Tag Archives: Mehdi Hasan

The Guardian and The New Statesman jump to Tonge’s defence…but only after misquoting her.

What a week. Jenny Tonge resigned the Liberal Democrat whip on Wednesday thanks to some footage I took of her speaking at last Thursday’s anti-Israel event at Middlesex University in Hendon, North-West London.

Thank you for the supportive tweets, texts, calls, emails and comments. All a bit embarrassing as all I did was hold up a camera (albeit under threat of being hauled out by the university’s security guards for doing so).

Some far bigger players took up the cause, as Martin Bright generously describes in his Jewish Chronicle report of the week’s events:

“It is certainly true that she was brought down by an irresistible pincer movement of right-wing bloggers. First, the neo-cons at the Commentator picked up on the footage of the Middlesex University event posted by the redoubtable Richard Millett and then passed the baton to the conservative attack dogs at Guido Fawkes.”

As Rubin Katz commented, it was doing what was right, not necessarily right-wing.

Since Tonge’s resignation some in the mainstream media have tried to jump to her defence, but have based their articles on a completely false premise.

Tonge said:

“Israel is not going to be there forever in its present performance because one day the United States of America will get sick of giving $70bn a year to Israel to support its, what I call, ‘America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East’. That is Israel. One day the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA ‘enough is enough’. Read that book by Walt and Mearsheimer called The Israel Lobby. But, it will not go on forever, it will not go on forever. Israel will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

But The Guardian‘s Michael White, The New Statesman‘s Mehdi Hasan and Yahoo‘s Ian Dunt all misquoted her as saying Israel “is not going to be there forever in its present form“, instead of “in its present performance“, so allowing them to give Tonge’s words a more benign interpretation than they warrant.

White then argues that a two-state solution involving land-for-peace trades would change Israel “in its present form” (White also concurs with her ridiculous $70bn figure. It’s actually $3bn).

Dunt refers to Tonge as the “victim” of a “trick” by Israel’s defenders and goes on to describe the phrase “in its present form” as one “which almost all people, including Israelis, would accept given the negotiations which would have to take place for a two-state solution to be accomplished”.

Hasan defends Tonge by suggesting “in its present form” was merely an assessment of the threat to Israel’s future as “a Jewish and democratic state”. To back himself up he uses the spurious argument that Jews and Arabs will eventually reach parity in the area under discussion (there will never be anywhere near parity as this study shows).

But Hasan is against Israel’s existence, anyway. In his last paragraph he says he “reluctantly” supports “the one-state solution”.

But Tonge didn’t say “in its present form“. She said “in its present performance“, by which she clearly meant Israel’s present behaviour. She ended with the threat that Israel “will reap what they have sown”, which relates back to that performance/behaviour.

Tonge thinks Israel has massacred and ethnically cleansed Palestinians and so her “will reap what they have sown” must mean that she thinks that the same will eventually happen to Israel’s Jews.

No reasonable person can defend such sentiments. If White, Dunt and Hasan listen again to what Tonge actually said then, surely, they must have serious second thoughts about their articles.

Here it is again:

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Oh, Mehdi, feel free to tell us to “bugger off to Tel Aviv”.

Mehdi Hasan.

Mehdi Hasan.

Last Friday Luke Bozier, a Labour blogger, said of Mehdi Hasan, the embattled Senior Editor (politics) at the New Statesman magazine:

“Wouldn’t it be good if he just buggered off to Tehran.”

It was in response to Hasan’s article the previous day If you lived in Iran, wouldn’t you want the nuclear bomb? which some commentators have interpreted as a call by Hasan for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.

Yesterday Hasan posted a response to the criticism of his article and made the following curious remark about Bozier:

Can you imagine the media reaction if a British Jew wrote a column about Israel which prompted the response of “bugger off to Tel Aviv”?

I can’t see the parallel myself. Hasan isn’t Iranian and neither does Bozier’s remark seem to be an attack on Hasan’s Muslim identity.

It might be in dispute as to whether Hasan’s article amounts to a call for an Iranian nuclear bomb, but what is not in dispute is his coming to the defence of the vile Iranian regime, describing it as “surrounded on all sides by virulent enemies” and he doubts whether Iran is looking to create a nuclear bomb when he gives credence to the regime’s rhetoric that its “goal is only to develop a civilian nuclear programme, not atomic bombs”.

And so Bozier’s comment is not so different from those by people who tell apologists for Hamas to move to Gaza if they love Hamas so much. It’s the same with telling Hasan to go to Tehran. It isn’t a racist slur.

And in reality, and Hasan must know this, the equivalent far-left racial slur against British Jews is for us to bugger off to Russia. I, myself, was once told to go back to Poland at an anti-Israel event in London.

So what a nice change it would be for British Jews to be told to “bugger off to Tel Aviv”.

Implicit in such a suggestion would at least be a recognition of the Jewish connection to Israel, a connection which both the Palestinian leadership and the far-left refuse to make.

But it wasn’t like that before 1948 when the common refrain of racists in the UK was for Jews to go back to Palestine. After 1948 it became politically inconvenient for the racists to suggest Jews go back to Israel, so Poland and Russia are now the new hot spots designated for us by the far-left, irrespective of the fact that Jews got slaughtered there in their millions by the Nazis.

And how ironic that Hasan now chooses to employ British Jews in his defence when he has previously shown us such disregard with his casual attitude to anti-Semitism.

In an echo of Ben White’s article in 2002 Is It Possible to Understand the Rise in Anti-Semitism? in which White wrote “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are” Hasan wrote in his article Does Israel “cause” anti-Semitism?:

“Nothing justifies anti-Semitism…But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel…through its actions today…provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon.”

As The CST‘s Dave Rich wrote in the comment section of that post:

“The people who are primarily responsible for racist hate crimes are the racists who perpetrate them; the “cause” is their bigotry and hatred for a chosen ‘other’…You would not write an article lamenting that fact that Muslim immigration “caused” the recent arson attack on the Luton Islamic Centre…Don’t make excuses for racists, and don’t use racism as an excuse to score political points.”

And anyway, Hasan and President Ahmadinejad do have similar ideas which suggests that Hasan might actually feel at home in Tehran. For example, they both wish for Israel to be wiped off the map. In his article I’ve changed my mind about a two-state solution Hasan describes his own solution as being:

“a single, secular and binational state for Israelis and Palestinians. No longer ‘two states for two peoples’, but ‘one person, one vote’.”

And in mid-July 2009 he wrote of the Iranian regime’s Press TV that “not a single critic so far has claimed that his or her views were ever censored”. However, two weeks earlier Press TV interviewed Hossein Mousavi in his prison cell in Iran asking him questions prepared by the Iranian regime with Mousavi reading his answers from a script also prepared by the regime. (OFCOM recently upheld the complaint of unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in making the programme containing Mousavi’s interview.)

So, Mehdi, by all means hate Israel, excuse anti-Semitism and support the Iranian regime if you are that way inclined but please don’t try to use British Jews in your defence when it suits you politically. And if anyone does tell me to “bugger off to Tel Aviv” I will be happy that, finally, they will have stopped trying to force me back to Poland.