April 27, 2010
A lot of people in Hendon are contacting me to say that they are voting Liberal Democrat this time, including many people in our community. With all the publicity that my party has received over the less positive aspects of its relationship with the Anglo-Jewish community, here is a list of some rather more positive achievements
1. Nick Clegg opposes UK participation in anti-Semitic UN conference
In March 2009, Nick Clegg became the only party leader to call on the UK Government to boycott the next month’s Durban II Conference. The first Durban Conference in 2001 heard a large amount of anti-Semitic speeches and statements and there was no reason to believe that the 2009 conference, taking place in Geneva, would be different. The US, Australia, Germany, Canada, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and New Zealand all boycotted the conference in advance, but the UK sent a delegation. On 20 April 2009, Nick Clegg said: “Alarm bells in Downing Street should have started ringing when it was announced that President Ahmadinejad was to address the conference.
“The previous anti-racism conference in Durban descended into the most horrific anti-Semitic and one-sided rant against Israel. The resulting open expressions of racism undermined the very goals the conference sought to achieve. Countries like the USA, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands have all sensibly stayed away from Geneva, and we should have too. Following President Ahmadinejad’s crass and unfair speech this morning, Gordon Brown should send a signal that this deplorable anti-Semitism is never acceptable and recall our delegation.”
In his 2009 address to the conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being racist and created on the “pretext of Jewish suffering” from the Second World War.
2. Nick Clegg gives annual lecture to the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism (EISCA)
On 15 June 2009, Nick Clegg spoke out about how to combat the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the EISCA annual lecture at Parliament. EISCA’s advisory board includes Liberal Democrats Fiyaz Mughal (a columnist for Jewish News) and Lord Dholakia (a former party president). The Times reported on the content of his speech at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6498148.ece
In an article in the Jewish Chronicle on 11 June 2009 to accompany his lecture, Nick wrote that the BNP’s success is due to public anger, not to proportional representation.
He said that: “…while voting for the Far Right would have been unthinkable for many people just a matter of months ago, it is now a seemingly acceptable, seemingly rational choice...So, with greater urgency than ever, it is up to mainstream politicians to drain the deepening swamp of support manipulated by dangerous fringe parties. Central to that is a fundamental clean-up of our political system; one which regains the trust of the British people and which hands back power.
“Britain can lead the way in putting the fight against anti-Semitism at the heart of Europe — provided we get our own house in order. Too many Jewish communities already feel vulnerable and bear the brunt of growing hostility. If we sit back while populists continue to capitalise on discontent, that is only going to get worse. We have to take away the anger that these extremists feed off, and that means reforming our politics without delay.”
3. Lib Dem Signatories to the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism
The London Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition on Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) took place from 15th-17th February 2009 and agreed on the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism.
Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg was the second Party Leader to sign the declaration (following PM Gordon Brown). Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne also signed the declaration; I had the honour of being present when Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne both signed.
The London Declaration calls for:
• The EU Council of Ministers to address the issue of combating anti-Semitism;
• The exposure and isolation of Governments and individual politicians who engage in hate against the Jews;
• The establishment of an international taskforce of Internet specialists to measure racism and anti-Semitism online and propose international responses.
The full declaration is at http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/1151284.pdf
Nick Clegg said: “The extremely worrying rise of anti-Semitism is leading…to a surge in graffiti on gravestones and racially motivated attacks on Jews and synagogues. The internet is increasingly becoming a haven for anti-Semites to spread their vile creed, and so the fight against such bigotry must also be taken online. Anti-Semitism must be challenged and opposed wherever it rears its ugly head. I am very pleased to sign this declaration…to show the commitment of the Liberal Democrats to combating anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
4. Clegg and Huhne sign Lib Dem statement against anti-Semitism
Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and former party leader Lord Steel are among signatories to a Lib Dem statement condemning anti-Semitism, reported the Jewish Chronicle on 13 December 2007 (http://website.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=56959&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srch...). The statement was prepared by two non-Jewish party members, Barnet councillor Wayne Casey (who is my agent in this election) and Richard Moore, a senior figure in Liberal International British Group.
5. Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne condemned the significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks as reported by the Community Security Trust (CST) in July 2009. Mr Huhne has been among the most prominent British politicians in the fight against anti-Semitism, having been a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism that reported in 2006.
Chris Huhne said: "Britain is setting a shameful new record in anti-Semitic incidents this year, which are running at double the annual rate of the previous record. It is completely abhorrent that anyone should be intimidated on the grounds of their race, colour, gender, sexuality or creed. We must stand firm against intolerance shown to any minority if we are to preserve a civilised society. It is absurd that home-grown bigots should hold British Jews responsible for the actions of a foreign government. We cannot have overseas conflicts echoed on Britain's streets."
6. Chris Huhne’s speech at launch of Jewish anti-BNP campaign
On 30 April 2009, Chris Huhne was among the speakers at the Young Jewish Political Network’s launch of the “Your Voice or Theirs” campaign. The campaign aimed to maximise turnout in June’s local and European elections, to make it harder for the far-right British National Party (BNP) to win many seats. The campaign is credited with helping to prevent the election of more than two BNP MEPs, with none being elected from London. At the launch event, Mr Huhne made a well-received speech and participated in a lengthy debate and question-and-answer session; I was present, having helped arrange for Mr Huhne to be there.
7. Lib Dem Shadow Foreign Secretary visits Israel
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary, wrote the following article for Jewish News after his 2008 fact-finding visit, on which he was briefed by a range of senior Israeli figures: http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/special_reports/?content_id=10747
8. Lib Dem policy on faith schools
At its Spring Conference in March 2009, the party voted in favour of allowing state-funded faith schools to continue selecting pupils by faith. The Conference rejected calls to ban new state faith schools. Welcoming the vote, Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Jewish Chronicle: “It is significant that, following a full debate and significant lobbying by those who want to undermine the essential nature of faith schools, the Liberal Democrats have nevertheless voted to support parents’ rights to choose.” The BBC’s report of the debate (in which I spoke) can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7930628.stm
9. Liberal Democrat Policy on Middle East
Liberal Democrats have always been committed to Israel’s right to thrive in peace and security, alongside a viable Palestinian state, as part of a negotiated two-state solution. If you want to know what my party thinks re:- foreign policy, then here is the most recent party conference speech of our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey:
10. Liberal Democrat opposition to the academic boycott of Israel
The Liberal Democrats have been steadfastly opposed to all calls for an academic boycott of Israel. Alone among the three main British parties, the Liberal Democrats passed a party conference motion (written by me, and passed overwhelmingly) condemning the boycott, as reported by the Jerusalem Post on 17 September 2007: http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=75518
11. Sarah Ludford MEP re-elected to European Parliament
Sarah Ludford, one of Israel’s most consistent friends in the European Parliament, was re-elected as the Lib Dem MEP for London in June’s European election. Sarah, who in 2007 received an award from the Israeli Ambassador for supporting Israel, has always been a prominent voice on issues of concern to the Jewish community. Her website reports many instances of this, including this example: http://www.sarahludfordmep.org.uk/news/001164/antisemitism_calls_for_vig...
12. Tom Brake MP at launch of “Towards a London Jewish Manifesto”
Tom Brake MP, the Lib Dems’ spokesperson on London, spoke at the all-party launch of the London Jewish Forum’s “Towards a London Jewish Manifesto” at City Hall on Wednesday 8 July 2009. In his speech, Mr Brake referred to rising anti-Semitism, committing the party to fight racism and hate crime.
13. Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel
Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) is a group of party members committed to voicing Israel’s side of the argument in all Lib Dem debates. Led by its president, the former Lib Dem Deputy Leader the Right Honourable Sir Alan Beith MP, LDFI campaigns for the party’s policy of a two-state solution that would allow Israel to thrive in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state. LDFI members’ activities include writing for party publications, speaking in party conference debates, and proposing their own motions and amendments for such debates. LDFI also meets often with Lib Dem parliamentarians, including the party leadership. At each year’s party conference, LDFI runs a well-attended fringe meeting and a week-long stall giving out information about Israel. LDFI also advises the Lib Dem leadership on issues of domestic Jewish concern, including anti-Semitism, faith schools and shechita (Jewish religious slaughter of animals for meat; the Liberal Democrats have always supported British Jews' right to shechitah).