Campaign Against Antisemitism

CAA writes to Sajid Javid after review of evidence from Palestine Expo finds concerns over antisemitism and extremism were well founded

Campaign Against Antisemitism has now analysed a large volume of evidence captured by the brave volunteers of our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit who attended Palestine Expo earlier this month, and also evidence from members of the public who sent us videos us or posted them on social media.

Palestine Expo 2017 was held on 8th and 9th July at the government-owned Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

The organiser, Friends of Al-Aqsa, chose to advertise a number of controversial speakers, which gave cause for concern about what the nature of the event would be. Prior to the event, we wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government warning about the risk of giving a platform to speakers with a history of making extremely troubling statements. Had the event merely been “the biggest social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine to ever take place in Europe”, as it was advertised to be, we would not have objected, but sadly our concerns were proven to be correct.

We will now be writing to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government again, this time asking for his assurance that he will intervene should the organisers attempt to hold another event at the government-owned venue. We will include the following concerning speeches and incidents in our letter.

First, in a speech on “Democratic Engagement and Justice for Palestinians”, Tariq Ramadan, an Egyptian-Swiss academic, claimed that the genocidal antisemitic terrorist group, Hamas, should not be regarded as terrorists, stating: “Netanyahu said that, just in 2001, what we heard is ‘what you’ve got in the States, is what we are getting in Israel.’ As if, Al Qaeda is exactly like Hamas and the Palestinian resistance. By saying that they are all terrorists, that’s exactly the game. And we are saying we contain terrorists? But there is a legitimate resistance to your state terrorism. Your state terrorism. What you are doing with the civilians in Gaza or in the West Bank, the way you are treating the Palestinians — this is something which has to be said and we know there is a connection…This way of playing with the word terrorist, is like yesterday you were a terrorist, today you are a freedom fighter — the way they did with Mandela.” Hamas calls for the genocide of Jews worldwide, whilst committing and condoning terrorist attacks targeting civilians and oppressing Palestinians, for example by hurling homosexuals from rooftops. To suggest that they may merely be freedom fighters is a gross and deliberate distortion.

Next, Lina Hadid Bourichi, a lawyer, allegedly said “Lobbying? Let me tell you about lobbying. I come from Washington DC, OK, that is where I was born and raised. My mother is a Palestinian who was raised in Nazareth and kicked out with her family, the Hadid family, in 1948. Where I come from, the Jewish Lobby is omnipresent. AIPAC the American Jewish lobby is omnipresent. 40,000 employees and that’s the start. East Coast, West Coast, the centre.” AIPAC is not a “Jewish lobby”, nor does it have 40,000 employees pulling strings throughout the United States (Hadid Bourichi appears to have inflated the number by a factor of approximately one hundred). According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” is antisemitic.

In another speech, a speaker for a group called Free Speech on Israel allegedly stated that there were false accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, saying: “So, we switch now quickly to the UK Labour Party. We’ve had this wave of false antisemitism accusations. I’m in the Labour Party, I know lots of people in the Labour Party, we’ve also been on the left, I’m sorry where’s this antisemitism? Doesn’t exist in the Labour Party, it’s less in the Labour Party than in the population at large and… even in my branch I’ve got a fairly right — the leadership of my Labour Party branch is still the Blairites, the right wingers — they don’t like being accused of antisemitism either, it’s a false program, it’s a false set of accusations.” We have extensively chronicled antisemitism in the Labour Party and we consider attempts to smear those Jews who complain of antisemitism as conspiratorial liars to be an antisemitic endeavour.

Disgraced Labour activist, Jackie Walker, also provided evidence of very concerning statements when she posted a number of videos on her Facebook page from the breakout session at Palestine Expo. In one of the videos , Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, an academic at the London School of Economics, can be heard defending Ken Livingstone, who claimed and maintains that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis, claiming: “What happened was that in a rather confused radio interview, [Ken] used the words ‘Hitler’ and ‘Zionism’ in the same sentence…What he did was to reveal in a slightly gullible way something which people should have known more about, which was the fact that the Zionists and the Hitler regime did combine together and talk about how to get more Jews out of Germany into Palestine in the 1930s. So…we’re supposed to say that Ken is an antisemite. He’s not, he’s a hero.” In another video, Rosenhead is heard making the spurious and discredited claim and myth about the invention of the Jewish people and that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars. He said that: “Interestingly enough, an Israeli historian, not the most favourite Israeli historian of Israelis, called Shlomo Sand, who gave quite convincing evidence that most Jews are not Jewish [laughter] in that a high proportion of them are actually the result of forced conversions in the Middle Ages in central Europe. So in fact not only have those people not been to Israel but none of their relatives ever came from Israel before.” We will be writing to the London School of Economics, requesting a disciplinary investigation into Professor Rosenhead’s comments.

Outside the venue, attendees also engaged in antisemitic discourse. David Collier, an activist who blogs about antisemitism and the Middle East, posted a video on YouTube of an unidentified man outside the venue who demanded: “Who founded Israel? Rothschild. Who was Rothschild everybody?…They might have the nuclear weapons, they might have the tanks, they might have the media, they might have the banking system, they might have everything on their side but Jesus has G-d on his side…Who gives them the right to pull money out of thin air and then lend it to us as interest.” The libel that Jews control banking, media and government is one of the most well-known antisemitic conspiracy myths, which explicitly falls foul of the International Definition of Antisemitism. A woman is also visible in the video performing a Nazi salute, in full view of security officers.

Another activist, Joseph Cohen, also posted a video from outside the event. In the footage, a young child could be seen dressed up in military uniform as worn by armed Palestinian groups, while an unnamed man asked: “Who’s under the table running the world?…Who’s got the money in America?…American Jewish.” When a Jewish man asked who has the money in the Middle East, the man replied: “The leaders, they’re your crooks.” In the background, a group stood outside the venue chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” a chant that only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Palestinian state. Under the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” is antisemitic.

We are also concerned about the admissions policy in effect at the event which we believe may have breached the Human Rights Act and other legislation by discriminating against attendees on the basis of their political or religious beliefs. One man posted a video online in which he is asked to leave by the venue’s head of security and then a police officer, which the man alleges happened because he was wearing a Jewish skullcap. He claimed that he had been in the venue filming events peacefully for hours but was only ejected when he donned his skullcap. In the footage he posted, security officers are heard claiming that he was being asked to leave for filming, but numerous other bystanders were also filming without attracting attention from the venue or police officers. The incident is now being investigated by the police and the videos have been removed from social media. In another incident, notorious antisemite Tony Greenstein alerted security staff to the presence of the blogger David Collier who had gone to observe the event. Whilst eating lunch at the venue with his wife and child, at Greenstein’s behest, Mr Collier and his family were allegedly made to leave by the venue’s staff, which Mr Greenstein said he was responsible for arranging on the basis that Mr Collier is a “Zionist snoop”. Supporting Zionism (the movement for the Jewish people’s right to self-determination) is a perfectly legitimate position and no person should be excluded from a public event for adhering to it, particularly not at the behest of a well-known antisemite.

Having warned the Department for Communities and Local Government about the event in advance, we are disturbed that the government-owned venue, which is an executive agency of the government, did not appropriately train its security officers or monitor what was being said.

Prior to the event we also wrote a letter, along with military leaders and MPs, calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that the government acted on her pledge in the wake of the recent terrorist atrocities to “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces” and to “become far more robust in identifying [extremism] and stamping it out across the public sector and across society.” Palestine Expo 2017 was a failure to deliver on that promise which the Department for Communities and Local Government must learn from and not repeat.