Tag Archives: Abdel Bari Atwan

Camera grabbed, rucksack snatched and racially abused at SOAS.

When I went to last night’s Palestine Society event at SOAS (public advertisement above) the audience was greeted with this slide when we entered the Khalili Lecture Theatre:

The slide that greeted us in the KLT at SOAS last night.

The slide that greeted us in the KLT at SOAS last night.

Before journalist Abdel Bari Atwan or Oxford University’s Dr. Karma Nebulsi spoke we were shown a film. Here is the eight seconds I was able to film before I felt some quite sharp prods in my shoulder while being ordered to stop filming:

Next I am told “You’re a typical Israeli, you know that”, which I took as a racist comment:

Next I am told to stop filming and recording by the chairperson before a rather large chap who had subsequently seated himself in front of me got up, turned around and tried to grab my camera, leaving me with a throbbing finger, before making off with my rucksack:

In the act of snatching the rucksack my phone, glasses case, pens and voice recorder ended up all over the floor and under the seats in front of me. I had to kneel to pick everything up, but I’m still missing a pen.

The audience started to taunt me and slow hand clap. Bari Atwan remained silent throughout while Nebulsi had the nerve to accuse me of being disruptive. Bizarrely, she offered to escort me outside to retrieve my rucksack but I refused to leave until my stuff was returned. At no stage did anyone in the 40 strong audience come to my defence in any way:

Eventually, SOAS security retrieved my rucksack and, suprisingly, my coat, which must have been removed by someone from behind me while I wasn’t looking. My coat had my keys in it:

After my coat and rucksack had been returned and after I had managed to retrieve most of my belongings from the floor and from under the seats I left.

To say I felt shaken and pretty distressed is the least of it.

I have turned off the comments just for this blog as I don’t wish to have prejudiced anything that may or may not happen but if anyone can help me with the names of any of those in the clips above then I would be very grateful.

Also, I’d be interested in knowing the translation of the Arabic on the slide above.

My email is richardblog@live.co.uk

Abdel Bari Atwan at Amnesty: “I get worse coverage in the Jewish Chronicle than Hitler would!”

Greg Philo, Victoria Brittain, Abdel Bari Atwan and Tim Llewellyn at Amnesty last night.

Greg Philo, Victoria Brittain, Abdel Bari Atwan and Tim Llewellyn at Amnesty last night.

Last night at Amnesty journalist Abdel Bari Atwan held up an old JC front page, which had a headline about him that he didn’t like, and claimed he gets worse coverage than Adolf Hitler.

He spoke along with Tim “But Hamas was democratically elected” Llewellyn and Phil “We wait in fear of phone calls from the Israelis” Philo, while Victoria Brittan chaired and made sure not to take any pro-Israel questions in the Q&A. So much for Amnesty claiming:

“Those who disagree with MEMO, or indeed any apsect of the event, are of course welcome to attend and make their point in a reasonable way.”

We were treated to default rhetoric about Israel controlling the media and dominating ALL the political parties. Llewellyn said the problem was with the political system in this country where “the Liberal, Labour and Conservative parties, were definitely completely and utterly dominated by the pro-Israeli lobby”.

And during the Q&A Abe Hayeem, of Architects for Palestinians, complained that “Jewish Media, specifically the JC and Jewish News, ingrain propaganda in the community”.

Philo was there to, basically, flog his new book More Bad News From Israel but spared the time to accuse Israel of having a “sophisticated propaganda system” which led to the BBC making inappropriate statements like “Israel’s attack on Hamas enters its second week” when it should be speaking of “Israel’s attack on the Palestinians”.

He spoke of the way the media portrayed Israel as just responding to rockets, but ignored Israel’s attacks in the previous three years and that “many children had been killed”.

As a consequence, said Philo, although the public had sympathy for the Palestinians they wanted the Palestinians to stop firing rockets at Israel. They were repeating the language of the news that Israel “had to respond”.

He quoted a woman in one of his focus groups who said:

“When I saw the pictures of the dead children, it was dreadful. I was in tears. But it didn’t make me feel that the Palestinians and Hamas were right. I think the Palestinians haven’t taken the chance to work towards a peaceful solution.”

Philo said it was like she was reading out the Israeli press material. Philo asked the interviewee afterwards what was the source of her beliefs and her reponse was “(BBC) Radio 4. Avid Radio 4 listener. I got it all from there”.

When Philo told her that it was Israel that broke the ceasefire before Operation Cast Lead and that Hamas had agreed to stop the rockets if the blockade was lifted she claimed, apparently quite affronted, “that can’t be so, I would have known that”.

He said the reason for the lack of truthful information in the media was the pressures that journalists, especially those at the BBC, were coming under. One said “We wait in fear of the phonecall from the Israelis. The only issue then is how high up from their organisation has it come and how high up our organisation it has gone.” He said that minutes before going on air journalists have been discussing words they are allowed to use.

“That is the level of tension inside the organisation. Journalists aren’t biased, but are just playing it safe,” he said.

Former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, couldn’t wait to slag off his old employer. He had already written a Guardian piece that day accusing the BBC of “imbalance and distortion” over their “coverage of Israel and Palestine”. The piece is a rehash of his Guardian article of seven years ago. What fun around the dinner table Llewellyn must be!

His main complaint last night though was about the BBC’s Death in the Med which, he said, portrayed the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boat as acting in “self-defence” when they killed some of those on board the Mavi Marmara.

His talk was basically a rant about how the BBC didn’t properly address his complaints. He referred to one response from the BBC as a “tendentious piece of garbage”. Well, join the club, Tim!

He even felt sorry for Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s current Middle East correspondent, who is also, apparently, constrained in what he is allowed to say:

“Short of defying their bosses at the BBC I cannot see what they can do. Defying their bosses means they will be shoved sideways or fired. The system is weighted against many BBC, ITV and other reporters. I can feel Jeremy Bowen’s pain as he is dancing around the basic question. If he has no courage to confront the BBC, then I despair.”

As for Bari Atwan, or Barry as he likes to be called, he really is “the special one”. He moaned about how BBC’s Newsnight kept mysteriously dropping him at the last minute for the likes of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Imagine that, Barry being dropped in favour of a world statesman! How low down can Newsnight get.

And, apparently, the Israel lobby even caused the BBC to stop him being referred to as a Middle East “Expert” or “Analyst” and he was targeted by said lobby for being the “most impressionable”. Talking about putting onself on a pedestal.

But then came his Hitler rant. To suggest that Jews might think him worse than Hitler really is a case of exaggerating his self-importance.

You can hear all this below and there are some photos of the protest outside Amnesty and a clip of Victoria Brittain summing up. In the clip she is referring to Abdullah Abul Rahma, who has recently been released from prison, and the village of Nabi Saleh and what happened there “last Friday”. She wants you to ask yourself why you didn’t see this on any TV screen. I have watched the clip (below) but cannot see anything that could possibly knock Al Qaeda, Libya, Syria or Bahrain out of the headlines.

But then, having been brainwashed by the Jewish Chonicle, I would say that wouldn’t I.

Counterintuitively, I came out of the meeting pleased that they were creating their own monster about Israel. Making people feel paranoid must be Israel’s latest weapon.

Peter Benenson was the founder of Amnesty.

Peter Benenson was the founder of Amnesty.

Pro-Israel activist outside Amnesty. MEMO is accused of supporting Hamas.

Pro-Israel activist outside Amnesty. MEMO is accused of supporting Hamas.

Audio of last night’s talks:

Greg Philo at Amnesty, 23rd May.

Tim Llewellyn at Amnesty, 23rd May.

Abdel Bari Atwan at Amnesty, 23rd May.

Q&A at Amnesty, 23rd May.

Beware the monster being created by the anti-Israel Lobby.

There are worrying developments in this country’s anti-Israel lobby. Maybe it is the continuing strength of Israel both militarily and economically while the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is having limited, if any, success.

But while Israel and many Israelis continue to prosper, even more so in light of the upcoming change in the law of universal jurisdiction which will make it harder to arrest an Israeli official on allegations of war crimes, Diaspora Jews are still a target.

One might disagree with Israeli policies but what we think is irrelevant. We do not live there and so do not suffer the same threats as Israeli Jews.

Similarly, one would not expect Israeli Jews to advise UK Jews. Only those that live in a country can truly judge the appropriate action to take.

And Hasbarah is easy anyway. We all understand the history of the conflict. We know that Jews have a right to a sovereign state in the Middle East and that the Palestinians have a right to one also. The job may be big but that is no bar to trying to explain Israel’s position to office colleagues, friends and television audiences.

The main problem comes when you are attacked for what you are, a Jew, not what you think. Instead of being able to respond constructively the only response you are left with, apart from being left open-mouthed, is denial.

MP Gerald Kaufman claimed this year that rich Jews controlled the Conservative Party. Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, said that Israel’s “tentacles” were controlling our political system. Both accusations could be straight out of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And, on seventh night of Chanukah the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) staged Seven Jewish Children at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. The choice of venue for this outrageous play seems particularly cruel when considering the plight of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. The production is full of horrendous accusations about Jews.

I saw it at the Royal Court last year and felt uneasy amidst an applauding London audience. The show lasts 10 minutes and uses seven short acts to portray how the Jews have turned from being killed during the Holocaust into the killers themselves during Operation Cast Lead.

According to the play Jews are biblically driven, think of Palestinians as “filth” and “animals”, justify the killing of Palestinian babies to their own children and enjoy swimming in nice pools while the Palestinians become dehydrated.

There may be some Jews who think like this, Baruch Goldstein was an example, but to imply that all Jews do is racist. However, the play is available for anyone to put on for free, including in schools.

On the fifth night of Chanukah, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of a London-based Arabic newspaper, gave a talk at LSE and allegedly pointed at Jewish students and accused them of bombing Gaza. In 2007 Atwan stated that he would “dance with delight” if Israel was hit by Iranian missiles. Imagine someone pointing at Muslim students while shouting they are all suicide bombers. That person would be accused of inciting religious hatred.

My suspicion, which may be wrong, is that the PSC came to the Polish centre via Ewa Jasiewicz, a Polish anti-Israel activist. During the summer Jasiewicz visited the Warsaw Ghetto and helped to daub “Free Gaza and Palestine” on the walls of one of the Ghetto houses in, what could be considered, a crude attempt to equate the Palestinians with the Jews under the Nazis. The Ghetto is now considered a grave to the 100,000 Jews that perished there.

More recently, the PSC and Middle East Monitor invited Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s representative to the Palestinian territories, to London to give a talk on Israel’s assault on human rights.

Yet, it was the same Falk who, in 2008, said that Israel’s treatment of Gaza was a “Holocaust in the making”.

Criticising Israeli policy is one thing but comparing the Palestinians with the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust and accusing today’s Jews of condoning the killing of babies while justifying it to their own children is another.

This will only lead to dangerous repercussions elsewhere. During the summer I had to intervene after seeing a Jewish teenager violently attacked by a Muslim teenager. Britain’s anti-Israel lobby should beware the monster it is helping to create.

(This piece appears in the latest edition of The Jewish News)