Last month, at an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba in the British Parliament, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, formally announced the creation of the Conservative Friends of Palestine (CFP).
Warsi stated that the founding of the new parliamentary group was “long overdue” and that it would be the start of “something quite interesting”. She said CFP will serve as a counterbalance to the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) which was established in 1974.
For half a century, CFI has been a formidable pro-Israel voice in the higher echelons of the British political establishment. A recent investigation revealed that it has paid for more MPs to go on overseas trips than any other lobby group. In 2014, CFI boasted that 80 percent of Conservative Party MPs were members of the group.
In light of CFI’s historic success, and continuing popularity among Conservative members of parliament, the founding of CFP is undoubtedly a surprising development.
Indeed, Warsi, who became Britain’s first Muslim cabinet minister in 2010, has long been a rare – if not the only – prominent pro-Palestine voice in the Conservative Party.
In 2014, she resigned from David Cameron’s cabinet in protest to its response to the Israeli regime’s bombardment of Gaza, which saw more than 2,000 Palestinians killed. The government’s “approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible,” Warsi wrote in the resignation letter she shared on Twitter.
Warsi’s efforts to counter CFI’s influence over Conservative parliamentarians, however, is in no way an indication that British Conservatives are growing more supportive of Palestinian liberation.
After all, core Tory values and policies continue to be at odds with the goals of and motivations behind the Palestinian struggle. Warsi herself is only in a position to try and promote the Palestinian cause among Conservative representatives because she agreed to join the House of Lords – a body seen by many as antithetical to democracy and the epitome of elitist rule – as a life peer in 2007.