Following the final “prime ministers’ debate” the community initiative YouElect conducted a poll which confirms that Palestine and Islamophobia are at the top of Muslim concerns in this General Election campaign. Arguably one of the largest of its kind, the poll result constituted a resounding demand to the parliamentary candidates for an end to the years of blind support for Israel and a fairer approach to Israel-Palestine rooted in international law.
According to YouElect, the poll involved 940 Muslims from across Britain. Of those who took part, 70% believe that the Liberal Democrat party has the fairest policies on domestic issues which concern them the most. Slightly more supported the Lib Dems on foreign policy, with 74% stating that they believe the party addresses foreign policy issues most justly. Only 19% were in favour of Labour’s foreign policy, with just 5% in favour of the Conservatives’.
More specifically, Palestine was the foremost concern of respondents, with an overwhelming 72% stating it concerned them more than all other foreign issues including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Kashmir.
Instead of the knee-jerk rush to change the existing laws on universal jurisdiction favoured by Labour and the Conservatives, the Lib Dems prefer an empirical approach to see how the current legislation works in practice and a full debate in parliament. This position chimes with the view of 3,000 European Jews, among them French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who have signed a petition condemning current Israeli government policies as “morally and politically wrong”.
The Conservative Party’s policy appeared as a full page advert in the Jewish Chronicle (30 April) and it reads like a blank cheque for Israel: “Universal jurisdiction will be amended at the earliest opportunity to enable Israelis to visit the UK” – a coded turn of phrase to allow ease of entry to the UK for the likes of Tzipi Livni and others suspected of war crimes identified in the UN’s Goldstone Report. Muslim mistrust of the Conservatives stems from the fact that they are so heavily dependent, individually and collectively, on funding from pro-Israeli organizations like BICOM, that the script is already written.
Even to the most casual observer, it is clear that there is deep disillusion with the 17 years wasted through the appeasement of Israel following the Oslo accords. The policies adopted since 1993 enabled the Zionist state to increase the number of settlers in the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem to half-a-million. In fact, while Israeli governments built 39,625 housing units in the occupied territories between 1991 and 2000, they only built 50,000 in Israel itself. These policies have culminated in the recent Israeli military decision to regard all the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank as “infiltrators” unless they are able to prove their right to reside in their own land! It is estimated that as many as 70,000 Palestinians will be ethnically cleansed in this way.
The Labour Party has managed Britain’s foreign policy for the past 13 years and regards concerns about Israeli policies as “false grievances”. Last week’s appearance of Tony Blair in the election campaign was a reminder of New Labour’s disdain for public opinion on foreign policy issues. It should not go unnoticed that since Blair left Downing Street to become the Quartet’s “Middle East Envoy” the number of Palestinian homes demolished by Israel in Jerusalem – where Blair stays when on duty – has increased dramatically, hundreds of charities have been closed, thousands of workers have lost their jobs and opposition figures have been imprisoned by the Quartet-backed Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, as election day approaches many see an opportunity in a hung parliament, which might be able to persuade a Tory majority that they should not ignore parliament and the people by changing the laws to allow war criminals to have a safe haven in Britain. If the polls are correct, this election will not be decided by the lobbyists’ cheque books or media moguls’ newspapers. It will be decided by the new energy and desire for justice for the Palestinian people.
Muslim voters are determined to play their part. They want justice for the Palestinians. A generation of British Muslims has come of age that is not content with tokenism and sweet-talk and will not be bought-off by invitations to Number 10 and garden parties at the palace. Like their fellow citizens they aspire to just and progressive policies at home and abroad in place of the old-style surrender to political blackmail. This is seen most potently on university campuses where students call on politicians to find just solutions instead of trying to legitimize the illegitimate and promoting the ugly face of Israeli apartheid as democracy. Let this be a genuine election built on genuine policies that are in tune with the real and genuine concerns of the people. That’s what we call democracy.