Daily Archives: November 8, 2011

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?