Lib Dems for Free Speech Demand Free Speech on Palestine Inside the Lib-Dems
Asking for democratic rights in the Lib-Dems is like asking Donald Trump to speak the truth
I have to confess that I’ve told Jonathan Coulter, who is a good comrade and one of the signatories to the leaflet below that was distributed at the big anti-Brexit march at the weekend, that trying to obtain justice or freedom of speech in the Lib Dems is like climbing Mount Everest on your hands.
The leaflet says that ‘It is time our party returned to our core values and policies’ but in fact it never had any core principles or values that it wouldn’t sell out at the earliest opportunity. It is a free market party that jumped into bed with David Cameron and passed the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which began the privatisation of the NHS in earnest.
The Lib Dems were born of a shotgun wedding between the old Liberal party and the Social Democratic Party, who were the equivalent of Tom Watson and co. today (though not quite as right-wing).
The Liberal Party itself was not a radical party and it barely tolerated the Young Liberals ‘Red Guard’ such as Peter Hain and Louis Eaks who led the campaign against the South African Springboks in 1970. The late Louis Eakes went on to edit Free Palestine and was one of the forerunners of the Palestine Solidarity Movement.
However if the Liberals were never a party of principle the Lib Dems were even less so. The Liberals were more typified by Jeremy Thorpe, who was acquitted of trying to murder Norman Scott after a blatantly biased judge summed up in his favour. It was a Liberal Party that was typified by David Steel’s cover up of the child abuse and paedophilia of Cyril Smith.
But if the Liberals could at least claim to have a radical fringe, the Lib Dems has never had anything. Hence my advice that trying to reclaim a tradition that never existed is a task worthy of Hercules! It is a party that all but expelled Jenny Tonge and did expel David Ward. The latter was carried out by homophobe Tim Farron, who was leader of the Lib Dems.
Nonetheless, despite the impossibility of their task, one cannot but admire the tenacity and determination of those behind this leaflet. This despite the impossible odds of succeeding in getting justice and fairness from a party that is wedded to the worst aspects of British capitalism.
This is a party which had no hesitation in getting into bed with David Cameron and George Osborne whilst placing Jeremy Corbyn beyond the pale. It is a party that has taken to its bosom the execrable Luciana Berger, the Zionist bigot and former Director of Labour Friends of Israel who has spent a lifetime accusing anti-racists of anti-Semitism
I found the debate on the welcome of the Lib Dems for Luciana Berger most interesting, not least for the way even former radicals like Lord Tony Greaves have queued up to welcome this opportunist.
I can only wish them good luck as the signatories to this leaflet will need it!
Britain’s unaccountable press and broadcasting media are at the root of both Brexit, and “antisemitism” smears
We are a group of 13 Lib Dems, some of who are here to demonstrate against Boris Johnson’s Brexit, an absurd and damaging proposition, largely rooted in press misreporting in the early 90s, when the self-same Boris was The Telegraph’s correspondent in Brussels and using his position to propagate a series of Euromyths[i].
At the same time, we are concerned that many politicians, including our own Lib Dem leaders, have embraced an unfounded proposition that there is rampant antisemitism in the Labour Party.
A very obvious smear campaign that involves media collusion and false personal attacks
British politicians, including many leading Remainers, have repeatedly ignored hard statistical and other evidence showing the antisemitism proposition to be wildly exaggerated and based on misinformation[ii], and in so doing, have aligned themselves with an even more tendentious media-orchestrated campaign than the one behind Brexit. It diverts attention from Israel’s indefensible settler-colonial project which involves, inter alia:
1. Depriving 200,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev desert of fundamental rights (electricity, water, medical care, roads, education).
2. Subjecting West Bank Palestinians to military law, while stealing land and moving in illegal settlers subject to Israeli civil law, contravening the Geneva Convention.
3. Turning Gaza into a vast open-air prison for 2.2 million Palestinians, without access to clean water, proper nutrition, medical care, travel and other rights
4. Controlling the supply of Palestinian water resources, with the Palestinians getting 13% of the total mountain aquifer water[iii].
5. Controlling the lives of 5 million Palestinians who have absolutely no say in the affairs of the Israel, and risk losing their right to return if they go overseas
6. The recent Nation State Law (2018) which further entrenches the supremacy of Jewish citizens; 50 discriminatory laws already grant superior rights to Jewish population.
At the same time pro-Israel lobbyists meddle in our internal affairs[iv], with a view to manipulating public perceptions about the situation in Israel and Palestine.
In March, the Party wrongfully suspended Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP), and only ended this in June under conditions that cripple this body’s ability to speak truth to power. The Party has moreover unwisely adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism (along with its 11 “examples”), which Israel and its advocates use to conflate legitimate criticism of Israel with genuine antisemitism.
We have repeatedly sought to draw our party’s attention to the issue, but the response is totally unsatisfactory
On 31st May, we raised it with party leaders in an “open letter”, but got no response[v]. We then tried to have it discussed with ordinary members, but much to our disappointment, found ourselves shut out of one internal policy forum after another, as if the topic were taboo. In cases where we have managed to post something, we have at best been dogged by unwarranted censorship, and at worst subjected to vile troll-like abuse from party activists.
We formally complained about this situation, only to find that our complaints remained unanswered for months, raising serious questions about the efficacy of the complaints process, even after July 1st when we were told it had inaugurated a new improved system.
It is time our party returned to our core values and policies, which involve:
1. telling the truth, and checking our arguments against objective evidence;
2. ensuring that party members have space for unfettered debate on Israel, Palestine and alleged antisemitism in internal discussion forums;
3. ensuring the complaints process is fit for purpose, and;
4. refocusing on our policy of reforming the British media landscape, much evident when, in 2018, we joined the Labour Party and some dissident Tories in demanding full implementation of Leveson II and associated reforms.
If you require further information, please write to:
Peter Downey [email protected]
Jonathan Coulter [email protected] and
Hugh Manning [email protected]
LibDems4freespeechgroup, 19 October 2019
[i] See https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/07/boris-johnson-peddled-absurd-eu-myths-and-our-disgraceful-press-followed-his[ii] See https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/check-evidence/ and https://www.plutobooks.com › bad-news-for-labour[iii] See https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/israel-water-tool-dominate-palestinians-160619062531348.html[iv] See Al Jazeera documentary, “The Lobby”, Jan 2017: https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/[v] See also on: https://mondoweiss.net/2019/06/reinstate-suspended-criticism/