First the good (and exclusive) news about PalExpo, the event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London which happened at the weekend. Mark Taylor, the CEO of the Conference Centre, was not in London at the weekend. Because he was on vacation. In Israel! #BDSFail.
The other good news was the resistance to the event, led by the StopPalExpo Coalition.
Sharon Klaff in particular worked really hard to ensure there was a pro-Israel anti-extremist presence outside the venue on both days. Well done Sharon and to all who came in support and helped in any way, especially the Zionist Federation.
Thanks also to the Met who ensured our safety, without in any way disrupting the sometimes very heated debates in the blazing sunshine outside the venue.
Now the not-so-good news. This event should never have been allowed to happen at a publicly-owned venue. Because it was organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, which has been charged with expressing support for terrorists. And because it featured 25 speakers who have either supported terrorism, expressed antisemitism or defamed Israel – or its supporters – with lies (this booklet says 24, but Hatam Bazian was a late addition).
We have to conclude that after the election the government is too weak to act against this part-hatefest (there was also an unobjectionable cultural element). And too preoccupied with Brexit – and at DCLG (the Department responsible for the QEII Centre), too preoccupied with the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower inferno.
The organisers have defended one speaker, Shaykh Ebrahim Bham, who quoted Goebbels in a sermon (“People tell me that Jews are human beings. Yes, I know they are human beings. Just as fleas are also animals. Just as fleas are also animals, they are also part of human beings like that”).
Bham has issued the following statement: “I clearly use this quote to show how the Nazis had viewed and treated the Jewish people as subhuman. I categorically did not agree and do not agree with any subhuman categorisation of the Jewish community or any other people …I then say that this dehumanisation treatment is being meted out to Palestinians by the state of Israel itself”.
But listen to his sermon (it can be heard here, number 60). At 11.50 he says about Israelis: “They do not regard the Palestinians as human beings“. He then claims Golda Meir said “The Palestinians do not exist”. It’s a lie – she never said it. She said they DID not exist (referring to history). So Bham used a false quote and defamed Israelis, by suggesting they don’t treat Palestinians as human. And Bham did NOT use the Goebbels quote to illustrate why it’s wrong to dehumanise Jews. He used it to illustrate why it’s wrong for Israelis to allegedly dehumanise Palestinians. He (despicably) said (13:00) “the psyche of the whole people seems to be to mete out the very same treatment to others as was meted out to them.” Jew/Nazi comparisons are anti-Semitic, all the more so when the speaker is a Nazi. Guilty as charged…..the sermon is an anti-Semitic rant of Israel hate.
I wanted to hear and blog about the speeches at PalExpo, so I booked a ticket. But on arrival at the accreditation desk, the head of security and Ismail Patel, the Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa, told me I would not be admitted. David Collier (with family) was also excluded, see here. Incredibly another Jew was also evicted, reportedly for putting a kippah on his head!
So I spent the weekend outside the event, explaining to attendees and passers-by (including endless phalanxes of Japanese and Korean tourists, who at least smiled politely even though they hadn’t the faintest what I was on about ….) why the event should never have been allowed to happen. Inevitably I received much abuse – the standard one of course was the suggestion that “Israel is a f***ing Nazi State”, but some woman also accused me of assaulting her son. Lies and distortion – it’s what the Israel haters do.
But I did have a number of good conversations. Thanks to the young lady studying at a Midlands University (I won’t name you for your own safety); to the Muslim guy who offered to buy me a drink, let’s fix a date; and to the Muslim guy who works at the National Zakat Foundation in York, who thanked us for being there, even though he did not agree with some of what we were about.
But on the negative side, someone tried to tear down our banner saying “We Stand With Israel”. There was a commotion and he was quickly spirited off by the anti-Zionists – who then denied to the police that he was involved.
So what happened at the speaker sessions? Fortunately we have videos from the anti-Zionists, from which can be identified the following lies and distortions: (More still have been identified by John-Paul Pagano, here):
1. ‘Kareem’ (man with a striped top in the ‘Free Speech” session on Saturday at 1.10 (Abbey Room,4th floor)) spoke of the “huge controversy about the sterilisation of black mothers, so that there will not be black Jewish children in Israel again, to protect the white colonial Jewish majority of the State of Israel.” A despicable antisemitic lie.
2. In the same session Jonathan Rosenhead quoted the flawed Yachad survey, which suggested that 41% of UK Jews would not describe themselves as Zionist. The truth is that the figure was 31% (10% were “not sure”). And Rosenhead failed to tell the audience that 75% of the 41% supported “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”. And that about 90% (of the whole sample) support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and express attachment to it. Distortion and lies. It’s what the Israel haters do.
3. Rosenhead also lied that “black Jews are discriminated against” and even quoted Shlomo Sand – the discredited Israel-hating academic – as saying that “most Jews are not Jewish”. He then misrepresented Jewish Community institutions by claiming that they say that “all Jews support Israel” and said that Livingstone is “a hero”.
6. Finally Ronnie Barkan misquoted Ben Gurion (it’s what they do ….. lie, distort, misquote). In 1937 a UK Commission (the Peel Commission) recommended the partition of Mandatory Palestine west of the Jordan River into two states – an Arab state united with Trans-Jordan in some 85 per cent of this territory and a Jewish state in the rest; and by way of reducing future friction between the two communities, the commission suggested a land and population exchange, similar to that effected between Turkey and Greece in the wake of the First World War. Without mentioning this context, Barkan posted a quote of Ben Gurion as follows, labelling it as “racist” : “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral”.
There is discussion on social media about the number of attendees at PalExpo. I was outside one of the two entrances to the venue area virtually throughout. I put it at maybe 2,000. Estimates of 10,000 are complete fiction.
The saddest thing came towards the end, on Sunday. A group of about ten visibly Muslim children stood in front of our pitch, chanting “2-4-6-8, Israel is a terrorist State.” Watched by their adoring parents. The next generation is already being radicalised, aided and abetted by a government whose Prime Minister told us only five weeks ago that “Enough Is Enough”, after the London Bridge terrorist attacks.