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Working for peace and nationhood for Palestine

November 17, 2010

I visited Gaza on a cross party delegation back in March.  It was a trip that will forever stay in my memory.  I’ve always had an interest in a wide range of foreign affairs and they don’t come any bigger than the Middle East.  Achieving peace and stability between Israel and all its near neighbours is the epicentre of the solution to so many other world conflicts, including those carried out on our own streets.

Since the election I’ve become an officer in Parliament’s all party group on Palestine. I intend to keep a close interest in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as other issues affecting states bordering Israel.  I know that many people in Bristol continue to both raise funds and awareness.  I hope to make either a return visit to Gaza or to the West Bank early next year.

Meanwhile, the group has just held its annual reception at the House of Commons, attended by much of the Arab world’s diplomatic corps in London.  I was pleased to meet Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK.  The new coalition government intends to play an active role in working for a two state solution.  Personally, I hope that the EU will also play a greater role, which will counter the usual pro Israeli stance of the USA.  It was said at the reception that every year we hope things will get better by next year’s event but usually the opposite comes true…



10 Comments leave one →
  1. Zachary Barker permalink
    November 17, 2010 8:34 pm

    The problem I find with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not so much the outside political attention itself, but the polarising effect that can often lead from it. Generally I find that the left or centre left of this country take up a more Palestinian centred view of the conflict, and pay lip service to the difficult issues in their camp (such as how we communicate with Hamas and Fatah, since the west usually communicates through the latter). The right for the most part seem to take up the case of Israel (although I am aware that there are some exeptions to the rule such as Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel), and ignore the issue of settlements.

    I feel a cross-party political consensus need to be made on this issue. Many Palestinians do live in awful conditions, Israeli settlers are unashamedly invading Palestinian neighbourhoods and Hamas are building their own police state within Gaza. These are all legitimate issues that supporters of BOTH sides need to focus on.

    I must admit I feel Nick Clegg sent mixed messages by visiting the Friends of Israel group’s talk during the Liverpool Conference, and not attending the Friends of Palestine group’s event. I talked to activists from the latter group who were offended by this. Mr Williams do you agree that this might have been an oversight on his part?

    I am looking to possibly get involved in one of these groups in the future, but unfortunately I am conflicted as to which one to join. I believe both suffer from the bias I have just described.

    I don’t think it would hurt for Nick Clegg to speak out a lot more on the issue of settlements.


    • November 18, 2010 2:52 pm

      I believe Nick has a long term interest in Palestine and has worked with the Council for Arab British Understanding.

  2. Joe D permalink
    November 18, 2010 3:06 pm

    Is this post supposed to balance Clegg’s speech to Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel as reported in the Jewish Chroncle? What further action will he take over Lord Phillips?

    A cynic could argue that you are trying to have it both ways?

    • November 18, 2010 3:18 pm

      it’s a post about what I’ve done. It’s not about Nick.

      • Joe D permalink
        November 18, 2010 4:43 pm

        You referenced Clegg in your reply to Zachary Barker, which is why I mentioned him at Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and the piece in the JC.

        Are you aware of Lord Phillips’ comments? Do you have a view on them?

  3. Kevin Walton permalink
    November 19, 2010 10:07 am

    It is indeed instructive that Nick Clegg spoke to the Lib Dems’ Friends of Israel recently and not to the Friends of Palestine. The Jewish Chronicle has triumphantly reported Mr. Clegg’s assertion that we need to speak up equally for Israel’s right to defend itself from ‘the threats it constantly faces’. This position is either shamefully naive or deliberately disingenuous. Either way it is a dangerous acceptance of the myth that there is some kind of equality in the conflict over the illegally occupied Palestinian territories (what Mr. Clegg refers to as ‘the Palestinian communities’). Having just returned from Gaza yourself, you cannot fail to have noticed how distorted such a vision is.

    While I am not so naïve to suppose that a solution to the Israeli problem is straightforward, certain facts are very simple and very clear. Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land including The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is in clear and flagrant breach of International Law, The Geneva Convention, and numerous UN Resolutions. The UN Security Council has repeatedly declared Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory illegal and invalid. Both the UN and the EU have stated specifically that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land violate International Humanitarian Law, specifically paragraph 6, article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention (“the occupying power shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”). Such practices are also listed as a war crime under article 8(2) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The settlements also violate numerous UN resolutions (including 242, 446, 452 and 465).

    Plans for thousands more illegal settlement homes in East Jerusalem have just been announced. The expressed aim of the settler organisations in East Jerusalem is to ‘Judaize’ the city; to illegally alter the demography of neighbourhoods by driving out Palestinians and moving Israelis in. They aim to create ‘facts on the ground’ that will prevent a just division of the city in the future by the international community. For Israel, the longer such division is delayed, the further this process will have advanced and the more difficult a just division will be. Simple.

    The Middle East Quartet, The UN, the European Union and the United States have all made clear and repeated statements condemning Israel’s continued settlement activity. Only a few days ago The US secretary of State Hilary Clinton explicitly condemned Israel’s continued building of settlements in East Jerusalem. The USA is of course Israel’s closest friend and ally. These are simple, straightforward facts. Yet Mr Clegg asserts in his address to the LDFI fringe that all he can do as leader of the liberal democrats and deputy prime minister is ‘to try to help to create some of the conditions that might be conducive to successful discussions between the two sides’.

    As you will know having just returned from Gaza, these illegal ethnic cleansing measures are just the small tip of a very large iceberg. As Paulo Friere observes: to adopt a position of neutrality in a conflict between the powerful and the powerless is to side with the powerful. I believe this statement maps very clearly and simply onto the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Mr Clegg has made it very clear whose side he is on. As one of your constituents Mr Williams, I would be very grateful to hear clearly where you stand on these issues.

  4. Mark Solomon permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:25 pm

    You rather give the game away by saying that you hope the EU can counter the pro-Israeli USA – this means, as the Israelis know only too well, that the UK and EU (except Germany ironically, they have learned the hard way not to be anti-Semitic) are by no means the honest brokers they claim to be. They are partial, as indeed are you if you are not as well a member of the LD Friends of Israel, and so they are effectively ignored by Israel and deserve to be so.

    The facts are ever so simple. Palestine as a nation is a creation dating back to 1964 – show me any Palestinian art, music, literature, list me some Palestinian kings, emperors or statesmen from any time in history predating this date – there simply aren’t any because Palestine was nothing more than a geographical expression for a Turkish province and then a British mandate. The vast majority (80%) of this province is now an independent state called Jordan. However, in that political reasonableness that so charactarises the Pal.Arabs and goes a long way to explain why they are not taken seriously even by other Arabs, they want to have the remaining 20% of the territory too, despite there being millenia of evidence (kings art literature and all) that this is a historical homeland of the Jewish people, who were expelled from it in 70AD.

    The roots of the Mid East conflict is Arab failure to accept these historical truths and the overwhelming UN vote re-establishing the state of Israel in 1947/8. They breached the UN charter by invading this nation immediately and the so-called inviolate ‘international borders’ are nothing more than the cease-fire line of this first war. The Arabs have subsequently resorted to armed force several times to reverse this decision and thankfully have lost every single time. I fail to understand how so-called Liberals can support a group who have resorted to armed conflict so many times to reverse a UN decision, especially as they are waging war against a western, liberal democratic state whose very right to exist (just think that through for a moment) they do not even recognise. Having lost the wars they have started they now wage a continuous low intensity conflict (where else do left-inclined people support a group who launch missiles daily on a neighbouring state indiscriminately targetting civilians) and actively promote terrorism that has killed athletes, teenagers, men, women and children, almost all civilians.

    Israel is a historic identity reborn in its ancestral home. Its historic and natural borders are the Jordan river, Sinai desert and Mediterranean. Jerusalem, undivided, is its historic capital. No amount of politically inspired tampering can obliterate these truths. In no other place in the world would outsiders responsible for the situation as we are be tolerated in meddling like we do. Our behaviour is shameful and those who support or in any way give succour to the so-called Palestinian cause are directly supporting the process which Adolf Hitler started. Examine your consciences for you have blood on your hands.

  5. Mark permalink
    November 22, 2010 1:28 pm

    Regrettably the Jews of 70ad are not here to answer for where their historic homeland was or where they believed its borders lay. What you are proposing is a convenient remedy for your 20/21st century desires; it does not stand any modern test of reason.

    You will need to be a bit more practical and realistic and have a mind to include in your deliberations the established rights of an incumbent population.

    But as soon as you invoked Hitler into your discussion as though in some way it justifies your treatment of the Palestinian people you lost me.

  6. January 21, 2011 10:19 pm

    Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states that transfer of population to occupied territory is illegal under international law. Despite this, about 500,000 Israeli settlers live illegally on occupied Palestinian land with the support of Israel’s government. Israeli settlements sever Palestinian communities, damage Palestinian livelihood and violate Palestinian rights. President Obama should support the draft UN Security Council resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements and standing against the construction of future settlements. Sign a petition urging him to do so at

  7. Palestine Al Q permalink
    April 6, 2011 1:16 am

    Very interesting to a palestinian to read and hear from indivuduals who are clueless of what exactly happen to the People of Palestine at the beginning of the last centry, may before that, and up till now.

    To the many who invest direly in money, plotting, conspiring, assassinations, smearing, and deception You can not covery the Sun/ the Palestinian truth with palms of hands, no matter how many you can get!

    Such a truth will always find good people of the world to defend it and bring justice to the righteous.

    Peace is coming, just try to live longer if you can

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