There has been a flurry of cyber activity following the publication on a far-right website of a video of Shahrar Ali speaking about the situation in Gaza. Although posted as if it was recent, it originates from a Gaza rally in January 2009 at the time of Operation Cast Lead when Israel had killed around 1,400 Palestinians including some 300 children.
The version published on the far-right website was a crudely edited and decontexualised version that gave the impression that the speech was recent and given when Shahrar Ali was Deputy Leader.
Emotions were at their height then as thousands of people across the world protested against the killings. They were high again in Summer 2014 when Michael Rosen, children's writer and broadcaster, read this poem at a protest rally over events in Gaza which included the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians including around 490 children:
To bring us right up to date Shahrah Ali was asked about the Israel-Palestine situation at a Brent hustings on War, Peace and the Middle East earlier this month. This is what he had to say:
There have been suggestions on the web that the Green Party is guilty of anti-semitism because of its criticism of Israel. This conflates criticism and condemnation of the Israeli state and government with criticism and condemnation of Jews. In fact the Green Party is careful to make the distinction and has clear policy:
Members should at all times, including when proposing and implementing policy, be sensitive to the fact that the Green Party does not and will not endorse or tolerate antisemitism, or discrimination of any form.The are of course many Jews in the Green Party and outside of it who oppose Israel government policy in Palestine and challenge the view that they owe unquestioning loyalty to the Israeli state. Jews for Justice for Palestinians state their position as follows:
This is Green Party Policy:
WE BELIEVE THAT
- Peace in the Middle East will only come about with mutual recognition and respect and must be seen as just by both sides.
- Peace requires the end of illegal occupation and settlement.
- Violence against civilians is unacceptable.
- Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza are breeding hatred and resentment.
- It is crucial that Jews speak out for Palestinians’ human rights.
- The humanitarian values of Judaism have been corrupted by the Israeli state’s human-rights abuses.
- A lasting peace must be seen as just by both sides.
- Britain, the EU, the USA, Russia and the UN must be persuaded to implement UN resolutions on Palestine.IF YOU AGREE then link up with over one thousand six hundred other Jews in Britain who make up Jews for Justice for PalestiniansThe Torah teaches: ‘Justice, justice, you shall pursue’ (Deuteronomy 16:20).
To secure a lasting settlement to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis so they can live in peace and security, thrive side by side, and co-operate together, Jews today are obligated to pursue justice on behalf of both peoples.”
At Autumn Conference 2014 the following resolution was passed after the events of the summer:Background
IP600 The Arab-Israeli conflict persists owing to the failure to find a fair and humane solution to the problems of the Palestinian people, including the refugees in and from Palestine, and appropriate guarantees of security for Israel.
IP601 Such a solution may be achieved in one state or two within the former Palestine mandate (hereinafter referred to as Palestine), but as a matter of fact is currently (2009) achieved in neither. A fair choice needs to be made and accepted by both Israelis and Palestinians for their common future in Palestine. Exclusive possession of Palestine by either side is never going to be an achievable and just solution.
IP610 The Green Party supports calls for mutual recognition of the rights of independent statehood and for recognised, agreed and secure borders for Palestinians and Israelis in Palestine; a rapid end to the violence and de-escalation of the arms build-up in the region; implementation of UN resolutions 194, 242 and 338 which followed the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973; international assistance so that the new Palestinian state can develop self-reliance in land, water, food production, basic services and industries; long-term exploration of the possibility of establishing a confederation with neighbouring states, with free and equal access for each state's citizens.
IP611 We believe that all the interested parties, including the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people, need to talk to each other; this is a precondition for agreement on a solution acceptable to all parties
IP612 We recognise the need for confidence building measures to enable such talks to produce tangible results for both Palestinians and Israelis.
IP613 The Green Party believes that a negotiated solution must include measures which lead to delivery of the points below:
Policies on human rights
IP620 The Green Party believes that all Israelis, Palestinians, and their families should have and be able to exercise full human and civil rights throughout Israel, Palestine and the occupied territories in Palestine. Israel must be subject to the Geneva Convention concerning the rights of individuals and communities, in the same way that other states are. The resort to â€˜collective punishmentâ€™ in defiance of those requirements is unacceptable.
IP621 The Green Party calls for the implementation of United Nations Resolutions 194, 242 and 338, which addressed the problems created by Israeli conquests in the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973.
IP622 The Green Party calls on the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people to recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist within recognised, agreed and secure borders.
IP623 The Green Party calls on the Israeli Government and the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people both to commit to replacement of military force with agreement through diplomacy as a means of resolution.
IP624 The Green Party calls on Israel to repeal its present "law of return" because it is incompatible with the full exercise of human rights and discriminates against Palestinians because they are not Jewish. This racial discrimination symbolises the unfairness of the present arrangements in Palestine, and will have to be addressed before any solution can be agreed.
Particular issues of conflict
IP630 The Green Party calls on Israel to evacuate the illegal settlements within the occupied territories of Palestine.
IP631 We call on the government of Israel to dismantle the â€˜settlement wallâ€™ in those territories, which has been condemned by the International Court, which divides Palestinian territories, and which deprives them of land, water, other resources and employment. The discrimination against Palestinians practiced by the Israeli government and settlers in the occupied territories needs to be addressed as a first step.
IP632 The Green Party calls for an end to all and any illegal deprivation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories of the land and water resources pertaining to them.
IP633 We recommend that water resources in Palestine should be shared between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We call upon the government of Israel to enter into discussions with the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people to seek such an agreement covering both states in Palestine.
IP634 The Green Party calls on the government of Israel to abandon its claim to exclusive possession of the whole of the city of Jerusalem as its capital. That is contrary to the partition of the Palestine Mandate agreed by the United Nations in 1948. Equal rights should be given to Israeli and Palestinian citizens of the city, and accorded similarly to the monuments there which are holy to three religions â€“ Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
IP640 The Green Party calls on the United Nations and the European Union to implement international sanctions against those states which refuse to comply with the calls above.
IP641 We call on the government of the United States to use its special relationship with Israel to halt military and financial support until Israel enters the dialogue called for above.
IP642 The Green Party calls upon the European Union to ensure that agreements of Association with Israel are suspended unless and until an undertaking is secured that the state of Israel will enter into the dialogue called for above, and ensures that the human rights of Palestinians are assured as are those of Israelis.
Conference condemns Israel's ground invasion, aerial and marine bombing of Gaza, and calls on Green Party and Green Party elected representatives to take what steps they can to put existing Green Party policy into action and to ensure that the underlying causes are addressed, acknowledging there can be no lasting peace without justice.
Such steps include:
Reiterating our calls on the UN, the EU and the US government to ensure that Israel complies with international law;The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been running a Vote Palestine campaign for the General Election 2015, asking candidate's views on a number of questions. These are Green Party leader Natalie Bennett's answers as recorded by the PSC website: LINK
Supporting these calls by active participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This campaign aims to put pressure on the government of Israel to end the Occupation and to give equal rights to Palestinians. The campaign asks individuals, organisations, councils and governments to refuse to deal with companies and institutions identified as facilitating Israel's military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity.
In particular to demand that the UK government halts all joint Israeli/UK military cooperation and approval for all arms sales to Israel.
· They agree the UK Government should uphold the principles of equality, human rights and international law in all its relations and dealings with Israel.
· They agree that the construction of Israeli settlements construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal and unjustifiable.
· They agree that one of the first acts of the next UK Government should be the recognition of Palestine.
· They agree that the blockade of Gaza should be lifted immediately.
· They agree that we should stop trade with Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land and stop settlement goods being sold in Britain.
· They agree that the EU Israel Association should be suspended until Israel meets its human rights obligations.· They agree that the UK Government should stop supplying arms to Israel until it complies with international law.
The Green Party believes that the Arab-Israeli conflict persists owing to the failure to find a fair and humane solution to the problems of the Palestinian people; and at the same time offer appropriate guarantees of security for Israel.
We condemned Israel's ground invasion and bombardment of Gaza in 2014, and continue to call on the UN, the EU and the US to ensure that Israel complies with international law.
We also call on Israel to evacuate illegal settlements within the occupied territories of Palestine. In addition, we call on the government of Israel to dismantle the 'West Bank Barrier' which divides Palestinian territories, depriving Palestinians of land, water, and employment.
I believe that in the present situation neither the UK government nor UK companies should be selling arms to Israel and that trade from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) should not be legitimised and should end as a matter of urgency.
As you may know, in 2009 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) introduced voluntary guidelines to enable produce from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are labelled as such. However, I do not believe that voluntary guidelines are enough to effectively control the import of produce from OPTs.A little more detail:
Green MP Caroline Lucas signed EDM 204 which called on the Government to condemn the Israeli Government for their return to the practice of punitive home demolitions. She also added her name to an Early Day Motion (EDM) condemning the closure of Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa Mosque.
On 13th October last year, MPs took part in a Backbench Business debate on a motion to recognise Palestine as a state. The full text of the motion read as:
'That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.'
During the debate the following exchange took place:
Caroline Lucas: The hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way, and I congratulate him on securing this debate. Does he agree that this is an unprecedented moment? Sweden has already moved to recognise Palestine. If we do not grasp this moment, we will lose a real opportunity to push this matter forward and to move closer to peace.
Grahame M. Morris: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. As the originator of the Balfour declaration and holder of the mandate for Palestine, Britain has a unique historical connection and, arguably, a moral responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine. In 1920, we undertook a sacred trust—a commitment to guide Palestinians to statehood and independence. That was nearly a century ago, and the Palestinian people are still to have their national rights recognised. This sacred trust has been neglected for far too long. As the hon. Lady has just said, we have an historic opportunity to atone for that neglect, and take this small but symbolically important step.
MPs voted 274 to 12 to approve the motion. Although the UK Government is not legally bound by the outcome of this debate, it is an important and symbolic step to show the strength of support for Palestine amongst MPs. Bilateral recognition goes some way towards the creation of equity between Palestine and Israel, and could fundamentally alter the way in which negotiations are executed. I also believe that it is the UK’s moral and historical obligation to recognise Palestine’s right to self-determination and I remain deeply disappointed at the international community’s ongoing failure to hold Israel to account for its breaches of international law.
Rebecca Johnson, a veteran peace activist standing in the highly marginal Hampstead and Kilburn constituency added this comment to her response:
Like you I was very concerned about the bombings of Gaza and the appalling deaths that ensued, as well as ongoing settlements and violations of Palestinian human rights.
International issues have had little airing in this General Election campaign and it is important that the Green Party's view on Israel-Palestine, one of the most pressing of international issues, is heard plainly.I am committed to nonviolence and have participated in Women in Black for over 20 years, which brought together Israeli and Palestinian women - and many others from around the world - to oppose the Occupation. I joined Stop the War demos against the continued bombing of Gaza, and continue to stand with Women in Black at vigils in London where we make clear our support for Palestinian human rights and hold placards stating "Only justice for Palestinians can bring peace to Israelis." I have also joined Palestinian women in protesting against checkpoints and the terrible dividing Wall, and was subjected to teargas attacks when protesting against the wall at Bil'in a few years ago.
Brent Green Party and Chair of Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign