David Ward MP : I merely said that ‘Israel should never have been created’.

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

Baroness Tonge and Manuel Hassassian last night.

Baroness Tonge and Manuel Hassassian last night.

Last night in Parliament (ex-Liberal Democrat) Baroness Jenny Tonge said “If they had only obeyed their own Ten Commandments and half the stuff in the Old Testament…Israel could have been a force for good in the world” (see clip here from 8 mins. 35 secs.)

Tonge was speaking at the Palestine Return Centre event Britain, It’s Time To Apologize for the Balfour Declaration.

Also speaking was Bradford East MP David Ward who in January condemned Jews who “could within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza”.

In July he tweeted that “the Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?”. He was temporarily suspended from the Liberal Democrats.

But, last night, he claimed he had been suspended for something he didn’t say:

“I didn’t say Israel shouldn’t exist but that it should never have been created. I said it was an apartheid state. If Israel isn’t an apartheid state then find me one that is.”

And last night he said “Israel are winning. We are losing hands down”. His main concern was that there is no proper plan to counteract this. But it’s certainly quite a change from his July claim “the Zionists are losing”!

Also speaking was Lord Ahmed Nazir who was jailed in 2009 for dangerous driving where another road user died. Nazir then blamed his imprisonment on a Jewish conspiracy.

Last night he claimed that “we have a great moral responsibility” and “a huge burden on our conscience” in light of the Balfour Declaration.

“East Jerusalem is being evacuated slowly, there is ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. Whether they are Christian or they are Muslim they are being thrown out of their own country,” he continued. (see clip here)

Jenny Tonge added Israel has the right to exist but “it must start behaving properly and treat people in the Middle East the way they want to be treated”. She said Israel is a “threat to world peace and a threat to itself” and continued:

“We must take on the pro-Israel lobby. We will not be silenced. We are not anti-Semitic, we are anti-injustice. What happened to the Palestinians is the greatest injustice in the last 100 years.

They are clever. They call it the Jewish state of Israel so if you criticise the Jewish state they say you are criticising Jews and that you are anti-Semitic. But it is directed against the Israeli government, not the Jewish people. Many Jews join us.

We must boycott Israeli goods. The Israel lobby puts so much pressure on politicians. We must do the same.”

Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative in the UK, condemned the Balfour Declaration. He said the Palestinians had been denied the right to self-determination and their basic human rights “due to the pledge by Great Britain to the Zionists”.

He said the Palestinian “right of return” was a “sacred right” and that the “non-Judaisation of the state of Israel is our red line”.

Hassassian continued by saying that Israel is acting as a “pariah state” and “let the Israelis go to hell” and that he would only negotiate with the Israelis when they had first drawn Israel’s borders for him.

He finished by saying “together we can march to Jerusalem” where there should be “no monopoly of one religion at the expense of others. Israel’s Jerusalem is a slap in the face of humanity.”

Meanwhile, if I was living in the Bradford East parliamentary constituency I would be flummoxed to see my MP David Ward spending a disproportionate amount of his time attacking Israel. Have the people of Bradford East had all their problems solved?

The 2015 general election is not too far away and Ward has a tiny majority. Maybe it’s time for the people of Bradford East to elect someone who focuses more on them.

Palestinian Amb to the UK: “I’ve started to believe that the Jews are the only children of God”

The following is a first person account by London-based blogger, Richard Millett

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Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hugh Lanning, Manuel Hassassian in Parliament last night.

Last night Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian “Ambassador” to the UK, said he believes that the Jews are the children of God because nobody is stopping them from building their “messianic dream of Eretz Israel”. He called for a “one state solution” and looked forward to the world’s Muslim population reaching two billion.

He was speaking in Parliament at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign4 years on from Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’: Israel’s siege and attacks continue. Also speaking were Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP and Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather. Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn played host.

Addressing an audience of some 100 people Hassassian declared:

“We, the Palestinians, the most highly educated and intellectual in the Middle East, are still struggling for the basic right of self-determination. What an irony. How long are we going to suffer and be patient with Israel? You know I’m reaching the conclusion that the Jews are the children of God, the only children of God and the Promised Land is being paid by God! I have started to believe this because nobody is stopping Israel building its messianic dream of Eretz Israel to the point I believe that maybe God is on their side. Maybe God is partial on this issue.”

Then removing his “PLO and Palestinian Authority hat” he continued:

“There is no two state solution. Democracies don’t fight each other. If Israel is a democracy I would claim that the Palestinians are also a democracy. If democracies cannot fight each other then why not have one state?; one man, one vote.”

On Israel’s future he said:

“Israel will never continue to exist as a pariah state. Israel could never continue to fight wars against the Palestinians, against the Arabs and the Muslims. The United States is not going to be Israel’s strategic ally for time immemorial. And today we have 1.5 billion Muslims. In 20 years we will have 2 billion. And those 2 billion, forget about politics, from a religious perspective will not allow Israel to continue desecrating their religious rights (in Jerusalem). And then what?”

And on what could have been Hassassian said:

“What does Israel want? In 2002 the Arabs gave them the Arab Peace Initiative. Relinquishing territories occupied in 1967 would have led to normalisation of relations with Israel. If the Israelis had accepted that the flag of Israel would have been hoisted in Mecca, in Iran, in Tehran! If they had accepted. But Israel does not want peace. Israel nurtures on conflict, and the Zionist Ideology is to have the entire West Bank, the entire Palestine.”

Andy Slaughter MP accused Israel of deliberately killing whole Palestinian families and controlling the Palestinians’ calorie count. He said Israel supplied Palestinians just enough to stop them from starving and he described, what he called, Israel’s failure to supply clean water, electricity and decent homes as “collective punishment”.

Sarah Teather MP accused Israel of “wiping out five thousand homes” in one part of Gaza alone and that nothing could justify this.  She said that Israel must let “basic goods” into Gaza.

PSC Chair Hugh Lanning said he noticed that during Operation Cast Lead CNN only reported on the Hamas rockets. Lanning then claimed that “while the occupation and siege continues Israel is ALWAYS the aggressor”.  He also claimed that Israel had banned 180 life saving medicines from Gazan hospitals “because they might save lives”.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke about Gazans who had “never known the ability to move out of Gaza”. Ironically, he then introduced us to Rania Al-Najjar who has just completed a Masters in International Relations at London’s City University. Rania is from Gaza. She said, inter alia, that there are no economic opportunities in Gaza and that unemployment there is the highest in the world, relatively.

We then heard from two “1948 Palestinians” who live in Israel. One of them had spent three spells in Israeli prisons, his sentences ranging from one to eight years. He spoke about the remaining prisoners who had forgotten what the sky and moon look like and how they had not touched the hands of their mothers or children for many years.

Finally, Hugh Lanning announced that there will be a “controversial PSC conference” on April 13th where there will be “an open dialogue with the people of Gaza and their leaders”.

In other words, an open dialogue with Hamas.

CiF Watch Special Report: Latest Assault on Israel’s legitimacy, ‘Air Flotilla 2′, April 15th, 2012

A guest post by Hadar Sela (this report may also be viewed on scribd by clicking here)

Hot on the heels of the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ will come yet another event designed to continue the assault on Israel’s legitimacy – the April 15th ‘Air Flotilla 2′ (also known as ‘Welcome to Palestine’) or flytilla‘ as last year’s  (Hamas approved) similar event was dubbed.

Once again, the aim is to have large numbers of international “activists flying in to Ben Gurion airport on one day – in the words of the organisers – as part of the “challenge to Israel’s illegal siege of Palestine”.

“There is no way into Palestine other than through Israeli control points. Israel has turned Palestine into a giant prison, but prisoners have a right to receive visitors.

Welcome to Palestine 2012 will again challenge Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank while the settler paramilitaries and army commit brutal crimes against a virtually defenceless Palestinian civilian population.”

The similarity of the methodology and rhetoric of this project to that of the Global March to Jerusalem is no coincidence; several of the organisers and endorsers are mutual to both campaigns.  In fact, Mazin Qumsiyeh recently put out calls for volunteers for both projects on his blog, claiming that over 1,500 Europeans have already purchased tickets for April 15th whilst the overall target number appears to be 2,500.

Endorsers of the Air Flotilla include occasional Guardian contributor and ‘Right to Enter activist Sam Bahour, Tony Benn (controversial president of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ which was involved in the GMJ) , Noam Chomsky (a GMJ endorser), Nazareth-based former Guardian journalist  Jonathan Cook, ‘Free Gaza’ and ISM activist Hedy Epstein and PA Ambassador Manuel Hassassian (whose mission promoted the Global March to Jerusalem).

Also on board are Ronnie Kasrils (a GMJ endorser), Nurit Peled, John Pilger, Jean Ziegler, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb ( a GMJ endorser), Susan Abulhawa (a GMJ endorser), Ali Abunimah (whose ‘electronic Intifada’ is promoting the Air Flotilla), Mustafa Barghouti (a GMJ organizer), Abdelfattah Abu Srour of the Al Rowwad Culltural Centre (which supported the 2011 flytilla and the GMJ) and Desmond Tutu (also a GMJ endorser).

Mustafa Barghouti’s ‘Palestinian National Initiative was also an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem, as was The Siraj Centre (where Mazin Qumsiyeh is a member of the board) and the Palestine Justice Network which is currently involved in the organization of the Air Flotilla. The Palestine Justice Network solicits donations through the International Solidarity Campaign-linked ‘Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People’, of which Qumsiyeh is head.

In April 2011 the Palestine Justice Network launched its ‘One State Initiative’ and as can be seen from the endorsements, many of the names also appear on the list of those supporting or organising the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign, as well as on the list of signatories of the Stuttgart Declaration.

In short, as was the case with the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem, the Air Flotilla initiators are united by their rejection of the internationally-accepted route of negotiations aimed at leading to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Their aim is an imposed ‘one-state solution’ which would result in the end of self-determination for the Jewish people.

A list of foreign organisations endorsing the Air Flotilla – predominantly from the United Kingdom – can be seen here. Among the individual endorsers is Maha Rahwanji of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign executive committee. The PSC was of course heavily involved in the organization of the Global March to Jerusalem. Something of Rahwanji‘s mindset can be understood from her Twitter timeline.

Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ based in the UK is also promoting the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ project, as is Iran’s ‘Press TV’ – according to which “[t]his year, the Welcome to Palestine movement aims to overwhelm Israeli officials by its sheer number of members”.

Purveyor of anti-Semitic cartoons Carlos Latuff presented a gift to the campaign:

The ‘Welcome to Palestine’ campaign has no qualms about using the false – and highly charged – canard of ‘apartheid’ on its official website in order to curry support.

“Plans are underway to challenge Israeli apartheid during 2012 by having a large number of international activists land in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.”

The campaign’s supporting Twitter account – described as an ‘awareness campaign’ – goes even further, propagating lies and descending into anti-Semitic Nazi analogies.

The end-game of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ Air Flotilla is, however, revealed in this Tweet:

One of the people operating the ‘Airflotilla2′ Twitter account and its online campaign in general is Gaza Strip-born Ayman Qwaider who is currently resident in Spain.

Before leaving Gaza to study abroad, Qwaider worked for the ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ – a Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood project which is headed by UK-based Hamas operative  Mohammed Sawalha. Sawalha was instrumental in the organization of both the 2010 and 2011 flotillas and was also one of the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem.

Ayman Qwaider has written for the Palestine Telegraph which is operated by Sameh Habeebwho is also spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza’ and connected to the Hamas-linked Palestinian Return Centre based in London which is proscribed by Israel.  Last year Qwaider was active in the flotilla campaign on behalf of the ‘Spanish Boat to Gaza’, including giving a talk at a Spanish university.

Part of the online support campaign for the ‘Airflotilla2′ initiative includes an e-mail campaign aimed at members of Parliament.

“Palestinians resist.  The British Government, however, joins with Israel to isolate the Palestinians while they are being dispossessed.  The UK Government, for example, refused to support the recent successful Palestinian bid to join UNESCO in the teeth of bitter US and Israeli opposition. The UK Government has also signalled it will oppose the Palestinian bid for full membership of the UN.

When our governments endorse illegal Israeli occupation, concerned citizens need to take action.”

The main difference between the Airflotilla2 and the Global March to Jerusalem is that the former is designed to appeal primarily – though not exclusively - to European audiences, as reflected in its campaigning and publicity which includes websites and advertising in various European  languages.

FRANCE : contact@bienvenuepalestine.com
UK : uk@bienvenuepalestine.com
SPAIN : pazahora1@gmail.com
ITALY : benvenutinpalestina2012@gmail.com
BELGIUM : bienvenuepalestine.wallonie.be@gmail.com / et pour Bruxelles (Brussels) : welcomepalestinebelgium@yahoo.com
GREECE : greece@welcometopalestine.info
USA: palestine2012us@gmail.com
PALESTINE : jneno@ejepal.org (school project) and info@palestinejn.org

In the Netherlands, Electronic Intifada’s Adri Nieuwhof appears to be utilising her connections within the ‘human rights’/international aid community in order to publicize the project.

Several of the ‘Airflotilla2′ organisers took part in last year’s failed flytilla including Myriam de Ly and David Dupire from Belgium and Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Events were held in Paris , Brussels and other European cities earlier this year to promote the campaign.

The final speaker in the video – Jaques Neno of the EJE (Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education) is also one of the project’s organisers, along with George N Rishmawi – co-founder of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), head of the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC), coordinator of the Siraj Centre and a former board member of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between Peoples. As stated above, Airflotilla2 and GMJ organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh is connected to both the latter organisations.

Neno tells potential participants that they should expect three possible scenarios. The first is that they will get arrested.  In that case, according, to him “you have won because when Israel puts you in prison it shows how it becomes more and more fascist”.

The second scenario involves the activists being prevented from boarding their flights at the point of departure, as happened in many cases in 2011, but which Neno appears to consider unlikely this year. The third scenario is that they will reach their destination.

Obviously, provocation and bad public relations for Israel are yet again the real name of the game and several factors suggest that this latest publicity stunt aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy should not be taken lightly.

One of these factors is the date which, although originally planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of ISM activist Vittorio Arrigoni, is also the day after the end of the Pessach holiday when Ben Gurion airport will be particularly busy with a large volume of travelers. For example, the UK airline Jet2 has added an additional flight to its usual schedule on that day which is probably aimed at returning Pessach visitors to Manchester, but is likely to be used by ‘Airflotilla2′ activists from Scotland and the north of England.

Another factor is the unverified claim by ‘Welcome to Palestine’ organisers (Palestine Justice Network) that following the 2011 flytilla during which the majority of activists were not permitted to board their flights, “[a]s a result of legal challenges, many European airlines not only fully refunded the tickets, but also agreed not to repeat the incident.”  In the event that airlines will refuse to transport the activists, demonstrations are already being planned.

The International Solidarity Movement in France is already very indignant regarding a statement put out recently by the French Foreign Ministry advising its citizens not to take part in the ‘Airflotilla2′.

The British government has similarly advised against participation in the project, but such recommendations are unlikely to make much of an impression on these activists, as can be seen by the reaction of the French organisers.

“We have no illusions about our leaders and the fact they eat in the hand of the Israeli occupation. We know how they behaved in July, and more generally how they refuse to apply international law and the principle of reciprocity, then they leave to enter France all Israelis who wish, including criminals war. They do not even defend French diplomats when they are humiliated, beaten or injured by the police or the IDF.”

“The method of intimidation will not work. Participants in the mission “Welcome to Palestine” have the right, justice and morality on their side. And they are aware of the seriousness of the situation for the Palestinians, every day more persecuted and dispossessed. They are not ashamed to go visit them. And to do head high, without lying, without going into the game of the occupant, which would wipe out Palestine and the Palestinians.

Gentlemen of the Quai d’Orsay, gentlemen of the government, history will record that you do not have much dignity.”

On the publicity front, the involvement of Ali Abunimah in this campaign means that we are likely to see a far more intense level of activity, particularly on social networks, than was the case with the Global March to Jerusalem which Abunimah and others shunned.

UPDATE, April 11th:

The full ‘Welcome to Palestine’ programme of events can be seen here. The stated aims of the project – building a school and a museum and refurbishing a kindergarten – appear to be confined to one day of activity, with the rest of the week’s visit dedicated to trips to various destinations and a seminar on the subject of “How to End the Occupation?”.

The organisation hoping to build a museum on the history of Palestinian refugees is the Al Rowwad Centre which was also involved in the organisation of the 2011 flytilla, is party to the BDS movement and was an endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem. Pictured below is one of its vehicles, bearing a logo which clearly rejects a negotiated two-state solution.

The anatomy of a Guardian smear against Israel

A Guardian report on Dec. 16th had all the ingredients of a classic Guardian smear.

1. Palestinians level a wild accusation against Israel with little or no actual evidence.

2. The Guardian publishes the allegation with a dramatic headline, downplays even the most emphatic Israeli denials, and fails to conduct any independent research which could prove or disprove the allegation.

3.  The Guardian further contextualizes the baseless story in a manner consistent with a broader narrative of Israeli racism or villainy.

The dramatic title, Palestinian envoy’s wife ‘forced back to Jerusalem during cancer treatment’, in a report written by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Julian Borger, parrots an accusation by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Envoy to the UK, which seems, by all available evidence, to be without merit.

Borger writes:

Israeli authorities made the wife of the Palestinian ambassador in London interrupt a course of chemotherapy in order to return to Jerusalem or risk losing her residency rights, a trip that hastened her death from cancer, her family claim.

Samira Hassassian was infected by a virus on her plane journey back to London in May and died three months later, aged 57. Her husband, Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian envoy to the UK since 2005, said the Israeli government had extended her Jerusalem identity papers in 2010 for a year after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2009, but refused to grant a second extension this year, although the disease had by then metastasized to her bones and she was several weeks into intensive chemotherapy.

“They forced her to go back,” Hassassian said. “The doctors had told me she had maybe until the end of the year, so this trip just expedited the process, but it also caused her pain and suffering.”

As far as she was concerned, she was not going to die. She saw herself as battling with cancer. But to force her to go back or lose her rights was inhuman,” Hassassian said. [emphasis mine]

Later in the essay we’re informed that the Israeli embassy in London denied that Hassassian had been refused a second extension.

“If there is a health issue there is no question that she would have had to travel. There is no such policy. It is the strangest allegation I think I’ve ever heard,” the spokesperson said.

Borger continues:

Samira Hassassian’s London oncologist, Professor Paul Ellis, wrote a medical opinion to support her appeal for an extension on March 29, saying: “She is right in the middle of very intensive treatment and it is definitely not a good time for her to travel. There is the potential for significant infection and she is also extremely disabled by fatigue and nausea.”

Again, the Israeli embassy responds:

The embassy spokesman confirmed that a copy of Ellis’s letter was in interior ministry files but said it had been unnecessary as an extension was not in doubt.

So, the Guardian published the allegation that Hassassian’s Jerusalem residency was in doubt despite the emphatic and unequivocal denial by Israeli officials, and the fact that there is no corroborating evidence that Samira Hassassian’s extension was ever in question.

The claim includes the allegation that Hassassian was “infected by a virus on her plane journey back to London in May and died three months later”, implying the the infection was caused by her flight, and hastened her death.   

However, Hassassian was an end stage cancer patient who had been informed that, at most, she had until the end of the year to live, and so her death in late August was consistent with her tragically grim diagnosis. 

Further, an experienced health professional explained to me the following:

“No-one can prove where or when she caught the infection.  She could have been infected on the plane, before the flight or after the flight. We don’t know what sort of infection they’re claiming, but different pathogens have differing incubation periods which are measured in days – not hours – so to pinpoint the contracting of an infection to the specific 4-5 hour time it takes to fly from London to Tel Aviv is speculative to say the least.”

The real reason for Hassassian’s trip to Israel, according to the Israeli spokesperson (and confirmed to me by a reliable Israeli official) was to seek a second opinion on her condition from doctors at Hadassah Hospital.  And, indeed, Hassassian’s husband, in the Guardian report, acknowledged that she had received care during the course of her illness by doctors in Jerusalem. 

However, Borger, not content with advancing such a scurrilous charge, then pivots to the third and final Guardian method of contextualizing a story in a way to impute the most malicious motives not only to the Israeli antagonists in the tale, but to Israel more broadly.  In this case the question of Hassassin’s residency status is woven into a predictable narrative of ethnic cleansing.

Palestinians and Israeli civil rights groups describe the bureaucracy surrounding residency rights as a weaponin Israel’s efforts to reduce the Palestinian population of the fiercely contested city and undermine future challenges to its sovereignty there.

If Borger had decided to check, he would have discovered that the suggestion that there’s been anything resembling a reduction in the Palestinian population of Jerusalem is patently false.

According to statistics provided by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies:

  • Between 1949 and 1967, when Jordan controlled all of East Jerusalem, the Arab population of East Jerusalem increased by only 860 people.
  • By contrast, the Muslim Arab population of Jerusalem increased from 68,000 people to 275,000 people between 1967 and 2009, with the city under Israeli jurisdiction – ie an increase of 207,000 Arabs living in Jerusalem.
  • Between 1967 and 2009, the Jewish population of Jerusalem grew from 197,000 people to 497,000 people
  • A simple calculation therefore shows that during the period 1967 to 2009, the Jewish population of Jerusalem increased by 245% while the Arab population of Jerusalem grew by 380% . 

So, if there has been a coordinated Israeli effort to reduce the Arab population of Jerusalem, it has failed miserably. Since the entire city of Jerusalem has been under Israeli control the Arab population of Jerusalem has grown significantly faster than the Jewish population. This is the opposite of Israel ‘judaising’ the city, or ‘squeezing the Arabs out’.

At the end of the day, what we have are the following allegations:

  • Israelis cruelly forced a terminally ill Palestinian cancer patient to travel back to Israel to maintain her Jerusalem residency.
  • The trip caused an infection that hastened her death.  
  • And, finally, the trip was necessitated as part of a broader Israeli effort to “reduce the Palestinian population” of Jerusalem.

The first two allegations are leveled with no reliable evidence, while the final charge is contradicted by raw population data.

Finally, I was told by a reliable source that the Israeli officials who were in contact (over a period of many weeks) with the Guardian over these allegations were shocked that, despite their emphatic denials of the charges leveled by the Palestinian Envoy, and the paucity of empirical evidence, the story was still published.

However, those of us intimately familiar with the Guardian’s continuing assault on Israeli’s legitimacy are not in the least bit surprised.

The Guardian’s bias and dishonesty when reporting about Israel is immune to such quaint notions as fairness, proportion, context, or decency.