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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Labour leadership candidates' positions on Palestine

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is not aligned to any political party. However, PSC members and supporters taking part in the Labour leadership election may be interested in the following:

Palestine Briefing
parliamentary newsletter and briefing service
160 London Road, Kingston KT2 6QW

What the Labour leadership candidates say on key Palestinian issues

Bradshaw Creasy Eagle Flint Watson
Are settlements illegal? Yes - - - -
UK recognise Palestine Yes Yes Yes Yes -
Lift blockade of Gaza? Yes Yes - - -
Stop settlement trade? Yes - - - -
Suspend tariff reductions? - - - - -
Stop arms sales? - - - - -
Labour Friends of Palestine asked the candidates for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labour Party for their views on six issues - recognising Palestine, lifting the blockade of Gaza, the illegality of the settlements and of building the wall on Palestinian land, detention without trial and a peace process based on the 1967 borders.
They also asked the candidates for a statement of their views on the Palestinian issue. Most of them have now put up statements on the Labour Friends of Palestine website here and also the deputy leadership candidates here but few of them have directly answered the questions put to them.
It is Labour Party policy to recognise the state of Palestine and most of the candidates voted for recognition in the backbench debate in the House of Commons October last year. Liz Kendall was asked about this and made it clear that she abstained deliberately. 
Both the Labour and the Government front benches condemn the settlements as "illegal" and call for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. 
The other issues - stopping settlement trade, suspending tariff reductions and stopping arms sales - are all ways in which pressure could be brought to bear on the Israeli government to stop breaking international law by building settlements or blockading Gaza, but none of them has yet been adopted by either front bench.
The UK's policy on arms sales is not to sell arms that could be used for internal repression or to take land by force, but the Government announced last month that it had decided to take no action on its review of arms licenses to Israel after last year's Gaza war.
The above tables have been compiled from their statements on the Labour Friends of Palestine website, their answers (if any) to the PSC questionnaire during the election campaign, the House of Commons vote on recognition (if they attended) and the Jewish Labour Movement hustings on July 20th (see below).
Here are highlights from what the candidates said at those hustings:

Extracts from the Jewish Chronicle Labour leadership hustings on July 20th
Andy Burnham: Recognition: “In the parliamentary vote on recognition I voted for it, but I don’t think it was handled well.  I don’t think it should have been a whipped vote and also I think that the motion lacked balance.”
Two-state solution: “It has gone backwards in recent times. It can’t be the case that we as politicians just mouth our support for the two-state solution without actually willing the means. I don’t consider myself a friend of the current Israeli government. [Netanyahu’s comments before the last Israeli election about Arabs ‘swarming to the polls’] were provocative, derogatory and highly offensive.”
Boycott: “We should be absolutely clear about being opposed to [talk of a boycott]. It would show a kind of spitefulness that would be completely and utterly unjustified when we are talking about a democracy that has a long tradition of supporting minorities and civil rights.”
Visits: [He recalled previous visits with both Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine] “I think we need to reach out and show we are listening to people in the [Jewish] community. The first foreign visit I would do would be to Israel.”
Balfour declaration: “Schools have been required by law to teach about British values. As part of this centenary [of the Balfour Declaration in 2017], we would want a whole series of events in every school in the country to say how British values did shape a modern democracy in the region. We should be very proud of that. It’s very important that there are no ifs, no buts and no exceptions.”
Terrorism: “I don’t believe that you can sit down as leader of the Labour Party with organisations that support terror. No MP in my Labour Party would do that. I think there would have to be sanctions against someone who did that.”
Yvette Cooper: “It is hugely important that we never allow any dispute about decisions of the Israel government to become hostility to the Israeli state or the Israeli people. Anytime the peace process goes awry it can be the cause of rising anti-semitism in Britain. When that happened last summer, we were not fast enough to condemn it." 
Boycott: “We should be very clear about opposing a boycott. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. It’s counter-productive.”
Jeremy Corbyn
Recognition: “I supported the recognition of the state of Palestine. There has to be a dialogue about the siege of Gaza, the settlement policy over the West Bank, about human rights and the treatment of Palestinian children and child prisoners. I’ve been on nine visits to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”
Boycott: “There are investigations going on into war crimes on both sides. Is it right that we should be supplying arms in this situation? Is it right that we are importing goods produced from illegal settlements across the West Bank?  Wouldn’t a stronger message be that a process of some economic measures might be helpful? That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be intellectual relationships. I’m not in favour of preventing academic arrangements.  What I am in favour of is economic issues, particularly supplying arms and the importation of goods from settlements.”
Liz Kendall:
Recognition: “I came under a lot of pressure to support the vote in the House of Commons, not least from my own constituency, but I did abstain because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. The way we achieve peace is through negotiation, not through passing resolutions in the House of Commons or the United Nations. I don’t believe we would have done that in government.”
Boycott: “I would want to fight [a boycott] with every fibre of my body.”

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Big welcome for Brent's Big Ride for Palestine participants

We went to welcome the Big Ride bikers on the completed of their Edinburgh to London fundrasing ride for Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) at Archbishop's Parl, Lambeth this afternoon. They cycled 435 miles in 9 days.

Among the Brent riders were Kam Datta and Alberto Zerda. Kam raised more than £1000 and  Red Spokes, the organisers, hope that the total will reach £60,000.

You can still donate at

Kam has written about the project in the posting below. This is the statement on the Just giving website:
What is the problem the project is addressing?

Children in Gaza live with the constant threat of Israeli military assault and the ongoing blockade of basic necessities and medical care. There is widespread poverty and a closed environment where people and goods cannot travel freely. The UN estimates that 400,000 children in Gaza are showing signs of severe psychological distress including bed-wetting, nightmares, aggression, phobias, extreme withdrawal or anxiety and difficulty eating, sleeping or speaking.

How will this project solve the problem?

The situation for children in Gaza is an emergency. MECA will use your donations to provide emergency aid to families in Gaza and deliver medicine and medical supplies to hospitals. MECA will support community-based organisations that run creative writing programs, sports teams, art and music classes; to build playgrounds and much more. Meanwhile, The Big Ride is working to raise awareness in the UK about the situation for children in Gaza.

What is the potential long-term impact of this project?

This project will reduce the children's risk of disease and malnutrition by addressing basic needs for food, medical care and adequate shelter that could impact their development and long-term health. By involving children in creative community activities, the project will also protect children's long-term mental health, making them more resilient against the risks of severe anxiety, depression, aggression and withdrawal.

Well done to Kam, Alberto and all the other participants who ranged in aged from 14 to 80.