Once upon a time, the Liberal Party was a fount of philosemitism. During the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, when the ultimately successful campaign for the right for professing Jews to sit in the House of Commons was in full swing, Liberal politicians and public figures were in its forefront. Their stance was exemplified in the noble words of Lord Macaulay, who observed in 1831:
“The points of difference between Christianity and Judaism have very much to do with a man's fitness to be a bishop or a rabbi. But they have no more to do with his fitness to be a magistrate, a legislator, or a minister of finance, than with his fitness to be a cobbler. Nobody has ever thought of compelling cobblers to make any declaration on the true faith of a Christian.”Liberals were conspicuous in the numerous public rallies that occurred in Britain to protest oppression of Jews overseas – from the Damascus blood libel of 1840 through Tsarist and Nazi persecution. Liberals were also keen supporters of the Zionist movement – I’m thinking in particular of the journalists C. P. Scott and Herbert Sidebotham, who made the Manchester Guardian – forerunner of the notoriously anti-Zionist and even antisemitic Guardian of the present day – the most pro-Zionist newspaper in pre-war Britain.
During the 1970s, before defecting to Labour and eventually becoming an MP and a minister under Blair and Brown as well as a member of Red Ed Miliband’s present team, the anti-Israel serpent in the still-pro-Israel British Liberal Party’s bosom was Peter Hain. A South African-born anti-apartheid activist with a penchant for publicity, he was chairman of the Young Liberals, and combined campaigning against white rule in South Africa with a parallel crusade against Israel’s very existence. Decades before the idea caught on in sections of the Israel-demonising left, Hain had made the replacement of Israel by a “Secular Democratic State of Palestine” the leitmotif of his frequent inveighing against the Jewish State.
Thus, reported the Jewish Chronicle (5 September 1975), “Calls for the destruction of Israel as a state and for British Government recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation were made by more than 1500 pro-Arab supporters who marched from Speakers’ corner to Downing Street on Sunday while the Jewish rally was in progress.” Flanked by some 500 police officers, marchers included Communists, Marxists, Young Socialists, Young Liberals, as well as hundreds of Palestinians, Surians, Iraqis and other Arabs. Hain called on “radicals on the left-wing in Britain” to fight for the Palestinian cause. He was even mean-minded enough to oppose the migration of Soviet Refuseniks to Israel.
His stance dismayed the Liberal Party’s leadership and its old guard, but since then demonising of Israel has become a stock-in-trade of numerous individuals in the party’s successor, the Lib Dems – and some Lib Dem parliamentary candidates at the May 2010 general election were sneaky enough to print up two sets of campaign leaflets – ones distributed to Jewish households having the encomiums to “Palestine” omitted. (richardmillett.wordpress.com/2010/03/.../mezuzah-wars-commence/)
Last evening, at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting in a committee room at the House of Commons, chaired by the PSC’s operations director Sarah Colborne, Lord Phillips was the first of several speakers. While conceding Israel’s right to exist, he made a highly tendentious speech about its policies and about the state of Israeli public opinion and claimed : "America is in the grip of the well-organised Jewish Lobby". He concurred with Unite trade unionist Richard Allday’s call at the meeting for a boycott of Israeli produce and people. (They’d better be sure to click on this video, then http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saeky9I5T9c/)
Also addressing the meeting was the leftwing Labour anti-Israel warhorse Jeremy Corbyn MP, who observed: “When it’s in Israel’s self interest they do something”. (Either Corbyn was defaming the motive for Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Haiti and elsewhere, or he has managed to remain oblivious to such efforts!) Andrew Slaughter,MP, another Israel defamer who seems to believe that Hamas are at heart reasonable guys (www.guardian.co.uk/.../2010/.../gaza-deadlock-hamas-engagement) declared the Palestinian Authority “does not have anything to give any more”. (“Recognition!” suggested Zionist Federation co-vice-chair Jonathan Hoffman from his place in the audience – and narrowly escaped ejection by Ms Colborne.)
The final speaker was Mavi Marmara activist Kevin Ovenden, formerly of the Socialist Workers Party and now of the Respect Party’s leadership, and when Ovenden had finished lambasting what he insisted on calling "The Zionist Entity”, Jonathan Hoffman, having remarked that Zionists in the United States comprise people from various backgrounds, challenged Lord Phillips to offer evidence to justify raising the spectre of the Jewish lobby. No evidence was forthcoming. Pointing out the antisemitic and genocidal nature of the Hamas Charter, Hoffman contested Phillips’s contention during his speech that Avigdor Lieberman is more racist that anyone the Palestinian side. Phillips responded that the Hamas Charter is "a load of bullsh*t" - a (terrorist) leader had told him so!
Finding this answer unsatisfactory, Hoffman remonstrated, only to find that the totalitarian left machine had cranked into full gear – he was promptly given his marching orders by Ms Colborne. The police outside the room enforce any eviction by chairpersons of meetings – no questions asked. So Mr Hoffman went quietly. But in these days of increasing demonisation of Israel and of those who champion the Jewish State, it's perhaps a miracle that, unlike Richard Millett, about whose manhandling by PC Plod I blogged in July, he was admitted in the first place!