Category Archives: Iran

My appearance on 4ThoughtTV: Are Jews Still Persecuted in Britain Today?

Tonight at 7.55pm on Channel 4 I am in 4ThoughtTV’s slot on whether Jews are still persecuted in Britain today, which is the theme of the week.

There are seven contributions in all. Here is the link to mine and the other six:

http://www.4thought.tv/themes/are-jews-still-persecuted-in-britain-today/richard-millett?autoplay=true

1. I spoke about my experiences of harassment at anti-Israel events when I have merely tried to get Israel’s point of view across.

2. Stephen Sizer is an anti-Israel/anti-Zionist Christian Minister. I once went to hear him speak at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event held in a church. He said, inter alia, that churches that side with Israel have “repudiated Jesus, have repudiated the bible and are an abomination”. On my way out of that meeting I was accosted by an audience member who let out some of the most Holocaust denying anti-Jewish vitriol I have ever heard. She told me, inter alia, that Jews died in the Holocaust from having “had their foreskins chopped off.”

In his 4Thought clip Sizer claims it’s important to be able to criticise certain Israeli policies without being accused of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear: criticising Israel’s policies is legitimate, just like it is legitimate to criticise the policies of any country.

Sizer and his ilk are accused of anti-Semitism because they want the world’s only Jewish state to disappear. This is completely different to criticising Israel’s policies. Instead, they single out the Jewish state, the collective Jew, for destruction. So, Sizer is being highly disingenuous. If he were truthful he would have admitted he wants the Jewish state removed.

3. Another who wants the Jewish state removed is Ahron Cohen, of the extremist religious Jewish sect the Neturei Karta which believes that Jews should only go to the Holy Land once they have received a direct order from God to do so. The Neturei Karta also embraces Iran’s Holocaust denying President Ahmadinejad who repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has referred to Israel as “the Zionist cancerous tumour in the heart of the Islamic world”.

In his clip, Cohen blames Palestinian terrorism “on the very existence of the sectarian state known as Israel”.

4. Mike Marcus has also fallen for the myth that “The Zionist lobby uses the label of anti-Semitism to silence their critics”.

5. Jose Martin correctly blames the media for whipping up anti-Semitism due to its unfair reportage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

6. Yisrael Abeles, a Holocaust survivor, also blames the media for driving much of what has, these days, become “institutionalised anti-Semitism” as opposed to street anti-Semitism.

7. The most moving clip is by schoolgirl Eden Simones-Jones who says that she still suffers from depression and anxiety due to anti-Semitic harassment. She finishes:

“If people say there is no problem with anti-Semitism, I think they should wake-up, open their eyes and really look about what’s going out there because they’re obviously sheltered in their own little dreamland where everything’s rosy, because anti-Semitism’s everywhere. You’ve just got to know what to look for.”

Sadly, she’s right. Anti-Semitism is everywhere. In Britain today anti-Zionism, an attack on Israel as the collective Jew, is the modern updated version of anti-Semitism, the attack on Jews as individuals. “Anti-Zionism” is a label that has been adopted by many of Britain’s  academics, journalists, politicians, religious leaders and charities to hide their true feelings about Jews. This is the “institutionalised anti-Semitism” referred to by Yisrael Abeles.

Nick Clegg just can’t bring himself to support Israeli defensive action against Iran.

The UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attended a Q&A session at Hasmonean School in north-west London last night. The event was staged by the Jewish News and chaired by ITV correspondent Tom Bradby

While Israel was under concerted rocket fire from Hamas in 2009 Clegg wrote “We must stop arming Israel”. In 2010 he acknowledged that there had not always been an equal voice for Israel within the Liberal Democrats and in 2011 he said he craved a time when the Community Service Trust, which protects Britain’s small Jewish community, wasn’t needed.

He did finally force Jenny Tonge to resign from the Lib Dems. when she said that Israel won’t be here forever, but it was also back to business as usual this year when he called Israel’s settlements “deliberate vandalism”.

Clegg doesn’t get that it’s precisely this hostility to Israel which is one of the main reasons the CST continues to be needed. Whenever he and his ilk criticize Israel’s defensive actions or the settlements in such an unbalanced manner synagogues and Jewish schools have to tighten their security and it gives encouragement to those seeking to harass Israeli-owned shops and disrupt Israeli productions visiting these shores.

Surprisingly, there were very few questions about Israel and the Middle East last night considering that Israel is still under constant fire from Hamas rockets, David Cameron is currently in the Middle East selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the so-called Arab Spring is descending into mass murder and oppression.

However, my colleague Jeremy Havardi was given the opportunity to ask the following on Iran:

“I gather you support the policy of sanctions against Iran, which is great. Will you support an Israeli strike on Iran if it was an absolute last resort in stopping its illegal nuclear weapons programme?”

Notice the words “absolute last resort”. A simple question, but Clegg spent the next 6 minutes obfuscating even when pushed twice to answer Havardi’s question by Bradby. Here is some of how Clegg didn’t answer the question:

“I would counsel against the idea that there is a simple military solution.”

“Most experts say that if you took military action you’d probably delay a nuclear programme, but you wouldn’t eliminate it.”

“What we are doing is, if it works, more effective….squeezing harder and harder with tougher sanctions, which are having a real effect…”

“To risk all the dangers of a unilateral military strike, which might not provide a permanent solution… is unwise.”

Clegg continued in the same vein even when Bradby asked whether Clegg would expect military action once Iran had loaded nuclear weapon technology into a missile and, finally, if Israel’s intelligence showed that they couldn’t sit and tolerate the situation anymore.

Yet still Clegg could not bring himself to support Israeli defensive action, even against such an existential threat as an all-out nuclear attack.

Luckily, my colleague Clive wasn’t given the opportunity to ask “What’s the capital of Israel?” Just imagine how long it would have taken Clegg to answer.

Here is Clegg’s full answer from last night:

Paralympics are Go: Israeli team receives warm welcome from home crowd.

A simple message from last night.

A simple message from last night.

Londoners have been suffering severe bouts of POD (Post Olympics Depression) this last few weeks, so it was good that the Paralympics have finally arrived and last night was the opening ceremony, which I was lucky to attend.

The theme for the evening was one of exploration, both of ourselves and the universe we inhabit, and the narrator was none other than Professor Stephen Hawking.

After a colourful opening (see below) the teams from the 164 competing nations filed round the track in the usual alphabetical order.

Typically, Iran and Iraq are alphabetically close to Israel but luckily the partying Irish are in the middle to diffuse any underlying tensions.

The Israeli team received a warm welcome when they emerged from the tunnel, as you can see here:

But nothing beats the noise and emotion when the home nation emerges as here with Paralympics Team GB:

I know we aren’t supposed to feel sorry for the athletes. But, as they filed round I couldn’t help feeling upset by the missing limbs on such young people while imagining the hardship this must entail every day of their lives. The organisers didn’t shy away from the issue and surprisingly played a version of Spasticus Autisticus by Ian Dury.

Finally, after three and a half hours we were sent on our way after a very moving rendition of I Am What I Am by Beverley Knight:

From last night also:

Reproduction of Marc Quinn's sculpture of disabled artist Alison Lapper heavily pregnant.

Reproduction of Marc Quinn’s sculpture of disabled artist Alison Lapper heavily pregnant.

The Israelis are in the house.

The Israelis are in the house.

Umbrella lifts to illuminate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Umbrella lifts to illuminate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Marching with the Union Flag before it is raised.

Marching with the Union Flag before it is raised.

A Union Flag coloured eyeball (I think).

A Union Flag coloured eyeball (I think).

Mesmerised by algebraic equations and logarithms.

Mesmerised by algebraic equations and logarithms.

Trigger from Only Fools and Horses says “Don’t attack Iran”.

Roger Lloyd Pack - "intellect has rapidly diminished over the years until it reached its current level of hilarious stupidity"

Roger Lloyd Pack - "intellect has rapidly diminished over the years until it reached its current level of hilarious stupidity"

It’s a shame when an actor from one of Britain’s best loved comedies joins with the forces of darkness to come to the defence of one of the world’s most reviled regimes, but such is the fate of Roger Lloyd Pack who played Trigger in the BBC’s Only Fools and Horses.

Lloyd Pack is a seasoned anti-Israel activist and so it is no surprise to find his signature among the usual suspects in a letter to Wednesday’s Guardian supporting Stop The War Coalition’s Don’t Attack Iran Campaign.

Ironically, the BBC website gives the following description of Trigger:

“Although initially a (relatively speaking) sharp-minded villain Trigger’s intellect has rapidly diminished over the years until it reached its current level of hilarious stupidity.”

Who said art doesn’t sometimes mirror life?

The Guardian website even generously links the letter to the Don’t Attack Iran Campaign website. Why take out an expensive ad in a national newspaper, hire an expensive London venue or print millions of leaflets when all you need do nowadays is write a letter to The Guardian who will give you free advertising space if you’re anti-Israel.

The familiarity of these hardcore anti-Israel signatories is positive in as much as it shows how so alone they are in their support for such an oppressive ideology as Iran’s:

Tony Benn,
Jeremy Corbyn MP,
Brian Eno,
Lindsey German,
George Galloway,
Kate Hudson,
Jemima Khan,
Ken Loach,
Roger Lloyd Pack,
Lowkey,
Len McCluskey,
John McDonnell MP,
John Pilger,
Michael Rosen,
Jenny Tonge.

You’d have thought that after her forced resignation from her party after wishing away Israel’s existence they might have left Jenny Tonge off for once but, then again, her recent statements that “Israel is not going to be there forever” and “then they will reap what they have sown” ties in nicely with Ahmadinejad’s genocidal desire to wipe Israel off the map.

Some say Ahmadinejad was mistranslated and that he merely wanted to eradicate Zionism.

Let’s forget that Israel and Zionism are not mutually exclusive and gloss over Ahmadinejad’s “mistranslation” and listen to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who, as reported by Press TV, “described Israel as a cancerous tumor that must be removed”.

It doesn’t get more unambiguous than that and straight from the fool’s and horse’s mouth!

And calling it an attack on Iran is like calling Operation Cast Lead an attack on Gaza or on the Palestinians when, in actual fact, it was a legitimate attack on the terrorist group Hamas in self-defence.

Attacking Iran’s nuclear sites will also be a legitimate act of self-defence unless Iran opens itself up to a full nuclear inspection in accordance with its non-proliferation treaty obligations, something that it has so far proved suspiciously unwilling to do.

And calling itself Stop The War Coalition is as equally disingenuous. Let Them Die Coalition would be far more accurate judging by their calls for non-intervention in Libya and, now, Syria.

The Guardian letter compares the build up to a possible war with Iran to that with Iraq. But Stop The War Coalition’s approach is itself reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of another evil regime.

Galloway and German say they aren’t pacifists and Galloway has said that World War Two was a just war, but how can he, and we, be so sure he would have called it “just” at the time.

Stop The War Coalition is, basically, an organisation that supports non-intervention against regimes that are anti-American and/or anti-Israel. They were ecstatic when pro-American/pro-Israel Mubarak fell in Egypt but have criticised NATO’s ousting of anti-American/anti-Israel Gaddafi and will no way want Assad to fall with the negative impact that would have on Iran and, ultimately, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The hypocrisy of the signatories to The Guardian letter is fully exposed when Stop The War Coalition feels comfortable standing back watching Libyans and Syrians slaughtered in their droves while defending the vile Iranian regime and staying silent about the continued oppression of Iran’s women, gays, Jews (the 25,000 strong community is limited to one MP), Bahais, Kurds and anyone wanting to live a life in Iran as free as those signatories themselves can do in the west.

George Galloway: “Iran ready to fight to the last drop of blood”.

Shirin Shafaie, Chris Nineham, Tony Benn, Lindsey German, Abbas Edalat prepare to spout nonsense.

Shirin Shafaie, Chris Nineham, Tony Benn, Lindsey German, Abbas Edalat prepare to spout nonsense.

George Galloway gave warning that should Iran be attacked by Israel then “the Persian Gulf will be on fire, the Straights of Hormuz will be on fire and the allies of America in the Gulf will be on fire” and Iran will also answer “inside Iraq”.

And he said that Iran is ready to fight to the last drop of blood.

He called on Muslims not to “fall for this gigantic fraud in which the imperialist countries who were bombing and murdering one kind of Muslim in Iraq now want to mobilise that kind of Muslim against another kind of Muslim on a sectarian basis dividing the Muslim world” and he warned that “once they’ve dealt with the Shi’ites, they’ll deal with you”:

Galloway was the final act in Monday night’s Don’t Attack Iran meeting in London organised by The Stop The War Coalition, a coalition that is against any war (unless it’s against Israel, of course), even the war in Libya which would have left possibly thousands to be massacred in Benghazi by Gaddafi’s forces had NATO not intervened.

And only a dunce from the Green Party could invoke the Nazis like Darren Johnson AM did when he warned that attacking Iran would unite the whole of Iran just like attacks by the Nazis even united the Conservatives and the Communists in this country:

Well, that wasn’t the case in Libya was it! NATO’s attacks on Gaddafi’s troops strengthened the opposition leading to Gaddafi’s downfall. And, likewise, I am sure that the good people of Iran would welcome an attack on their own cruel regime that still stones women to death and hangs gays for being gay. Johnson should stick to dealing with matters to do with London as he obviously hasn’t a clue about foreign affairs.

And then there was Tony Benn, the President of The Stop The War Coalition, claiming that the only reason America wants to attack Iran is because of its oil. Oh come on, Tony, you can do better than reel off that tired old line:

Benn disappeared early after the usual announcement that he had to be up early to give yet another talk, although it was more likely the lure of a hot cup of cocoa and a pair of warm slippers that sent him on his way.

Other speakers told us how cuddly and peaceful today’s Iran, basically, is. It had never attacked anyone, don’t you know!

Abbas Edalat, a professor in Computer Science at Imperial College, thought the war against Iran had started in 1979 after the Revolution, while Shirin Shafaie, a researcher at SOAS, claimed it started as far back as 1953 with the overthrow of Mossadeq.

Edalat claimed there was even a self-imposed fatwa against Iran possessing nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction and that the aim of the West was to recolonise Iran like it did in 1953.

These people honestly believe the rubbish that pours out of their mouths. It is a remarkable sociological study to hear such delusion and to see how an audience, albeit a small one, laps up this rhetoric.

Oh, and just in case there wasn’t enough instability in the Middle East I was passed a leaflet detailing how Palestinians living inside Israel and those from the West Bank and Gaza are due to be joined by Palestinians and others from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan for a Global March to Jerusalem arriving in Jerusalem on “Land Day” (30th March 2012 to you and me).

For an organisation that claims to want to stop war The Stop The War Coalition tries its damned hardest to encourage as much bloodshed in the Middle East as it possibly can.

Why is a liberal blog continuing to publish a defender of a homophobic hate preacher?

Sheikh Raed Salah (2nd from Left), who Ben White defended, at PSC/MEMO event the day before his arrest.

Sheikh Raed Salah (2nd from Left), who Ben White defended, at PSC/MEMO event the day before his arrest.

Sunny Hundal runs respected left-wing blog Liberal Conspiracy and regularly appears as a commentator on Sky News and the BBC. But last week I was appalled when he published yet another piece by Ben White, the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.

White’s piece attacked Louise Mensch MP for speaking at a London student conference run by Israel advocacy organisation Stand With Us, who he accuses “of promoting extreme positions and working with disturbing allies”.

Sunday’s conference kicked off with a talk by the Israeli ambassador and was followed by a presentation by Andrew White of Beyond Images. In the afternoon there was advocacy training and Louise Mensch MP closed the conference with a passionate talk.

She basically reiterated her Daily Telegraph articleA family slaughtered in Israel – doesn’t the BBC care?” about the five members of the Fogel family who were murdered in their beds by a Palestinian terrorist earlier this year. She said that she only found out about the massacre on twitter when she followed a link to Mark Steyn’s pieceDead Jews is no news” .

She said that there had been no mention of the attack on BBC TV news and that it was only mentioned briefly on BBC radio, while on the BBC website the attack was given a cursory description.

The BBC responded to her query as to why by explaining that the Japanese earthquake and Libya campaign had dominated the news that day. But, as Mensch pointed out, the BBC has many radio channels and a dedicated 24 hour rolling news channel.

She reckoned that if an Israeli settler slit the throat of a four year old Palestinian boy leaving him to slowly die and then decapitated a three month old baby Palestinian girl in her bed it would have been fully covered.

She said that after apathetic responses to her enquiries the BBC had finally admitted its mistake in not covering the attack more fully.

Her conference talk wasn’t to everyone’s liking. She described the settlements as a “road-block to peace”, but then she implored the students to always remember “the others” who were also suffering in conflicts:

“Keep thinking of your Muslim brothers and sisters who are also victims of suicide bombers, like today in Afghanistan,” she said.

Meanwhile, White’s own attempts to smear Stand With Us as “extreme” are risible.

He cites the UK Chair of Stand With Us’ assertion that the “settlements” might not be illegal.

However, the question of the legality of settlements was recently put to the test in a British court when four anti-Israel activists were tried for “aggravated trespass”. They entered the Ahava shop in Covent Garen and caused it to shut down for some hours. Their main defence was that Ahava’s factory at Mitzpe Shalem on the West Bank is illegal and so they were stopping the Ahava shop from selling illegal products. But, the judge found that Ahava shop was “trading lawfully” and all four defendants were convicted.

White spuriously claims that Stand With Us’ donors “have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda” and that some Stand With Us activists had intimidated “Palestine solidarity activists”.

Meanwhile, what of Ben White himself?

On June 29th this year White was slated to share a panel at the Houses of Parliament with homophobic hate preacher Sheikh Raed Salah who lives in Israel and who came to Britain intent on preaching that Israel is planning on destroying the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem so it can rebuild the Third Temple.

Two days earlier Salah had preached this at a joint Palestine Solidarity Campaign/Middle East Monitor event at Conway Hall in London. Salah has also previously said of homosexuality that:

“It is a crime. A great crime. Such phenomena signal the start of the collapse of every society.”

But Salah did not make it to Parliament for the panel discussion having been arrested the night before. He was on the Home Secretary’s exclusion list as “not being conducive to the public good” but had still managed to pass through customs and into Britain.

Ben White (right) waiting to speak at Sheikh Raed Salah panel discussion on 29th June.

Ben White (right) waiting to speak at Sheikh Raed Salah panel discussion on 29th June.

When it came to White’s turn to talk he first defended Salah against his detention:

“It is shameful that because of the actions of the British government another Palestinian will spend the night in prison.”

Here is White in his own words:

Audio: Ben White defending Salah.

Harry’s Place also writes of Salah’s total disparagement of Jews when Salah:

1. Claimed the Jews baked the blood of children into their holy bread.
2. Claimed 4,000 Jews skipped work at the World Trade Centre on 9/11.
3. Laughed at the memory of taunting a Jewish teacher of his with a Swastika.
4. Wrote a poem referring to Jews as “monkeys and losers” and being “the bacteria of all times”.
5. Funded Hamas.

And here is the recent decision of the tribunal that dealt with these points and which then decided, pending an appeal, to deport Salah. It states, inter alia,:

“We are satisfied that the Appellant has engaged in the unacceptable behaviour of fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. We are satisfied that the Appellant’s words and actions tend to be inflammatory, divisive, insulting, and likely to foment tension and radicalism.”

Maybe after all this White has retracted his defence of Salah, but I haven’t heard anything.

But even if he has so retracted his defence White’s own record on anti-Semitism isn’t too impressive either.

He has written of himself, in an article for Counterpunch in 2002, that he isn’t anti-Semitic, but he can understand why some people are. Would Hundal publish on his Liberal Conspiracy blog someone who claimed not to be Islamophobic but who can also understand why some people are?

White also writes that while comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are unwise they are not anti-Semitic (although under the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism such comparisons actually are anti-Semitic). But then White goes onto implicitly compare Israel to the Nazis anyway when he writes:

“Comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis is unwise and unsound, since the Israelis have not (at the time of going to press) exterminated in a systematic fashion an enormous percentage of the Palestinians. Cold-blooded killings, beatings, house demolitions, vandalism, occupation, military assaults, and two historical pushes at ethnic cleansing–yes. Full fledged genocide–no”

What does “at the time of going to press” imply?

While on his own blog White states the Palestinians have “had to endure massacres, death-marches, and ethnic cleansing”, all of which took place in the Holocaust. (See Cifwatch for commentary on the deputy-editor of The Guardian’s Comment is Free’s ridiculous defence of White on this point. David Shariatmadari claims that there can be no such comparison without an explicit reference to, for example, Auschwitz.)

And according to Seismic-shock, in the bibliography of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide White cites an essay by convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

White has also defended President Ahamadinejad against accusations that he called for Israel to be wiped off the map and against accusations of Holocaust denial.

With the above in mind White felt forced to write an article for Liberal Conspiracy defending himself against accusations of anti-Semitism. Maybe he should have made himself clearer in the first instance.

When I tweeted Hundal about why White was writing for Liberal Conspiracy he replied:

“I’ll only say this once – I don’t really care what either of you say about what I should publish on libcon.”

and

“why don’t you carry on witch-hunting Jews who don’t toe your line and leave the rest of us in the real world, yeah?”

So I ask again, why is a defender of a homophobic preacher of hate writing for a liberal blog?

Threatened and told I’m “one of the chosen people” at anti-Israel trade union event.

Moshe Machover about to wake someone up with talk of wet dreams.

Moshe Machover about to wake someone up with talk of wet dreams.

Last night the RMT union, which represents London Underground’s tube drivers, held a rally at SOAS under the pseudonym Palestine’s Fight for Freedom.

Speakers demonised Israel with accusations of “apartheid”, “ethnic cleansing” and being a “racist state”. There were also the usual racist boycott calls.

There was an incredible screaming rant by Steve Hedley, RMT’s London regional organiser, in which, addressing an audience member, he made remarks such as “your friends in the media”, “the attack on those innocent women and children who you starved and turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth”, “you’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people” and “you’re a modern day Nazi”.

After he had sat down I asked him if he felt better, to which he replied:

“Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the chosen people so you might feel better than me, huh?”

Here is the audio of Hedley’s rant, including his “chosen people” remark. He was cleared earlier this year of assault:

Hedley on “the chosen people”.

And here is some footage of the end of Hedley’s rant:

It wasn’t long after this that I felt a tug on my shirt collar and heard the words “You’ve got a right hook coming to you” menacingly whispered into my ear.

Here is another RMT official speaking about how Israel has “deformed the area”:

Hedley had earlier more calmly refuted any accusations of anti-Semitism:

“If the Israeli people are going to tolerate the oppression of the Palestinian people, they will never be free themselves. And I’m an anti-fascist. I’ve been an anti-fascist since the early teens. I’ve got absolutely nothing against Israelis at all; nothing against Jewish people. It’s a clear line to draw because people have been throwing around labels ‘oh, you’re anti-Semitic’… and that’s not the case.”

Well, that’s all clear and good, apart from calling a Jewish person “one of the chosen people”.

More depressing than that though was to hear a SOAS lecturer, Dr Adam Hanieh, calling for a racist boycott of Israel. Let’s be clear; he was not calling for a boycott of “settlement goods”, but everything Israeli.

I don’t wish to suggest that there is anything improper about Hanieh’s classes. I have never been in one. But do his students know of his vile politics before enrolling on to Development Studies at SOAS?

If you were parting with £9,000 a year wouldn’t you want to be informed that a lecturer supports racist action? I would. Even if he or she were the best lecturer in the world I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Hanieh’s SOAS biography gives no hint of his boycott activism. Here is Hanieh speaking about a boycott of Israel last night:

And here is Hanieh talking about “ethnic cleansing” and comparing the West Bank to the bantustans in South Africa:

Meanwhile, raunchy Moshe Machover bravely injected some sex talk into the event. Apart from calling for a “one-state solution” he said:

“The wet dream of all major Zionist parties is further ethnic cleansing. And this is what is on the cards.” (At 2 mins 43 secs.)

And here is Hugh Lanning, Chair of the PSC and Deputy General of the Public and Commercial Services Union, complaining about BBC bias and refuting claims that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, despite the fact that no one makes such a claim. Calling for the destruction of Israel, which is the PSC position, is anti-Semitic though.

During the Q&A a questioner asked whether the RMT has proposed boycotts of Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia, while another asked whether the boycotts aren’t reminiscent of the Nazis boycotts of the Jews in the 1930s.

Ilan Pappe’s squirming answer was that Iran is already being sanctioned and, therefore, the RMT doesn’t have to boycott Iran and that everyone knows that the likes of Saudi Arabia are oppressive, unlike the media which presumes that Israel is democratic.

He finished off addressing the difference between the Nazi boycott and today’s boycott movement just by saying:

“How can someone who was the victim of Nazis stand in support of Israel today?”

Here’s the audio:

Pappe on Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nazi boycotts.

Pappe is a lecturer at Exeter University.

It was left to Jonathan Hoffman to propose that Israel was a smokescreen for the failure of unions like the RMT to prevent the cuts, which didn’t go down with the Chairman of the event who said that he wouldn’t be taking any lectures on RMT’s efforts to represent the working man.

But is the same union that stops many a working man from getting to work when they launch one of their regular tube strikes?

If so then the sooner Mayor Boris introduces driverless tube trains, the better.

Should Israel be in the Asian qualifying section for the World Cup Finals?

Israel at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.

Israel at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.

Last Saturday night the draw took place for the qualifying rounds of the 2014 World Cup finals and the Jewish Chronicle has published my piece about Israel being disadvantaged by playing in the European qualifying section, as opposed to the Asian qualifying section.

They put my piece up against an excellent one by Simon Griver, an Israel-based sports correspondent, and are conducting a poll: Should Israel be in the Asian World Cup group?

At the moment the “Yeas” have it 59% to 41%.

Thanks to CifWatch for the idea for my piece.

Champagne all round if my argument has continued to win out by next week.

Should Israel be in the European qualifying section for the World Cup finals?

No (me):

We know that most Middle Eastern countries refuse to play Israel, but this is contrary to Fifa’s “Say No to Racism” campaign and Article 3 of the Fifa statute, which states that discrimination on account of “ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason” is punishable by suspension or expulsion.

Those countries that object to playing against Israel should really be expelled from Fifa. But Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Qatar are set to begin their 2014 qualifiers.

Israel’s only appearance in the finals was in Mexico in 1970, when they competed in the Asia qualifying section. Which begs the question: how much better would Israel do if they were playing these far weaker Asian nations?

Israel is ranked 32 in the world. Of the 20 countries in the Asian qualifying section only two, Australia (23) and Korea Republic (28), are ranked above Israel. Had Israel been in the Asia qualifying section, they would have been seeded and, one imagines, would easily have overcome the likes of Iran (54), Saudi Arabia (92), Syria (104), Qatar (90) and Thailand (119). Thailand are there by dint of just beating Palestine (166) in the earlier elimination rounds.

But with Portugal (7) and Russia (18) in Israel’s European group, qualifying is going to be very difficult.

And what about next year’s Olympics? The Charter of the International Olympic Committee states that discrimination “on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise” is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.

But Iran will not compete against Israeli athletes. At the recent swimming world championships in Shanghai, an Iranian swimmer, Mohammad Alirezaei, withdrew from a breaststroke heat in which Israel’s Gal Nevo was swimming. He did the same at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Most likely the shame of losing to Israel is the primary motivation.

Yes (Simon Griver):

Israel’s chances of reaching the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014 look slim after being drawn in Group F alongside Portugal and Russia.

Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg are also in the group. One UK bookmaker makes Israel 20-1 outsiders to top the group and automatically qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1970, and 4-1 to finish second and thus take part in the play-offs, probably against one of Europe’s powerhouses.

It would be much easier for Israel to reach Brazil if Yossi Benayoun and co were playing in the Asia Confederation, which expelled Israel in 1973. Yet even in the unlikely event that Middle East peace materialises, Israelis would reject rejoining Asia out of hand.

Israel joined Uefa in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had routinely vetoed Israel’s candidacy. Some sporting associations such as basketball had even joined their European federations before the Soviet demise.

The odds of reaching the World Cup finals may have lengthened but European competition has its compensations. Israel also takes part in the Euro football championships as well as a wide range of other national competitions, and will host the Euro 2013 Under-21 championships.

More significantly, Israel’s club sides get to play in the highly lucrative Champions League and Europa League. Israeli fans can reminisce about Hapoel Tel Aviv dumping Chelsea out of the Uefa Cup, or Maccabi Haifa hammering Manchester United 3-0 in the Champions League.

In football, hope springs eternal and upsets are likely. Avram Grant’s Israel was only beaten on goal difference to a World Cup 2006 play-off place. Besides, Israelis think of themselves as being in Europe rather than Asia, and competitive visits by the likes of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo help nurture the geographical illusion.

Reset Stephen Kinzer.

Stephen Kinzer believes that the best way forward for America on foreign policy is for it to listen to its friends in the Middle East that share America’s basic principles.

One of those potential “friends” is Iran (sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you hear this kind of thing).

Kinzer, an American journalist and author, was at SOAS, London last night promoting his new book Reset Middle East, with its brand new cover (below) which includes Israel this time (always bound to add to sales).

Kinzer has great sympathy with Iran as a country.

He acknowledges its democratic history and even the love that the Iranian people have for everything American.

He told us that when he was standing in Shiraz, Iran all the Iranians shook his hand when they discovered he was American. When Sean Penn visited Iran Penn was asked by an elderly Iranian gentleman what it was like being married to Madonna.

Kinzer seems to have a rare easy access to Iran, unlike most.

I would love to visit Iran. The Iranians I have met have been the politest, warmest and most articulate of people.

But I can’t imagine walking the streets for too long before being picked up as a Mossad spy. Even in the UK I get accused of that (see clip).

An American woman has just been arrested on spying charges and Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal still languish in an Iranian prison after being picked up as “spies” when they hiked a bit too near the Iranian border.

I can’t believe I would escape the same fate, unless, like Kinzer, I can rustle up a book or two favourable to such an oppressive regime.

First, Kinzer likes Turkey because it is a longstanding NATO ally, is the most democratic country in the Middle East and has a booming capitalist economy. It is also becoming more religious under President Erdogan which proves its credentials to other Muslim countries.

And because it tried to do a deal with Brazil on Iran’s nuclear programme and also condemned Israel over the Mavi Marmara tragedy it won’t be viewed as America’s lackey.

And Turkey’s advice to America on Iran? Stop with the confrontational rhetoric and try to compromise more.

Second, Kinzer describes Iran as having an open, vibrant and democratic society; a society as democratic as its government is undemocratic.

But he sees America as the the main stumbling block as it is still angry over the Iranian hostage crisis of 30 years ago and, therefore, reacts too emotionally on Iran.

But, he continued, Iran, being an enemy of the Taliban and Al Qaida, is America’s way out of Iraq and Afghanistan as long as America can prove to Iran that it won’t use Iraq as a base from which to attack Iran.

So how to achieve peace with Iran?

Kinzer says America must conduct broader negotiations with Iran than just on the nuclear issue. And it must allow Iran to bring its concerns to the table.

Kinzer compares the America-Iranian animosity to that once between America and China and says the latter was far worse.

But he thinks that America doesn’t wish to sign a similar accord with Iran as it would make Iran a regional power (which, says Kinzer, it is anyway).

Oh, and there must be incorporated into any American-Iranian agreement a deal on human rights in Iran.

I pushed him on the latter point suggesting that I couldn’t see Iran giving way on that at all and that any deal with Iran would only entrench such a brutal regime. Surely, it is the human rights abuses that keeps the current regime in power. Without the economic control of the IRGC (Iranian Republican Guard Corps.) and brutality of both the IRGC and the basij militia the regime would crumble quickly.

In reply Kinzer, bemusingly, cited photos of liberated Iranian women from the fifties. He failed to address the brutal Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime.

And eventhough America made peace with China that didn’t stop China going on to massacre hundreds of its own civilians in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and continuing to hang thousands of political opponents each year.

Similarly, an American peace with Russia hasn’t stopped the latter murdering anti-government journalists (Anna Politkovskaya shot dead on her way up to her appartment) and political dissidents (Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in London) and locking up its political opponents on trumped-up charges (Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev in prison since 2005 and who have just had their sentences arbitrarily extended).

Kinzer lives in Disneyland. He should realise that once a brutal regime, always a brutal regime.

The Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime really needs to be ousted before his nice theory on American-Iranian relations can take root.

Time to stand up for the people of Iran

Last night was a humbling experience. I interviewed two British Iranian men who had fled the brutal theocracy that has been Iran for the past 31 years.

One’s uncle had been executed. The other’s wife was arrested for opposing the regime. He was allowed to visit her in Evin prison and saw how bruised and emaciated her body had become. He encouraged her to stay strong and do what she could to comply with the authorities.

A few weeks later he had a visit from a government official who told him she had been executed.

Ayatollah Khamenei endorsing President Ahmadinejad after the latter's "election win"

The two men both spoke without any bitterness. Instead they have decided to channel their energy into opposing President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei.

They hope one day to be able to participate in a democratic Iran where free elections are normal.

Granted Iran has more elections than we do in the UK but to stand for election for political office you have to be approved by the Guardian Council, which means you have to adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam.

The two men described how 30,000 Iranians were massacred by their own government in 1988 (the official figure was 33,480). In 1996 human rights organisations were thrown out of Iran. 90% of Iranians are opposed to the regime.

They said the only answer was for full economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran.

But surely that would just hurt the people? They responded that the people are already hurt. They are impoverished. 70% live under the poverty line. They reckoned $80 billion to $90 billion has been spent supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.

They reminded us how Iran executes minors and how both women and men are stoned to death. The executions are still continuing at quite a pace.

This is a regime that understands that when the Shah showed contrition in 1979, under pressure from President Carter, he quickly fell. The current regime won’t be cowed into making the same mistake.

Two young men were executed last month for taking part in recent protests. Nine more will follow shortly. All for the “crime” of protesting.

In an ideal world sanctions would work, the regime would fall and then Ms Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, would become the President of Iran for six months. This would pave the way for free and fair elections to take place after that time. Ms Rajavi currently resides in France.

Maryam Rajavi could become provisional Iranian President pending elections.

Ordinary Iranians will no doubt suffer terribly under sanctions but they are suffering already.

However, as the Revolutionary Guard controls the economy the scene could be set for its possible fragmentation and weakening. With vastly reduced funds to pay off the Guard both President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei could soon find themselves being led to the same scaffolds they have sent so many innocents.

The Iranians would be free to determine their own lives and they would have increased resources with which to do it. Iran could try to repatriate the $80bn to $90bn that has gone into the coffers of Hamas and Hezbollah for starters.

Another positive effect would be the huge knock taken by political Islam. The end of theocratic Iran would also commence the demise of Hamas and Hezbollah and allow the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations after a 10 year hiatus.

With no funds from Iran Hamas would lose support as the Gazans realise Hamas is a busted flush.

This all sounds idealistic but then so was the end of the dictatorial Shah in 1979.

Tomorrow from 12.30 to 3pm there is a pro-democracy demonstration at Parliament Square in London.

It is an opportunity to show solidarity and to try to help get this process rolling.