Laura Stuart: Board of Deputies of British Jews versus freedom of expression
Laura Stuart considers the use of defamation and disinformation by the Board of Deputies of British Jews – Britain’s leading Israel lobby group – as tools in its rear-guard defence of Zionism and the apartheid state of Israel.
An article in the Jewish Chronicle last week trumpets a great victory by the Board of Deputies of British Jews over the envoy of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the UK, Manuel Hassassian. The Board of Deputies boasts of the pressure they brought on Hassassian which caused him to remove links to an article written by Gilad Atzmon on Israelis who were caught organ trafficking.
Defamation in the service of Zionism
The article in question is hardly an unsubstantiated or new story about Israeli involvement in organ trafficking. In fact, Atzmon provided a link in his article to the Israeli news website Ynet, which also reported the story. Anyone who wishes to investigate further the involvement of Israelis in organ trafficking need only search the words “Israelis” and “organ trafficking" on a search engine to find a wealth of reports about various cases in the Middle East and America.
So, why the outrage by the Board of Deputies of British Jews for what is an established fact? Well, the Jewish Chronicle article provides us with the views of the Board’s senior vice-president, Jonathon Arkush, on Gilad Atzmon, defaming him as an "anti-Semite" and a "deeply controversial and distasteful figure".
Here we are again, a perfect example of the “anti-Semite” label being used against someone who some Jews hate rather than someone who hates Jews. As is well known, Atzmon, who is a renowned International jazz musician, has Jewish members in his jazz band. Furthermore, I hardly think that Gilad Atzmon's recent book The Wandering Who? a study of Jewish identity politics, would have been endorsed by leading academics and humanists if there was any “anti-Semitism” in it.
Disinformation in the service of Zionism
Who are the Board of Deputies of British Jews? I thought to take a look at their website and there I found on the front pages two articles where the Board of Deputies have brought enough pressure to extract apologies from variously Sir Robert Atkins MEP and Paul Flynn MP.
On the second page there was a very misleading story about the website of the PNA which apparently seeks to confuse the reader with the headline "ASA [Advertising Standards Authority] rules against Palestinian mission website" then writing underneath it about Gilad Atzmon, in a heavy handed effort to imply that the ASA ruled against Atzmon's articles which of course they didn't. The ruling of the ASA was against the use of a map of pre-1948 Palestine which the PNA’s mission had used on its website and which showed historic Palestine on to which the state of Israel was imposed. The issue being that the website was apparently using that map in relation to promoting tourism – the fact that what is now the state of Israel is built on the land of the Palestinian people is not one that even the Board of Deputies of British Jews could dispute.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews would appear to be trying to control the discourse on the Israel/Palestine issue and beyond. In fact, a few weeks ago they went really overboard and tried to prevent Atzmon from playing jazz music in Bradford. In the event, they failed to convince the festival organizers, Raise your Banners, that Atzmon is an “anti-Semite” and the packed concert went ahead.
The failure of the Board of Deputies of British Jews to stop the Bradford concert appears to have infuriated them to such a degree that they are now engaged in a full blown tantrum against Atzmon. They even contacted the Foreign Office to demand (demand is a word you see used often on their website) that they instruct the PNA’s London mission to remove the links to Gilad Atzmon's articles, but the Foreign Office replied that they were unable to do so as the articles contained nothing which breaks UK law.
The question here really is this: should the Board of Deputies of British Jews be controlling jazz concerts, the website of the Palestinian mission in the UK, the opinions of British MEPs and MPs, in a country which is proud of its freedom of expression?
The Wandering Who-A Study of Pre Traumatic Stress Dissorder Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Laura Stuart is a British human rights activist. She visited the Gaza Strip twice in 2009 as part of the Viva Palestina humanitarian missions, was on board the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara that was attacked by Israeli state terrorists in May 2010 and joined the humanitarian land convoy to the Strip in October 2010.