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UK Liberal Dems call on party leaders to reinstate group suspended for criticism of Israel

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Editor’s note: What follows is a letter by 12 members of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK to their party leadership about restrictions on the discussion of Israel, which they titled “Open letter: please tell the truth about alleged antisemitism.”

The Liberal Democrat party holds 12 seats in the British parliament and formerly served in the Conservative governing coalition of 2010 to 2015. This center party was a big winner in the recent European Parliamentary elections, getting more seats than the Conservative and Labour Parties combined.

In March of this year, the Party’s Federal Board suspended its “Associated Organisation”, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) because their Facebook page had provided links to three allegedly antisemitic articles, particularly one by Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada, and closed down their social media and website until the matter was resolved. The main point of contention is said to be training conditions that the Federal Board wants to impose on LDFP’s use of social media. Many members will see such conditions as unjustified and implying that LDFP has done something wrong.

A group of 12 Party members was particularly concerned about the Party leadership’s overall stance on antisemitism, and sent this Open Letter to four named recipients. They also sent it to several Lib Dem on-line forums, only to get it rejected and/or expunged by the Administrators. This experience has prompted eight of the original signatories to go public; they would have preferred to simply debate the matter within the Party, but this has not proved possible.

Open letter: please tell the truth about alleged antisemitism

Libdems4freespeech group

30 May 2019

Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable, Party Leader

Rt Hon Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader

Rt Hon Tim Farron, previous Party Leader

Baroness Sarah Brinton, Party President

 

Dear Party Leaders

We are a group of Lib Dem members who, in an era of spin and alternative facts, feel passionately about the need to tell the truth.  Failing to do this can have disastrous consequences, as we saw with the dodgy dossier on Iraq, and with Brexit.

We are heartened by the Party’s recent showing in the European elections, yet deeply troubled by the leadership’s public statements giving credence to, and lending our voice to, accusations that the Labour Party is a den of antisemitism.  It has continued making these statements even after receiving messages seriously questioning their accuracy.

Anti-Jewish prejudice exists alongside other forms of prejudice in the UK, and is reprehensible.  However, the statistical evidence in this link shows that: (a) it is most pronounced on the right of British politics; (b) it is not a particularly left-wing phenomenon, and; (c) other minority groups face far greater challenges.   Most of the evidence advanced by critics of Labour is anecdotal and often deeply flawed, as when Margaret Hodge said she had submitted a dossier of 200 complaints.  It turned out that they corresponded to 111 individuals, only 20 of who were in the Labour Party.

We do not speak in representation of the recently suspended Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP), but think that the Federal Board (FB) should reinstate it unconditionally.  The FB’s primary objection is that LDFP posted a Facebook link to an article by the journalist Asa Winstanley, who said that Sir David Garrard was a multi-millionaire pro-Israel lobbyist and that he was funding the breakaway Independent Group of MPs.  We see no evidence that Winstanley’s assertion is untrue, or in any way antisemitic.

We also believe that the Party should ditch the flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism (with its eleven examples) and revert to a simple definition, such as that in the Oxford English dictionary: hostile to or prejudiced against Jews.   There is massive evidence (e.g. here) that the Government of Israel and its supporters have been unremittingly pushing the IHRA definition in order to conflate legitimate criticism of their own behaviour with genuine antisemitism.  By doing so, they have trivialised the latter.

We Lib Dems do not owe the State of Israel such special treatment, any more than we owe it to states like Russia, China or Saudi Arabia that are involved in grossly illegal acts and/or violations of human rights.  By contrast, we should be mindful of the many British Jews who question the narrative of rampant antisemitism.

We shall welcome an early reply to this letter, dealing with the evidence and other points presented.

Kind regards

 

Jonathan Coulter

Peter Downey

John Hall

Roger Higginson

Denis Mollison

John Payne

Penny Rivers

Denise Watkins

+ 4 others not wishing to go public

Lib Dems for Free Speech

Lib Dems for Free Speech is a group of members of the UK's Liberal Democrat party who oppose the party leadership's restrictions on social media discussions of Israel and Palestine.

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6 Responses

  1. HarryLaw on June 19, 2019, 4:50 pm

    It would appear telling the truth that Israel is a racist state due to the well documented 1950 Jews only immigration policy, 60 discriminatory laws against Palestinians in Israel and the recently enacted and notorious Nation State law, in other words telling the truth is incompatible with membership of both Liberal and Labour Parties.

  2. Ossinev on June 19, 2019, 5:04 pm

    “We also believe that the Party should ditch the flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism (with its eleven examples) and revert to a simple definition, such as that in the Oxford English dictionary: hostile to or prejudiced against Jews. There is massive evidence (e.g. here) that the Government of Israel and its supporters have been unremittingly pushing the IHRA definition in order to conflate legitimate criticism of their own behaviour with genuine antisemitism. By doing so, they have trivialised the latter”

    Treating Anti- Semitism and defining Anti- Semitism in the same way as other forms of discrimination seems totally fair and totally logical to me. I guess that means that I have fallen foul of the IHRA defintion in some way so am therefore de facto an Anti – Semite.

    Vince Cable is standing down as leader of the Lib Dems and his likely successor is the current Deputy Leader ,Jo Swinson.

    I hope that in due course this group will address their suggestion directly to her.

    It is also a suggestion which should be tabled at the next Labour Party Conference and I believe that it is one which Jeremy Corbyn as a PM would certainly endorse (Judas Watson not withstanding).

    The tide is turning?

    • genesto on June 20, 2019, 12:42 pm

      It is indeed! Those attacked as anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel in the past have tended to just slither away rather than stay and fight. We are seeing more and more resistance to these unjustified attacks by the Zionists, indicating that the tide really IS changing and people, particularly in the West, are starting to wake up to who really is the oppressor and who is the oppressed in Palestine.

  3. Tom Suarez on June 20, 2019, 6:05 am

    In 2016 the LibDems threw out Jenny Tonge, a long-time courageous anti-racist voice, for charges fabricated by one of the UK’s most notorious pro-Israel propagandists, and made no amends even after the fraud was exposed by a video, and even after a three-month investigation by the House of Lords completely exonerated her.

  4. JWalters on June 20, 2019, 9:14 pm

    False accusations of anti-Semitism are getting increasingly ridiculous. Check out this video, which also includes Israeli police roughing up Orthodox Jews who don’t believe in Zionism. Simultaneously absurd and sad.
    “Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Accused of Antisemitism Over Concentration Camp Remark”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmqetOw4138

    Note: Jake Morphonios does such good research he is being savaged on YouTube in efforts to discredit him.

  5. Ossinev on June 22, 2019, 2:16 pm

    @JWalters
    Surprised that AIPAC has not applied for registered trade mark status for the term”concentration camp” as applicable to only to Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Perhaps the authors of the absurd IHRA “definition of Anti- Semitism will pre-empt by suggesting that any reference to “concentration camps” other than the aforementioned is intrinsically “Anti-Semitic” .

    Use of the term actually predated the Holocaust by 40-50 years:
    https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Concentration_camp

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