Archive for December, 2012

It is a time of dreamers…

Friday, December 21st, 2012

We have a fixed term parliament. As Steve Richards said at his brilliant show Rock and Roll Politics (if you get the chance to attend I hightly recommend it) it has not yet been understood quite how much this has changed the rythym of politics.

For example, it has certainly meant that Labour’s Policy Review has had the chance to start under Liam Byrne, splutter to a slow halt and be reborn as an exercise in philospohical exploration under Jon Cruddas. The shape of the new review is unrecognisable from its predecessor and the technocratic rigidity of the previous incarnation has been swept away by much greater and deeper questions that philosophically challenge Labour’s fundamental purpose. As Cruddas himself put it “There is no orthadoxy here”.

This debate excites me and frustrates me in equal measure.

I am excited because I recognise what Labour’s new visionaries are saying as fundamentally true. We must change not just ourselves but politics. We cannot fight as if nothing has changed and we cannot be less than truly bold in our sweeping vision for what the next Labour government can and will achieve. Incremental tinkering is not going to work. So I can only disagree with Hopi Sen, when he says:

“the lefts current flaw is a preference for repeatedly re-laying the telological groundwork or emergent teleonomic self-architecture of the shining city on a hill at the expense of buying the bricks or securing the planning permission required for a small extension to the crumbling house we reside in today .”

At the moment, we seem as a Party somewhat awash with philosophers, with gurus, with dreamers of big and important dreams. I am not one of them. But I share some of Hopi’s frustration. I am a faciliator not a philosopher. I have little patience. I want to act, to do. And I do. I get things done. When I have a task to accomplish, I do so. I don’t necessarily talk a good game, but I certainly deliver one.

I believe the conversation Labour is having is the right conversation, but I want to know how to make it more than a conversation. I need actions to take. I wan tto see concrete proposals coming from these discussions – underpinned by the new philosoply, but with real-life applications – cuturally, socially, economically, politically and electorally. I need levers to pull and buttons to push. I want a concrete solution to campaign for and to get behind that and work out how to make it work.

At the moment, I don’t know how best to help the Party. I don’t dream the big dreams. Those who do are having fascinating conversations about them which I am lucky enough to be occassionally privy to. But they don’t yet translate into a coherent set of actions. The philosophers and facilitators need a better interface.

I remember working for a man once who was a purely visual thinker. When we would meet, he would sketch outour discussion on an electronic whiteboard. When we were finish, he would print of the results as the “minutes” of our meeting. It wasn’t until I had spent another hour turning that picture into a list of action points that I could start doing my job properly. But at least we had an understanding that this translation was a necessary step.

At present, I am not sure that our dreamers recognise the value and need for the groundwork as well as the blue sky. Philosophy alone – however important and from whatever part of the Party – will not get us into Government and will not prepare us for being in Government. To be the new kind of Government that can deal with the seismic societal and economic changes our philopshy demands, we much prepare the practicalities as well as ensuring our thinking is robust.

If 2012 was the year Labour empowered the philosophers, 2013 must be they year we empower the mechanics who will build them their dreams.



Behind the curtains

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Whenever George Osborne decided to play the politics of division over welfare, he adopts the same clunky vision seperating the “shirkers” and the “strivers”. The shirkers apparently, are those people whose windows remain stubbornly covered by curtains or blinds as the hard-working strivers head off in the morning.

As the wife of a shift worker whose bedroom curtains are never opened and whose living room curtains never drawn, this formula doesn’t work for me. Few work harder than my husband who does 10 and 12 hours shifts regularly, but frequently sleeps during the day, during the week. Our closed curtains expose nothing more than the fact that modern work is frequently not something that only takes place between 9 and 5.

But the curtains are important in Osborne’s formulation. They fulfil a role greater than simply the shielding of the sleeping from the light of the sun. This implaction of day-sleep, which he is equating with laziness, is an important part of his narrative, but the curtains to more than that, they are also act as a barrier. They literally stop you seeing the lives of others as they are lived.

Osborne is implying not just laziness, but also – slyly – that those behind the curtains have something to hide. He wants you to imagine what a life of luxury is lived by those being funded by the state. He’a seen the polling, he knows that there is a strong (wrong) tendency among the British public to believe that those on benefits are living the life of Riley. That behind those curtains, Jeremy Kyle is blasting away on a 40 inch plasma screen as another can is drunk, another joint skinned up another take away consumed.

We have enough popular culture reference points to populate the space behind the Curtains. From Kyle himself to Shameless on Channel 4 via the pages or every newspaper every day, we know the picture being built up for us of the lives lived by those on benefits. With those curtains in place, wwe are free to let our imaginations run wild. the insinuation of the sins occuring behind the curtain extend well beyond Sloth deep into gluttony and greed. We ourselves are expected to be envyous of their cushy lives – that envy is Osborne’s political strategy.

But perhaps those curtains are there for reasons of another sin, that of pride. Becuase being on benefits can feel pretty bloody awful. Especially as the government keep telling you how awful you are, how much to blame you are for the ills of society and how little they can afford the pittance they deign to give you. If it were again me being told that all my neighbours resented me by those at the top of society, I might just want to hide away too.

So George’s metaphorical curtains are useful to him, as they block our view of the truth.


Tags: ,

House of Comments – Episode 41 – Why must you record my VOIP calls?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Episode 41 of the House of Comments podcast “Why must you record my VOIP calls?” was recorded yesterday evening and is out today. This week myself and Mark Thompson are joined by the technical editor of PC Pro Magazine Darien Graham-Smith to discuss the recent joint committee report on the draft communications bill, gay marriage, gun control in the US and Maria Miller’s expenses.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here (note – this is a new feed so if you used to subscribe to the old feed a couple of years ago you’ll need to do so again).

Other podcasting software e.g. for Android can be pointed here to subscribe.

You can download the mp3 for the latest episode directly from here.l

If you are a political blogger and wish to be considered as a future guest please drop me a line through the contact page.

Any feedback welcomed in the comments below.

We are having a break for Christmas and the New Year now so will be back recording a new episode on Sunday 6th January.

NOTE: There was a slight technical problem during the recording which meant Mark’s voice is slightly out of sync with Darien and myself. So in a few places where it sounds like we are talking over him a bit, we weren’t, it’s just the way the recording makes it sound!

PS: A big thanks to Audioboo for hosting the podcast for us and especially to Audioboo’s James O’Malley who has helped us out getting relaunched. James is also editor of The Pod Delusion podcast which is about “interesting things” and is well worth a listen too! We would also like to thank Kevin MacLeod from for our theme music.



Labour and welfare: the rocky right path

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Despite what every popular (well unpopular really) image of politicians tells you, no one comes into this game to do harm. We may have diametrically opposed ideologies, we may represent completely different constituencies, we may have completely opposite notions of what it means to do good, but despite everything, politics is – in essence – a game of lofty ambitions.

Read more



House of comments: strivers vs shirkers

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Episode 40 of the House of Comments podcast “Strivers vs Skivers” was recorded yesterday evening and is out today. This week myself and Mark Thompson discuss the Chancellor’s Autumn statement and try to work out who the strivers and skivers are, whether Starbucks are a fair target for tax protests, pluralism with respect to the new “Labour for Democracy” movement and speculate on how the government will respond to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on drug policy.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here (note – this is a new feed so if you used to subscribe to the old feed a couple of years ago you’ll need to do so again).

Other podcasting software e.g. for Android can be pointed here to subscribe.

You can download the mp3 for the latest episode directly from here.

If you are a political blogger and wish to be considered as a future please contact me via the contact form.

Any feedback welcomed in the comments below.

PS: A big thanks to Audioboo for hosting the podcast for us and especially to Audioboo’s James O’Malley who has helped us out getting relaunched. James is also editor of The Pod Delusion podcast which is about “interesting things” and is well worth a listen too! We would also like to thank Kevin MacLeod from for our funky new theme music which we hope you appreciate!



A few quick thoughts on Labour4Democracy

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Thanks to Rowan Draper for storifying this!



House of Comments: Crossing the Rubicon

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Episode 39 of the House of Comments podcast “Crossing the Rubicon” was recorded yesterday evening and is out today. This week myself and Mark Thompson were joined by libertarian blogger Mark Wallace to discuss the Leveson report and political reaction to it, the recent by-elections especially with respect to the UKIP surge and what we would like to see in the Chancellor’s pre-budget statement this week.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here (note – this is a new feed so if you used to subscribe to the old feed a couple of years ago you’ll need to do so again).

Other podcasting software e.g. for Android can be pointed here to subscribe.

You can download the mp3 for the latest episode directly from here.

If you are a political blogger and wish to be considered as a future guest please drop me a line through the contact form.

Any feedback welcomed in the comments below.

PS: A big thanks to Audioboo for hosting the podcast for us and especially to Audioboo’s James O’Malley who has helped us out getting relaunched. James is also editor of The Pod Delusion podcast which is about “interesting things” and is well worth a listen too!


Tags: , , , ,

Can we find middle ground on the Middle East?

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

I don’t often write about foreign policy and I very rarely write about the situation between Israel and Palestine. This isn’t because I don’t care. My focus in my writing is predominantly from a domestic political perspective, but I know that decisions about contentious foreign policy issues have strong and lasting effects on domestic politics. I know that even in non-national elections, these issues get caught up in the hurly burly of politics.

For a small, but very vocal minority on the left, international politics – in particular the politics of the Middle East (and South America to an extent) are more dominant issues in their discourse than domestic concerns. For those of us outside of these groups, their passion and polarisation seems both overwhelming and frightening. There is a sense that to try to ask questions is to blunder in, at anytime risking being labelled anti-Semitics or Islamophobic, a Trot or a Tory.

As the latest crisis in Gaza unfolded, I realised how little I really know about a conflict that has lasted all my life. I asked on Twitter whether there were any news sources that both sides considered to be unbiased where I could find basic information. The answer was both expected and depressing. It was no.

I was reminded of a passage in Deborah Mattinson’s excellent book Talking to a Brick  Where she says that audiences in focus groups frequently found clips not from Newsnight or the Today Programme to be the most informative, but clips from the children-oriented Newsround. I was discussing this with a friend last night; A woman just as intelligent and well informed as myself, and just as lost in the background of some of the long running stories that are reported – from the Middle East crisis to Rwanda, the Congo, and Thailand. We agreed that what would be ideal would be a “pre-news” programme that explained the background to the issues before the actual news explained the recent developments.

With this in mind, I approached two friends from the Labour Party, Luke Akehurst – Director of We Believe in Israel and Seph Brown from the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding to see if they would answer some quite basic questions from their own perspectives on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Given all that was happening and the demands that made on their time, I am incredibly grateful to them for agreeing to do so.

I tried to keep the questions quite basic and unbiased. I presented the same questions to both of them. I have alternated whose answers are presented first and tossed a coin to decide whose answers would be presented first on question one.

I am presenting their answers without commentary below. They have helped me to gain a greater degree of understanding of the conflict. For anyone feeling as lost as I was and too daunted by the vitriol and passion that is flung around in equal measures on this topic, I hope this helps:

1. What are the principle areas of contention and what are the principle areas of agreement?

Luke Akehurst: A majority of Israelis and Palestinians would accept the principle of a two state solution (though there are large and determined minorities opposed to this). In previous rounds of talks the key areas of contention have been how to delineate the exact borders (i.e. what happens to Israeli settlements in the West Bank), the future of Jerusalem, and whether Palestinian refugees and their descendants should have the right to return to Israel.

Seph Brown: The international community is solidly behind the two-state solution. Polling suggests that Israelis and Palestinians prefer this solution as well. Unfortunately, this is effectively where agreement ends. The status of Jerusalem is contested, the final borders, resource rights and the status of the 5million Palestinian refugees who live in and around Israel and Palestine all need to be settled. All the while these issues remain unresolved, the Israeli occupation entrenches further and radicalism appears to be on the increase. Even the two-state solution itself – as dozens of leaders and commentators increasingly suggest – may be no longer viable.

2. What reasonable solutions have been proposed over the years and what has the response to these been?

Seph Brown: There have been numerous official and unofficial initiatives over the years (in fact the 1993 Oslo Accords began as a secret channel between PLO officials and two Israeli academics). The 1947 partition plan was rejected by Palestinians and Arab states on the basis that it gave most of the land to the minority population. This is a running theme throughout negotiations and their breakdown –Palestinians being asked to accept a smaller and smaller portion of the land they used to own 100% of. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 offered Israel full recognition and security guarantees within the pre-1967 from all 22 Arab states– Israel rejected this out of hand.

Luke Akehurst: In 1947 the UN proposed a Partition Plan for Palestine which the Jewish community accepted but the Arab side rejected.

After the 6 day war in 1967 the UN said that Israel should withdraw from territory captured but it was entitled to recognition and secure borders  (the land for peace formula). Israel accepted the principle.

In 2000 Clinton proposed a 2-state solution. The Palestinians would get most of Gaza and the West Bank, Jerusalem would be shared, and a limited number of refugees would be allowed to return to Israel. Israel accepted in principle but the Palestinians rejected.

3. What can, should and would be given up by the Palestinians to achieve peace?

Luke Akehurst: The hardest concession for the Palestinians is on the right of return. But this is the key concession to make peace possible. Israel will only accept a two state deal if it means 2 states for 2 peoples, i.e. they will not have to accept a huge influx of Palestinian refugee descendants that would undermine Israel’s character as a Jewish state. The Palestinians also have to show flexibility on the exact borders. Territory equivalent to the pre-1967 borders is feasible, but they will have to accept Israeli annexation of major settlement blocks, including in Jerusalem, in return for land swaps.

Seph Brown: The Palestinian view is that they made their “historic compromise” when in 1988 their leadership, the PLO, recognised Israel within the pre-1967 lines. This meant giving up 78% of the land of historic Palestine, leaving them with only the West Bank and Gaza. Asking Palestinians to give up more is likely to exacerbate the situation further – Radical groups and their ideologies are based on the reality that moderate Fatah have failed to achieve liberation through compromise. That said, it does seem highly unlikely that Israel will allow Palestinian refugees to achieve their full Right of Return.

4. What can, should and would be given up by the Israelis to achieve peace?

Seph Brown: Having complete military and economic hegemony, Israel holds most of the cards. The simple truth is that rather than using this position to negotiate peace, it invests heavily in the occupation and expropriation of more and more Palestinian land on the West Bank through expansion of settlements which are illegal under international law. Israel must remove these settlements to allow the creation of a viable and secure Palestinian state. Moreover, Israel’s blockade of Gaza does not prevent weapons getting to Hamas; it gives Hamas an income through taxation of the smuggling tunnels and causes massive suffering to 1.7m Palestinians in Gaza – a failed policy which needs to end.

Luke Akehurst: Israel will have to give up control of most of the West Bank and accept a degree of security risk in doing so. It will also have to accept an arrangement which gives sovereignty of Arab east Jerusalem to the Palestinians and shares sovereignty in the Old City. It should also be willing to evacuate isolated settlements or see them come under Palestinian sovereignty. A gesture or creatively worded device to address Palestinian ‘right of return’ may also be necessary.

5. Isn’t the building of illegal settlements counterproductive? Doesn’t it lead to a greater security threat for the Israeli People?

Luke Akehurst: Most construction is in parts of Jerusalem and West Bank settlement blocks which Israel can expect to keep in a final status deal. New construction outside those areas will ultimately be abandoned (as settlements in the Sinai and Gaza were).

The settlement blocks are motivated in part by security concerns, as they enable Israel to hold key points which makes their borders more defensible. Without the West Bank Israel’s coastal plain (where most of its population and industry are) is 8 miles wide at its narrowest and overlooked by strategic high ground, and Jerusalem is vulnerable to being cut off.

Seph Brown: Yes and yes. There has not been a single point during negotiations that settlements have not expanded – even during the ‘freeze’ of 2010. Israel invests billions of dollars on their construction, mortgage and transport subsidies, on top of the military occupation itself which protects them. Settlements control 42% of the West Bank and most of its natural resources. Settler violence against Palestinians increased 144% in from 2009-2011 – 90% of incidents reported to the Israeli police are closed without indictment. In 2011, 622 Palestinian homes, water cisterns and other essential structures were demolished, displacing almost 1,100 Palestinians – 60% to make way for settlements.

6. Are rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel counterproductive? Don’t they lead to a greater security threat for the Palestinian people?

Seph Brown: I want to say “yes and yes” but unfortunately, Israel has proven that violence pays. While Fatah and the PLO attempt legitimate, non-violent responses to the occupation (from weekly grassroots protests to appealing to the United Nations) they are labelled “rioters” and “unilateralists” by Israel and her supporters. Meanwhile, Hamas achieved the release of over a thousand Palestinian detainees through the abduction of a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Hamas responds to the blockade and attacks on Gaza with rocket fire on civilian areas (which are war crimes) and then Israel negotiates with them. To empower moderates we must engage with their nonviolent initiatives.

Luke Akehurst: Yes. And there is no conceivable justification for them since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely in 2005. They are also immoral as they target civilians indiscriminately.

7. Does the reputation of the two sides of the conflict matter to them? Does reputational damage affect them internally?

Luke Akehurst: Israel is pulled between 2 inclinations. On the one hand Zionism is about wining international recognition and legitimacy for Jewish national rights in their historic home, and so Israelis care that the rest of the world recognises their legitimacy. On the other hand Zionist ideology and Israeli political culture (and Jewish history) teaches that the Jews can only rely on themselves and the rest of the world cannot be trusted to protect them. There is also a strong sense that the rest of the world simply does not understand what’s going on and the threats Israel has to deal with.

Seph Brown: All parties care about their internal constituencies first, followed by their core international supporters. No amount of international condemnation has ever prevented settlement expansion nor completely deterred Israelis and Palestinians from resorting to violence. Israel is really only concerned by the United States’ position – as we have seen through recent events at the United Nations. But it is important to realise that there are not just “two sides” but many stakeholders all playing to a specific constituency – different parties in Israel and Palestine. For example Fatah seeks a broad nonviolent base, while extreme groups like Israel’s ‘hilltop youth’ or Islamic Jihad have a smaller base unaffected by reputational considerations.

8. What impact should levels of inequality between the two sides have when pursuing peace?

Seph Brown: The sheer asymmetry between Israelis and Palestinians is a fundamental cause of the conflict. Extreme inequality can be found at all levels. GDP per capita is around 10 times higher for Israelis than Palestinians. On the West Bank, Palestinians can receive as little as 36% of their W.H.O. daily recommended allowance of water – settlers get 242%. In Gaza, 90% of water is unusable – in part because Gaza’s only sewerage plant was destroyed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead (materials to rebuild it have been banned under the blockade). There is also a legal inequality: Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to military law, while Israeli settlers under civilian law. Such examples of discrimination contribute to increased tension.

Luke Akehurst:Both sides make claims to be the weaker party. The Palestinians say they are occupied by a strong state and army. Israel says it is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab states. At the end of the day, in the negotiating room, each side has something the other wants. Israel has land that the Palestinians want and the Palestinians have their historic claims which Israel wants to see closed in order to gain fixed borders and regional and international legitimacy. This is why negotiations happen at all. This is why a deal is possible in the right circumstances.

9. Given the insecurity felt by the Israeli people and the internal politics that have emerged as a result is full Israeli engagement with a peace process a politically viable option?

Luke Akehurst: Yes, for the reason given above, and because polling shows most Israelis would prefer not to be occupying another nation, which is huge drain on the country in so many ways.

Seph Brown: Polling routinely shows that politics in Israel is becoming increasingly right-wing, but it also tends to show that the peace process simply isn’t a very high priority for most Israelis (over economic and social issues for example). Therefore, until the most recent flare up, there simply hasn’t been any pressure on Israel’s government to engage with the Palestinians. For Israel’s current right-wing coalition the theme is decidedly conflict management rather than conflict resolution – so long as settlements continue to expand. External pressure will be the only way to kick-start negotiations – which is one of the reasons the Palestinian Authority appealed to the UN for help.

10. Does the peace process – as it did in Northern Ireland – have to involve engagement with organisations deemed terrorist (by external organisations) such as Hamas?

Seph Brown: Israel and the west are already negotiating with Hamas (albeit behind closed doors or through mediators). The reason for this is that Hamas is a part of the fabric of Palestinian society – it commands 30-40% support among electors – so trying to ignore them will derail any peace talks before they have begun. Hamas have shown themselves to be open to negotiations (despite their constitution ruling them out) and also capable upholding agreements (see the Shalit deal or various ceasefires). Hamas have an undeniably grim founding charter, but the guiding principle we need to bear in mind is that you do not make peace with your friends – but your enemies.

Luke Akehurst: The reason Hamas is not in the peace process is not inherently because it uses violence but because it is ideologically opposed, as its very core, to the existence of Israel. There can be no peace with Hamas unless Hamas changes, though there may be an option for de-facto long term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The best hope for a peace agreement is for Israel to agree terms with Palestinian moderates, which then puts Hamas in the dilemma of having to support or reject the deal.

11. If it does, what conditions much Hamas adhere to before it can be a success?

Luke Akehurst: Hamas has to accept that Israel is here to stay. It’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future as they are currently under no pressure to make that concession.

Seph Brown: No-one can negotiate with a gun to their head. Therefore, just as Israel must end settlement construction for talks to begin, so Hamas must renounce the use of violence as a political tool. It is unreasonable (and unsustainable) for any party to have to negotiate while their constituencies are under threat. However, the other two ‘Quartet principles’ are unnecessarily restrictive: 1) Many Palestinians believe it deeply unfair to recognise Israel without reciprocation of their own state. 2) Asking Hamas to abide by all previous diplomatic agreements – when most have been so comprehensively violated they are irrelevant – could prove counterproductive.

12. If it does not, who can act as honest brokers in the process and how can they get all sides to agree?

Seph Brown: Egypt has shown itself one of the few partners willing and able to bring the parties to a place where agreements can be made. However, this may not be sustainable in the long term since it is Israel and Palestine who will have to live side by side and will have to be able to speak directly and on an equal footing on a whole range of issues. It is not practical to rely on mediators in perpetuity.

Luke Akehurst: See above. The Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt can help mediate practical ceasefire and coexistence arrangements between Israel and Gaza, but if armed groups in Gaza continue to arm, the fighting will resume at some point.

13. What role should the USA play in brokering peace?

Luke Akehurst: The US is in the strongest position to act as mediator as it has most leverage with the parties and the rest of the region. It needs to pressure, cajole and incentivise the parties along the way and keep them focused.

But the US can’t make peace happen. The key breakthroughs in the past – Israeli-Egyptian peace, the Oslo Accords – have been brought about by the parties themselves due what they thought was in their interests, not because of US pressure.

Seph Brown: Many commentators agree that the United States has shown itself incapable of being a truly honest broker, primarily because of decidedly partisan domestic circumstances in congress and amongst the general public. However, as the only power capable of making the massive financial investment which will be needed to secure and implement any peace deal, US close involvement will continue to be essential. Necessary compensation to settlers and refugees, continued training of Palestinian security and bureaucratic infrastructure will amount to billions of dollars over many years.

14. What role should the rest of the international community play in brokering peace?

Seph Brown: In the end, Israel and Palestine need to work out their differences together, but the international community has a pivotal (and as yet, untapped) role in ensuring the best possible environment for talks to be fruitful. First, the international community has to recognise both Israel and Palestine within their pre-1967 borders. Then we must enforce international law and ensure our economic activity reflects this. Israel’s settlement programme is roundly condemned, but we continue to trade with the settler economy en masse. As an initial practical and measured step, this has to stop.

Luke Akehurst: The Arab world should back the Palestinian moderates and the two state solution. Europe should use its leverage on the Arab states to make them do that and it should play a supporting role, closely coordinated with the US in top down talks. Europe can also help with Palestinian state building and promoting grass roots coexistence and dialogue. The EU should not try to launch its own initiatives, not coordinated with the US. It never helps.

15. Why have sides on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the UK become about left and right?

Luke Akehurst: The far left adopted the Palestinian national cause when it embraced post-colonialism after 1967, and it incorrectly painted Zionism as a colonial movement propped up by the US, which it regarded as the greatest danger to world peace.

People who are warmer towards the USA and the promotion of liberal and democratic values also tend to be warmer to Israel, which represents democracy in a sea of Middle Eastern autocracy.

Seph Brown: My view is that this is only really true at the far ends of the spectrum. The hard left have an anti-imperialist obsession with Palestine while the hard right have an Islamophobic fervour which drives them to support Israel. In the Labour and Conservative parties you will find a whole range of views. In reality, the boiling down of this issue to left and right has an extremely damaging effect on the discussion. Labour are particularly bad at this, labelling one another ‘Trots’ and ‘Zionists’ for taking various positions. Israel-Palestine is essentially a human rights issue and should have little relevance to left or right wing ideologies.

16. Why have the facts themselves become contentious? Why is it impossible to find a source of news that neither side believe to be biased?

Seph Brown: A Palestinian-American academic, Edward Said once said “facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.” The only proper thing to do with this issue – like any other – is to trust no single source and ensure that you cross-reference everything you read.

If you are worried about biased news, the only real sources to consider are those on the ground, working in the region and able to give hard evidence of life in Israel and under the occupation and blockade in Palestine.

a) Join Caabu (The Council for Arab-British Understanding) to receive our Daily Broadsheet digest of all Middle East news and come to our public events on a range of issues.

b) The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) supply excellent maps, presentations and humanitarian factsheets giving weekly field updates on settlement growth, settler violence, home demolitions and more.

c) Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is a healthcare charity who documents an array of health issues across Occupied Palestine.

d) B’Tselem is an Israeli human rights NGO who operate on the ground in Occupied Palestine to document human rights abuses by the government, settlers and Palestinians.

e) Al Haq is a Palestinian human rights NGO who seek to enforce the rule of law in Occupied Palestine.

f) Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO for former soldiers who seek to expose abuse and malpractice by the Israeli army in Occupied Palestine.

g) Human Rights Watch have an active programme of reporting abuses in the region.

h) Defence for Children International has an active Palestine Section who document abuse against children in the military court system and elsewhere in Occupied Palestine.

Luke Akehurst: A huge amount of high quality research means the truth about the history is available. However, most people don’t have time for all that so they are vulnerable to being spun a biased version by one side. This is also true of many of the journalists writing about the conflict, who in any case apply their prejudices or political orientations. The extent to which history has been rewritten about how we got to this point, particularly by left wing British journalists, is mind boggling. For a fair and reasonable account, albeit from an Israel-sympathetic perspective, see BICOM’s(Britain Israel Communication Centre) FAQs (






Tags: , , ,


© All content is the copyright of Emma Burnell but I give permission for its use as long as it is properly credited, unless otherwise stated.
The views stated are those of Emma Burnell and the other occassional contributors.
They are not the views of any employer or organisation with which these individuals are involved.
Scarlet Standard | RSS Feed | WordPress | Redtopia by Jeremy Clark | Top
50 mySQL queries executed in 0.584 seconds.