Letter Published in Standpoint Magazine December 2014
Maureen Lipman has a terrific splutter in Standpoint (November 2014) over why after decades of voting Labour she cannot do so again – or at least not vote for Ed Miliband – because of the vote in the Commons on recognizing Palestine.
She adds in Ed’s munching on a bacon butty. We all respect dietary considerations when having friends for dinner but should it decide how we vote?
What was never explained in the hype over the Palestine recognition vote is that it is utterly meaningless. The Commons has many different ways of expressing an opinion – 10 minute rule bills, Early Day Motions, Friday private member bills, Westminster Hall debates – and there have been nastier anti-Israeli expressions in all to those outlets over the years.
The Palestine vote will have no impact on government policy. I spent time as an FCO minister urging Arab and Muslim states to recognize Israel as generally having diplomatic reIations makes sense. The US refused to recognize Russia after the Soviet take-over in 1918 and then refused to have an embassy in Beijing until Nixon’s visit. Washington was the loser. Palestine does not yet have the normal attributes of a state – especially control over its territory as Hamas refuses to let go of Gaza and its handy rocket sites to send missiles over to kill Jews in Israel. Nor does the PA have enough control over its citizens as we saw in the summer with the IS type kidnapping and slaughter in cold blood of three Jewish schoolboys.
Two years ago the Commons – following a similar debate – unanimously voted to instruct the Government to ban entry into the UK of 40 named Russian functionaries linked to the death in custody under atrocious conditions of Sergei Magnitsky who had uncovered the theft of $230 million by Putin’s tax police from a British based firm.
In the past the Government had banned people like Martha Stewart, George Raft, or Pablo Neruda from entry into the UK so banning a few middling Russians who had helped kill a harmless father of two didn’t seem a big deal.
However it was too much for William Hague and the Foreign Office flatly refused to implement the Commons resolution.
But the interesting question is who can Maureen vote for next May? Surely not David Cameron who described Gaza as a ‘prison camp’ even though long evacuated by Ariel Sharon? Mr Cameron was appeasing the strongly anti-Israeli Turkish leader, prime minister, now President Erdogan. But it was a remark conforming to the worst kind of anti-Israel propaganda which attributes all problems in Gaza to Jews and none to Hamas Islamists.
Was Cameron wise to enter into an alliance in 2009 with Polish MEPs whose leader said “I will say sorry for what happened to the Jews in Poland when the Jews apologise for what they did to Poles.” Speaking on The World At One Sir Alan Duncan MP, a Tory, supported the Palestinian vote as did other Tory and LibDem MPs. He added that US policy on Israel was controlled by “financial interests.” He didn’t quite say Jews but listeners didn’t need an Alan Turing to decode the message.
Can Maureen vote LibDem? Surely not the party of Jenny Tongue whose language on Israel is beyond the pale (if that is the right metaphor). The LibDems also shelter a frightful MP, David Ward, who said he would fire rockets into Israel. Naturally Nick Clegg did not discipline him. The former leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, told the Daily Politics programme that IS and Al-Qeada are the fault of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
How about the Greens? But their one and only MP and former leader, Caroline Lucas, blamed the murder of Jews in Mumbai on Israel and she has been consistently hostile to the right of Israel to live free of terror attacks.
Then there is UKIP whose leader. Nigel Farage, has forged an alliance with Poland’s Congress of the New Right, an openly anti-Jewish party whose leader says Hitler didn’t know about the Holocaust.
There is Respect, of course, with Saddam’s old chum, George Galloway, calling for Israeli-free cities. Now who was it who first used term Judenfrei?
The Scots Nat are anti-Israel and Alex Salmond has called for an arms embargo on Israel and has done nothing to stop anti-Jewish campus attacks at Edinburgh University.
So Maureen Lipmann may have difficulties in finding a party she can vote for if she wants unqualified support of Israel at all levels as a condition for casting her vote. I have not checked the line on a Palestine state of the Monster Raving Loony Party but I assume the Flat Earth Party has cut out Israel from its map of the world.
Six years ago I wrote a book, ‘Globalising Hatred. the new Antismeitism.” (Weidenfeld and Nicolson) Since then anti-Jewish hates and prejudices as well as support for Hamas and other Islamist ideologues which call for the elimination of Israel have worsened.
I have heard Ed Miliband talk about Israel in warm and moving terms as the home that gave shelter to relatives fleeing from the anti-Jewish hate of the 1930s when Europe collapsed into closed border nationalisms in which bigotry and prejudice flourished. Can I politely say to Maureen that what should not be done is to retreat from engagement with democratic politics. More people should be in parties to expose and denounce anti-Jewish bigotry, and to find smarter ways of explaining the history and politics of the region so that at least one or two MPs actually know what is in the Hamas Charter.
The one thing the Islamists hate is democracy other than one election that goes their way. Britain and Europe is awash with bigotry, xenophobia and anti-semitism which are gaining ground over reason and tolerance.
I hope by next May Maureen finds someone to vote for as not voting is no answer.