Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘David Burrowes’

Palestine and Anti-Semitism

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th July, 2016

Friends of Palestine meeting with HASCEarlier this week, in my role as Chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, I was invited to a hearing on anti-Semitism at the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, along with my LDFoP colleague Miranda Pinch and two representatives each of our Labour and SNP sister organisations (three of them MPs). Committee Chair Keith Vaz MP started off by asking me outright whether criticising Israel could be considered anti-Semitic, to which I was able to answer confidently “No!”; the continued occupation of the West Bank and other territories as well as some of the actions of the Israel Defense Force are in clear violation of international law and therefore can be justifiably condemned by anyone who has a sense of justice. As a Liberal Democrat I oppose all forms of discrimination and prejudice, so that of course includes anti-Semitism, but I argued that exceptionalism should not tempt us to single anti-Semitism out from other forms of ethnic, religious, gender or other forms of discrimination. The panel of MPs on the committee — which included David Burrowes as well as David Winnick — were astonished to learn that all six of us giving evidence and answering questions had been attacked as “racist” and “anti-Semitic” because we have campaigned for the Palestinian cause, but that is indeed the case. Miranda was able to give an interesting perspective as a (non-practising) Jew and she said that some of the worst attacks on her had come from Christian Zionists. We and the SNP participants pointed out that we try to avoid using the word Zionism because it can mean different things and instead are always careful to refer to the Israeli government or IDF, rather than saying, as many in the Middle East do, “the Jews”. Apparently Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled Labour Party leader, had a rough time before the committee a while ago, mainly because he had referred to representatives of Hamas and Hizbollah as “friends”. But one of the SNP MPs, Philippa Whitford (who has worked as a surgeon in Gaza, and hails originally from Belfast) pointed out that just as in Northern Ireland peace was only achieved by engaging with the IRA and Protestant extremists, so peace in Israel-Palestine will only come about if Hamas and other groups are included in talks. All six of us participants still in principle support a two-state solution, but all fear that ongoing settlement activity and the intransigence of the Netanyahu government mean that is in danger of being made impossible. But both Israelis and Palestinians will have be involved in determining their own future. The Home Affairs Committee report that will emerge from these hearings should be published in September.

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Latymer School Political Question Time

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 25th March, 2010

The British general election is unlikely to be called until 6 April at the earliest, but already the phoney war is in full swing. This afternoon, Latymer School in Edmonton — which has a lively politics society — put on a 4-party Question Time in their splendid new studio auditorium, attended by a couple of hundred pupils, teachers and visitors from around Enfield borough. Labour and the Conservatives were represented by local MPs, Andy Love (Edmonton) and David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), alongside me as the LibDem (as Chairman of London region), and Douglas Coker, Chairman of Enfield Green Party. The economy figured large, not surprisingly, given yesterday’s budget, but so too the issue of political funding and cleaning up politics. I was disappointed that David Burrowes — a Christian ‘wet’ on most issues — obeyed his party’s whip to boycott the parliamentary committee looking into the Ashcroft affair, though at least he did not try to defend the peer’s protracted obfuscations about his tax status. Andy Love did defend the expansion of Heathrow airport, which I imagine won him few friends in the audience, but the interesting thing was how much all four of us agreed on most things (though not on nuclear energy). It would have been interesting to have had a straw-poll of the audience both before and after the debate, but if attitudes are at all similar to those in East London where I live, the political mood amongst the electorate at the moment is distinctly fluid.

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