Peer attacks 'moral relativism' of debate surrounding Israel


One of Britain's newest peers is set to question the "moral relativism" relating to discussion of Israel when he reaches the House of Lords.

Leading Newcastle lawyer Sir Jeremy Beecham, 65, was made a life peer by the outgoing government in the Dissolution Honours, and is likely to take his seat as Baron Beecham of Benwell. He has represented Benwell ward on Newcastle City Council for 43 years.

He said: "I would be willing to debate concerns regarding the situation within Israel and the peace process while rejecting the moral relativism which singles out Israel for criticism which is not levelled at other countries, whose policies may well be more objectionable than that of Israel."

Sir Jeremy, a one-time leader of the council and founder of the Local Government Association, has frequently weighed in on the Middle East debate by critically highlighting the conditions of Israeli Arabs. This week he said: "I've been engaged for some time in trying to promote capacity building within the Israel/Arab municipal sector, and generally to support a more equitable distribution of resources to disadvantaged communities, both Jewish and Arab, in Israel."

He added: "I look to Israel to live up to her own Declaration of Independence, which pledged equality of treatment for all citizens, irrespective of religion, gender or ethnicity - and I hope to see the country, 60 years on from this declaration, realising in practice her founding values. I remain a life-long supporter of Israel."

The new peer, a member of both Newcastle's United Hebrew Congregation and its Reform Synagogue, is a passionate Newcastle FC supporter. In the Lords he hopes to tackle issues of local government, penal policy, health and social services, and welfare reform.

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