Lib Dem leadership contender Layla Moran attacks 'authoritarian, antisemitic and homophobic' Hamas

The British Palestinian MP and Sir Ed Davey were answering questions put to them by Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.


Liberal Democrat leadership contender Layla Moran has launched an outspoken attack on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, describing it as “authoritarian, antisemitic and homophobic”.

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, who is currently vying with Sir Ed Davey to lead the party, also said that in order to prove itself as a respected member of the international community, any future state of Palestine must hold free and democratic elections.

Ms Moran, who describes herself as a British Palestinian,  also stressed her belief in Israel’s “right to exist, with the same rights of self-determination as any other nation.”

She added that “while this is entirely consistent with Zionist beliefs, it isn’t something I call myself specifically as a word”.

The parliamentarian made the remarks while answering a series of questions relating to Israel, the Middle East and matters of importance to the British Jewish community put to her and Sir Ed by the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.

As for her view on the claim by many in Israel that there can be no Palestinian partner for peace until democratic elections are held again – that last time was 2005 - Ms Moran said: “Yes, there should be elections in Palestine. Nobody should have a 15-year mandate. 

“The authoritarian, antisemitic and homophobic Hamas won the election in Gaza and in true dictatorial fashion, they have outlawed elections.

“I have publicly condemned Hamas and made clear they do not speak for me or my values. The President of the Palestinian National Authority, the internationally recognised head of the government in Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has been the official leader of the Palestinian people since 2005.

“If a future State of Palestine is to prove itself as a respected member of the international community it must hold free, fair and transparent elections, as they become a beacon of democracy to the wider Middle East.

“It saddens me to see my ancestral home being run in this way and I cannot wait until the day that Palestine can be a free and vibrant democracy.”

Sir Ed – acting leader of the Lib Dems since the resignation of Jo Swinson after the party’s poor performance in the December election - then added: “The inability of Fatah and Hamas to agree to elections has been frustrating, and it is important that all sides do everything they can to enable such elections to take place.

“From ensuring the security of those elections to enabling Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote, all the barriers that have been put in the way of the elections must be removed as soon as possible.”

Asked if he respected the right of the Jewish people to self-determination – and whether he considered himself to be a Zionist - the Kingston and Surbiton MP said: “I absolutely agree with the existence of the State of Israel and the right to self-determination, and I would urge any country that does not recognise Israel to do so.

“I also believe that it is time for our government to join others in recognising the State of Palestine. Those recognitions can help us begin to move forward.”

But he added he had been “in politics too long to know that labels like ‘Zionist’  are too open to misinterpretation, especially given the different schools of thought within Zionism, and one needs to be careful and specific in defining what you mean”.

Sir Ed said he “shared the same approach” to Israel’s right to exist as “many Zionists”.

Both leadership candidates were quick to attack Labour’s failure on antisemitism, with Sir Ed calling for the establishment of an independent complaints process.

Ms Moran said there needed to be “far more public commitment to clearing the rot and more action from the Labour Party’s NEC and General Secretary in handling antisemitism and removing members who hold these views.”

As for the Lib Dem’s approach to antisemitism allegations against some of its own members, Sir Ed said he would establish a “zero tolerance” stance on the problem.

Ms Moran said: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that antisemitism has no chance to fester in our party. We need to make sure that the party’s institutions are capable of dealing with these cases when they come up. These views must be condemned outright, and we must have our own house in order.”

Asked for their views on the BDS movement  and whether it was beneficial as a means of achieving peace, both candidates expressed concerns.

Ms Moran said: “As with many political circles, unfortunately, the BDS movement does have issues with antisemitism which should be condemned. Any kind of pro-Palestinian group which dabbles in antisemitism is working against a peaceful two-state solution.”

She added: “With regards to boycotts themselves, I believe that this should be a personal choice, not a state-mandated one. Boycotts hurt everyone involved, and I’d much rather the illegal settlements were not there at all!”

Sir Ed added: “Any group that promotes or fosters antisemitism is working against peace and a two-state solution. The risk is we perpetuate the aggression and entrenchment on both sides, which creates barriers to establishing peace.” 

The new Lib Dem leader will be announced on August 27th.  The party had orginally suspended the elections for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gavin Stollar, the Honorary Chairman of LDFI said: “The answers LDFI has received from both Layla Moran and Sir Ed Davey show clearly and unequivocally that whichever candidate wins the leadership contest, the Jewish community and Israel should be assured that our Party’s long-standing friendship and support will remain steadfast.” 

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