Friday, July 01, 2011

Enough! Stop 'Bibi''s bullies pushing us around!

IT was probably four years ago, when we had the Enough! coalition, formed to campaign against Israel's 40-year long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Taking part in a demonstration through Whitehall, a few people commented about a placard which appeared to show a map of Britain overlaid with settlements, implying that this was an Occupied country under "Zionist control".

The old guy carrying this home-made placard denied he had meant it that way, or intended any anti-Jewish interpretation, saying he had merely wanted to graphically illustrate the scale of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Looking at some recent events, mind, I have had the nasty feeling that comparison with being in Occupied Territories is not all that far from the mark. The arrest on Tuesday of Sheikh Raed Saleh, for allegedly infringing a ban on entry to Britain, was just the latest straw.

Raed Saleh is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and mayor of Umm el Fahm. It is some years since myself and friends enjoyed hospitality at Umm el Fahm town hall, and listened to a discussion between town councillors - in English for our benefit - over their attitude to the State. I don't think I would vote for Raed Saleh or his party, and doubt whether we'd agree on many things, but he was legally elected, and he came to Britain by invitation, entering the country on his own passport, without any subterfuge. Apparently nobody had told the officials at the airport that Sheikh Raed had been banned, and they certainly had not told Raed Saleh.

He had spoken at a meeting in Leicester when he was arrested, and was due to speak at a meeting with MPs at the House of Commons when he was taken away instead to a cell at Paddington Green police station. Both these meetings had been amply publicised, and were arranged with a perfectly legitimate organisation, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which I would certainly not call "extremist".

The arrest, under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, appears to have come at the behest of Mike Freer, Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, who claimed Sheikh Raed had a "history of virulent antisemitism", and referred to his alleged views on 9/11 conspiracy. Freer is new to Westminster politics, and his previous experience in international affairs was going to Iceland in a fruitless quest for return of Barnet council's finances. But evidently he has been briefed on Sheikh Raed, who was also attacked in that well-known organ of objective information the Jewish Chronicle. (See for instance its startling expose of a non-existent ban on Israeli writers by West Dunbartonshire council).

Considering the way Barnet Tories have been hastening to divest themselves of everything that is normally thought of as a local council's responsibility I suppose we should be impressed by their turn to international affairs, even if it means attacking another council's leader, but having seen the attitudes of Freer's close mentor Brian Coleman, I don't want them swaying Britain's foreign policy nor interfering with our right to go along to a meeting if we wish, and to hear the views of a speaker who has been invited.

We might note the contrast with the way a US-based former West Bank settler rabbi was allowed into this country to join the hate-stirring activities of the English Defence League.

It's also ironic that a political leader who remains at liberty within Israel should be banned from Britain because of his anti-Israel views. But what we are seeing here is not even Israeli law and its much-vaunted democracy, but the authoritarian diktat we associate with Israeli rule in the Occupied Territories.

You don't have to be Muslim to be affected. Miri Weingarten is Jewish, and currently working for JNet a news service, and before this she spent ten years working for Israeli Physicians for Human Rights. In 2009 she was invited to speak at three North-West hospitals about her experiences, but two of them cancelled her visits because Zionist apparatchniks in the north-west decreed that her views must be considered "ant-Israel"
Here for once is a Jewish Chronicle report which is fairly objective,
Further comment:

This year, the University of Liverpool halted a course on access to health care, because two people complained about a section dealing with Palestinian refugees, and alleged that literature supporting "suicide bombings" had been distributed. It appears the literature was not part of the course material, but was a Palestine Solidarity pamphlet. I very much doubt whether it advocated suicide bombings. In fact, it appears that the publication allegedly suggested that we attempt to understand the motives that led people to these desperate acts. How dreadful to suggest students should try to understand anything! And how interesting to see that our friend Raheem Kassam, first spotted 'phoning the BBC with what proved dodgy information about a seminar in SOAS, also turns up in the Liverpool affair.

It seems the Liverpool University authorities have decided to let the health course resume, and quite rightly so.

But meanwhile there is the continuing saga at Nottingham, where the university authorities who informed police about the supposedly suspicious activity of a student and a member of staff in downloading an official US document, have also suspended a whistleblowing lecturer who criticised surveillance on student meetings having anything to do with the Middle East.

Supporters of Israel like to boast that it is "the only democracy in the Middle East". Without going into this, it plainly sits hard with maintaining an occupation that has become almost permanent military rule, and conquest. Israeli opponents of Benyamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu say he is a bully, and that the reactionary brute force settler regime imposed on the occupied territories is now starting to overwhelm what remains of Israel's own democracy. They point to legislation requiring "loyalty" oaths, and a recnt move to ban anyone who advocates boycott of the settlements.

Let's wake up to those who are too readily serving as Netanyahu's bullies and trying to push us around here in the UK. And if Britain wants to put itself forward as a broker for peace in the Middle East it had better stop doing the Israeli government's bidding.

Comment by Knesset member Hanan Zouabi in the Guardian:

And on al Jazeera by Robert Lambert:

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