Two early tests of the Lib Dems’ commitment to Palestine

Test 1 – Reaction to Freedom Flotilla

As the Tory-Lib Dem coalition gears up for an assault on our public services, the Israelis are gearing up for an assault on the Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of 8 boats carrying much needed humanitarian aid that is now only hours away from the Gaza coast.  Mark Regev and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been spouting their usual garbage, while Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s openly racist Deputy Prime Minister, has declared that the flotilla will be stopped “at any cost”.

But what sort of response can we expect from our recently installed “progressive coalition”?  In particular, what can we expect from the Lib Dem contingent?  Prior to the election, the Lib Dems were keen to stress to pro-Palestinian voters that they were prepared to act against Israel where the other parties were not.  Nick Clegg even wrote a piece in the Guardian strongly condemning the blockade of Gaza.  A couple of choice quotes:

And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.”

What will be the state of Gaza’s drinking water by next December? Of the health of its children? Of the economy? The attitude of its people towards Egypt and Israel? The risk of waiting another year is too great. Gordon Brown and the international community must urgently declare that enough is enough. The blockade must end.”

Indeed it must.  So let’s not let Nick Clegg and his party forget the above words when, as seems inevitable, the coalition allows the next bout of Israeli piracy and kidnapping to pass with barely a whimper.

Test 2 – Proposed Changes to Universal Jurisdiction

Unsurprisingly, William Hague has recently reaffirmed his view that UK laws relating to universal jurisdiction should, and indeed will, be amended to allow Israeli war criminals to travel to the UK without fear of being arrested.  Slightly more surprisingly, Hague claims that this is “well understood and agreed within the coalition government”.  I say “slightly more surprisingly” because an overwhelming majority of Liberal Democrat MPs signed Early Day Motion 502 which states “that this House believes that universal jurisdiction for human rights abuses is essential as part of the cause of bringing to justice those who commit crimes against humanity and will oppose any legislation to restrict this power of UK courts”.

Which of course begs the obvious question: how can the coalition be “agreed” if the vast majority of Lib Dems are opposed?  Could this be yet another instance of the Lib Dem leadership trading principles for power, selling the more progressive elements within the party down the river in the process? Well, we’ll soon be finding out.



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