that remains a beacon to the world.

Conference, just for a minute pause and consider the history of the great docks in which we stand.

Think of the men and women who worked here and the ships that set sail from here on the Mersey or the Clyde, the Thames or the Tyne.

And then try and tell me we’re a small, inward looking country that should step back from the world.

As a country, we are so much better than that.

In the years ahead it will fall, once again, to our Party to realise that promise.

That is Labour’s responsibility.

That is Labour’s obligation.

And working together, under Ed Miliband’s leadership, that can be Labour’s achievement.

Palestine at the Labour Party Conference

By Richard Burden,

This morning I spoke in the Britain in the World debate at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool.

Last week Palestine applied for full state membership of the United Nations. Speaking to the Conference this morning I called on the UK government to support the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Here is a copy of my speech:

I want to tell you about a nation’s appeal to the United Nations. About a people who unilaterally declared their own state and asked for recognition as a full member of the United Nations.

There had already been UN resolutions saying they had the right to a state in principle – but it had not come about after months and negotiation to move things forward were not happening.

That nation’s representative appealed to the United Nations, saying enough is enough. All sorts of things remained unresolved. Fighting was still going on in the area. And the new state knew that recognition would not remove the need for negotiations to resolve its future relations with neighbouring countries. They said they accepted that membership of the UN brought responsibilities as well as rights.

But they also said that they could not wait for all of these things to be resolved. Because this was about self determination. It was about the right of a people – as the new state’s representative put it: ‘to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state’.

That was 63 years ago. The representative was David Ben Gurion. The state was Israel.

Last week at the UN the Palestinians asked for no more than that.

They too have been waiting for UN resolutions affirming rights to statehood to be put into practice. Waiting not for months, but for decades.

They too have been suffering. Suffering from the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in defiance of the Geneva Convention.

Suffering from the confiscation of land for a wall and checkpoints that separate farmers from their fields and which was even preventing a Palestinian father I met from taking his disabled son to his special school in Jerusalem.

You see that suffering for yourself when you witness – as I have – Palestinian children being brought in to Israeli military courts in leg irons under a legal system that echoes Apartheid in treating children living in the same town differently depending on their race and religion.

And refugees, denied for decades the right to return home, suffer too.

As do the people of Gaza. We were told last week by the Israeli Prime Minister that they were given freedom in 2005, but they still face an Israeli blockade by land, sea and air which leaves it amongst the poorest places on earth.

Palestinians know that these things and Israeli’s own demands for security can only be resolved by negotiation and agreement.

But they also know that if they stand any chance of being treated as equals in those negotiations, recognition of their state by the international community should not wait. They should not have to wait any more than Israel was prepared to let its own declaration of statehood wait 63 years ago.

I am proud that Douglas Alexander has been clear in saying that Britain should vote for recognition at the UN – whatever the sabre rattling by Israel, and even if the USA is unwilling to face up to its own responsibilities.

We have heard no such thing from the UK’s Conservative-led government.

It is time for the UK to get off the fence. We always say we believe in a two state solution and that recognition of Israel is a precondition to that.

If the UK is to have any credibility, we must now say yes to the recognition of Palestine too

Peace flop Israel’s fault – ex-hostage

Jewish Telegraph

FORMER Beirut hostage John McCarthy this week put the blame squarely on Israel for the breakdown of Middle East peace talks.

The man who was held captive for more than five years said disclosures from Wikileaks had shown that the Palestinians were making “extraordinary concessions”.

McCarthy, who was in Liverpool for the Labour conference, claimed they also showed that the Palestinian Authority accepted Israel retaining sovereignty over nearly all Jewish neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem.

“They also purported to show land swaps and concessions of the right of return to refugees,” he told the Jewish Telegraph.

The PA leadership dismissed the stories as “fraud and lies”.

But McCarthy, who spoke at a meeting of the Labour Friends of Palestine and also attended a Labour Friends of Israel fringe meeting, remained convinced of their accuracy.

He said: “The fact that these stories have not been effectively challenged leads me to believe that they are very much true.”

A supporter of a two-state solution Mr McCarthy said that the occupation was so developed that it was difficult to see what the Palestinians could negotiate for.

Meanwhile, in a speech to Labour conference, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: “We must stand with the young people of Jericho who want to see an end to illegal settlement building an end to blockades, and – yes – the establishment of an independent viable Palestinian state recognised at the United Nations.”

He added: “We must also stand with the young people in Tel Aviv who want to go to a nightclub or get on a bus without fear and want to raise their children in a secure Israel, recognised by its neighbours across the Arab world.”

MP Louise Ellman, told a fringe meeting at the conference that while it is legitimate to criticise the policies of a government, challenging the right of a country to exist when they don’t question the legitimacy of other countries is “worrying”.

Mrs Ellman, chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “There are darker forces at work, too.

“Too often I hear expressions regarding Jewish lobbies, Jewish power and an over-representation in Parliament. And I hear them too often from people who would be surprised and upset to called antisemitic.”

A fellow panellist, Camden councillor Mike Katz, said: “ Such comments makes it difficult to have a reasonable debate.”

‘My instinct is that it is right for the British government to back the Palestinian bid for statehood’


MAP completed its trilogy of conference events this week with a packed fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Caabu Director, Chris Doyle, opened proceedings describing the British government’s response to the Arab Spring as “mixed” before going on to emphasize that Palestine is very much part of the movement that is sweeping the region.

“The Palestinians have been deeply affected by the Arab Spring[.T]o live under four decades of occupation is similar to four decades under dictatorship”.

Professor Rosemary Hollis, from City University in London, spoke about how the “Palestinians can’t end the occupation by themselves”. She described Israeli arguments about why it cannot give Palestinians a state as “unconvincing”.

Rory Stewart MP, a member of the Foreign Affairs committee, spoke of hearing his colleagues in parliament reading out statements on Israel-Palestine that sound like “press statements written by the Israeli embassy… instinct is that it is right for the British government to back the Palestinian bid for statehood”.

MAP’s Chief Executive, Steve James, spoke about why MAP was hosting these events with the New Statesman at the conferences:

“Our work goes hand in hand with a strong commitment to understanding and challenging the root causes of the crises we respond to…. while aid can manage a problem and keep hope alive, its political roots need to be addressed for a solution to be found”.

Elsewhere at a packed CMEC event, Defence Secretary Liam Fox MP was asked by Caabu’s Chris Doyle whether Tony Blair was “fit for purpose” as the Quartet’s Palestinian peace envoy. He responded “I’m sure he means well, and I wouldn’t wish that anyone who might assist the process won’t succeed, but given his record as prime minister of the United Kingdom I’m not exactly sure what were the great qualities of Tony Blair that make him an exceptional international statesman.”

At another fringe event organised by Amnesty, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham MP, responded to a MAP question concerning the Palestinian bid for statehood by explaining that “Britain was pushing the ‘Vatican option’ for an upgrade to Palestinian status through the UN General Assembly and it’s a pity that option didn’t garner more support. What is important now is that negotiations start as soon as possible”.

MAP at the Liberal Democrat Conference

This Monday MAP held a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat conference asking ‘what role should Britain play in regards to Palestine?’

The event, co-hosted by the New Statesman, was chaired by Mehdi Hasan and featured what he described as a “stellar” panel including former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell MP, current Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP, John McHugo from the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine (LDFP) and MAP’s Chief Executive, Steve James.

Sir Menzies Campbell MP opened proceedings by passionately arguing that the “Palestinians should be in the sunshine of the Arab Spring. I’m deeply unimpressed by the government’s failure to state a position on a Palestinian state. It is deeply damaging to Britain’s influence and reputation not to have declared its position. It is both a democratic and moral decision to support the Palestinians. I do not seek to delegitimize Israel and reject the accusation that the statehood bid will do that. We have reached a fork in the road between what is morally right and pragmatism and I believe that what is morally right should prevail”.

John McHugo from the LDFP spoke of “Britain’s historic responsibility towards Palestine. Since 1967 Israel has been squeezing the rights of Palestinians like a Jaffa orange and then proceeding to drink the juice while saying let’s negotiate. The Palestinian right to statehood cannot be defined by Israel”.

Simon Hughes MP, fresh from going on a MAP delegation to the West Bank in June, urged the government to “step up to the plate and take our responsibilities. We don’t need an EU consensus, Britain and France can make our position clear. While the mantra remains in support for a two-state solution, there is a creeping one-state reality that is occurring with every year that passes. If Britain votes against a Palestinian state then many of the gains that we have achieved recently in the Muslim world may be lost. A settlement to the Palestinian issue is the key to peace and stability in the Middle East”.

MAP’s Steve James reminded the meeting that in 2009 Nick Clegg, now the Deputy Prime Minister, wrote “what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis”. Speaking to the Timesnewspaper this week Mr Clegg spoke of a “difficult judgment” over whether to back Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Steve James went on to focus on the continued state of emergency in Gaza explaining that “while MAP’s projects continue to save lives and make a real difference on the ground today, it lies with our politicians to ensure that there is a brighter future tomorrow”.

The following day at a fringe event organised by Save the Children, MAP asked Baroness Shirley Williams what she thought about the Palestinian statehood bid. Baroness Williams explained that “the government has been wise to open up distance between the US and the UK on this issue” and that the “EU should come in to push for Palestinian statehood in a sensible way”.

MAP, in partnership with CAABU, recently released a report – ‘Britain and Palestine: A Parliamentary Focus’. From illegal settlements, access to healthcare, child detainees and the status of Jerusalem, this report is an important primer for policy makers looking to better understand the region.

For a video of Sir Alan Beith’s speech referring to Israel

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