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Time to do away with Lib Dem Friends of Isreal and Friends of Palestine

October 26, 2013 12:20 PM
By Leon Duveen in Bassetlaw and Sherwood
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Leon DuveenWhy, in a liberal and democratic party that "seeks to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community", do we allow two groups to flourish in the party, when they should share a common aim? I refer of course the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.

Let me be clear and open. I have Israeli nationality and look back fondly on the ten years of my life spent living in Israel. That doesn't mean I am uncritical of the Israeli governments, past and present, and of many of the actions and policies they have implemented over the years. I have been calling for a two state solution for nearly 40 years since I first saw at first hand the degradation and suffering in the refugee camps in Gaza. The occupation of Palestine harms both the occupied and the occupiers.

Over the years, I have been cheered by the advances towards a peace settlement and dismayed at the many - far too many - setbacks. I am not going to blame either side more than the other. Both have shown short sightedness and at times done their best to avoid making the hard choices needed. It is far too easy to be partisan and to always blame one side or the other for setbacks, or for actions that feed the fear and de-humanising nature of the occupation.

As a party we should be encouraging the voices in both Israel and Palestine that call for peace and reconciliation, not having separate groups within the party that act as flag bearers for their side and seem to only want to point out the failing of the other.

I have spoken to both friends groups about having joint fringe meetings at conferences. I've asked about bringing in speakers from groups like the One Voice Movement, Project Yala and others. These speakers could show how groups on the ground are working to try to bring about peace between people on both sides to demonstrate to the politicians in both countries that it can be done. I have asked why the two friends groups don't show true liberal spirit and combine and work together to work towards peace in a troubled area. Neither side seemed to be too interested, in my opinion they seem to want to remain in the certainty of their own position and lay all the blame on the other side.

My suggestion to the Federal Party would be to withdraw recognition from both groups until they can realise that they can better forward their aims, a free Palestine on one side and a secure Israel on the other, by showing the benefit of cooperating and working together. By doing this they might even set an example the politicians in Palestine and Israel can follow.

* Leon Duveen is a Liberal Democrat activist in Worksop, Nottinghamshire