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Camden row over Middle East

PUBLISHED: 16:26 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 07 September 2010

A ROW over conflict in the Middle East has broken out in Camden with Tories accusing the Lib Dems of using the issue for political gain. The Lib Dems have been putting out leaflets in the south of the borough calling for a stop to arms for

Susanna Wilkey

A ROW over conflict in the Middle East has broken out in Camden with Tories accusing the Lib Dems of using the issue for political gain.

The Lib Dems have been putting out leaflets in the south of the borough calling for a stop to arms for Israel. While, in the north, leaflets focusing on Jewish news in the area, complete with Hebrew lettering, have been distributed.

Tory Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary candidate Chris Philp said: "To pretend to be a friend of Israel to the Jewish community and an enemy of Israel to the Muslim community - all in the same borough - is shocking.

"They are violently anti-Israel in the south of the borough and deliberately targeting a Muslim community to build up hatred in that community for their own electoral advantage, which I think is shocking particularly when there is a large Jewish community in the north. It is a deliberate attempt by the Liberal Democrats to attack Israel as a way of encouraging Muslims voters to vote for them."

But the Lib Dems have defended the leaflets and say it is an attempt by their opponents to mislead constituents over their policy.

Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary candidate Ed Fordham said: "You cannot take a fixed position on the conflict because it does not help anyone.

"We are trying to ensure we are in conversation with all the constituents.

"We are pro peace and against military action. Stop arming Israel was a specific message from Nick Clegg during the Gaza incursion and he was referring specifically to that time.

"When the Gaza incursion occurred Jo Shaw [Lib Dem Holborn and St Pancras candidate] and I both had Jewish residents worried about their relatives in Israeli areas and we had Palestinians worried about Gaza where they are from and where their family lives."

Mr Fordham recently spent two and a half weeks in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. He added: "I would encourage debate about the conflict because fixed positions on Gaza, Israel and the West Bank will not help anyone."

But current Labour Hampstead and Highgate MP Glenda Jackson said: "This is not the only confusion within the Lib Dems.

"But it is not my experience that there is a division in opinion of the constituents in the borough.

"In all the years I have represented Hampstead and Highgate, I have never seen any change in what people think is the best way forward for the Middle East.

"By far the bulk of correspondence I receive is arguing for the wall to be taken down, to stop building additional homes in the West Bank and recently it has been about lifting the embargos and rebuilding Gaza.

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