Israel and Anti-Semitism: what are your thoughts?

Two of the issues that you will have to deal with if you are elected are the UK’s attitude to Israel and antisemitism.

I would, therefore, be grateful if you will confirm that you will sign the Pledge for Israel.

It reads as follows:

If elected to the United Kingdom Parliament I Pledge…

To oppose the extremists who challenge Israel’s right to exist.

To support the right of people in the United Kingdom to enjoy Israeli culture and promote business, educational, religious and other connections with the Jewish State without fear of discrimination, boycotts, harassment and/or intimidation.

To support those who genuinely seek to promote and establish a permanent, just and comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbours.

To celebrate the fact that Israel is a free society and parliamentary democracy that extends to all its citizens the right to practise their religion and have access to religious sites in Jerusalem.

To support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

To encourage HM Government to promote trade with Israel that will increase investment and jobs for people in both countries.

 

Answer:

             These are two related aspects of how we behave towards each other. I am appalled at the stirring up of racial and religious hatred in the political arena. Anti-Semitism has become a catalyst to also stir up hatred towards other groups.  It is a mark of disrespect as my politics is as much about listening and thinking, as taking action and persuading other people to take action with me. 

As you might know by now, I do not sign up to any pledges because I feel that they limit my ability to respond to policies, and unpredicted circumstances, in the future. I sincerely believe that there is a solution which international diplomacy and peace-brokers could help to facilitate, but both sides in this historic and current conflict need to accept that peace is the most important goal. As America is changing its policy towards Israel and Palestine, the UK may also need to respond in a new way to different decisions made by other powerful nations. 

I accept that members of groups might use the signing (or not signing) of pledges as a way of deciding who to vote for. In the spirit in which I support and recognise your aims for Israel, and its neighbours, I hope that you will support and recognise my reasons for not signing any pledges. 

I support the rights of both Israel and Palestine to exist as states, equal neighbours with the right to live in peace and security.

Nobody should face discrimination, harassment or intimidation for any reason, especially race or religion. However, in a free society, individuals and organisations should be free to boycott companies who they believe to be acting against their values (for example, I boycott Nestle for their inappropriate promotion of infant milk formula in developing countries and I boycott Trago Mills because of the owner's stance on Brexit). Nobody should boycott a company simply for being Jewish or Israeli, but it is legitimate to boycott companies which operate on illegally occupied land.

I am concerned that not all residents of Israel enjoy equal rights. Freedom of religion is great, but equal access to housing, education, health and civil-service employment are also essential in a just society.

I fully support the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and would always challenge anti-semitism if I witnessed it.

I am in favour of international trade, but financial return is not the only bottom-line that matters. Trade should also be used to improve human rights and environmental sustainability.

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