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Warsi's resignation, a 'wake up call' for Cameron

Warsi's resignation, a 'wake up call' for Cameron

Categories: Latest News

Thursday August 07 2014

Peter Oborne in his column in the Daily Telegraph today reflects on Baroness Warsi’s resignation and its likely impact on the Conservative Party drawing on his documentary a few years ago on the ‘Israel Lobby’ in British politics.

Oborne reminds readers of the strength of the Conservative Friends of Israel group in the party, with around half of all Tory MPs belonging to the association, and the role it has played in influencing the party’s statements on Israel since the 2006 Lebanon invasion.

Oborne writes:

“To understand Mr Cameron’s current position, it is necessary to go back to the early days of his leadership, when the new Tory leader struggled to find a way to express the deep public revulsion against Israeli atrocities committed during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Tony Blair, then prime minister, was refusing to call for a ceasefire, let alone condemn the Israeli government.

“In response, Mr Cameron licensed William Hague, then shadow foreign secretary, to describe the Israeli actions as “disproportionate” in a Commons speech. This caused problems. Several Tory donors reportedly threatened to withdraw funding.

“Stuart Polak, Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and one of Westminster’s most effective operators, then set to work…In the aftermath of Mr Hague’s remark, Mr Polak was able to secure a meeting with Mr Cameron. He extracted one crucial concession. As I revealed five years ago in my Channel 4 film about Britain’s pro-Israeli lobby, Mr Cameron agreed that terms such as “disproportionate” were not the sort that Conservatives should use to describe Israeli military action.”

Oborne is right to question “whether it is appropriate that a British Prime Minister should be bound when it comes to any foreign policy issue by promises made while in opposition to an internal Conservative Party lobbying organisation”?

His remark is interesting when considering the comments which have been aired and appended to news articles online suggesting proper condemnation of Israel’s suspected war crimes and violation of international law by party leaders and politicians is a sop to Muslim voters. Is the converse, promises to an internal lobbying organisation that makes considerable donations to the Conservative Party any less desirable in our politics? And should either guide the way politicians approach the subject when the arguments about the disproportionate use of force centre on international humanitarian law and treaty obligations on human rights? As Matthew Norman argued in the Independent, ‘Not in my name’ is the rallying cry not of Muslims in support of the Palestinians but of all British people, and there are many, who believe Israel to be guilty of war crimes.

On Warsi’s resignation and the Conservative’s record on the Middle East, Oborne offers this ray of hope, “appalled by this latest outbreak of Israeli brutality, this group [Conservative pro-Palestinians] is about to re-emerge with additional strength.”

Let us hope they, like Baroness Warsi, take courage and speak truth to power.


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