Now it is a crime to criticise Israel

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Abdel-Bari-AtwanAbdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian journalist and the editor of Raialyoum

I left my homeland, Palestine, forty years ago and emigrated to Europe in order to escape from the repression, confiscation of freedoms, and injustices being meted out by our new neighbours, the Israelis. I wanted to explore the West’s much-vaunted values of justice and democracy, and earn a decent living, away from the bondage of the sponsorship system. I also wanted to challenge the Zionist argument and logic in their own backyard.

I have to say with some bitterness that Europe has changed over the years, or perhaps it is we, the Arabs, who have changed – and for the worse, for we have become a joke, and are in danger of losing what little credibility we have left in the Western world.

Britain is consumed, these days, by a fierce battle between the few courageous defenders of the usurped Arab rights in Palestine, those who challenge Israel on its massacres, its summary executions and its war crimes, and the Zionist lobby, which has enormous influence in most Western governments, including Britain.

The current uproar is the latest example of Israel’s intellectual and political terrorism.

Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone

The first “bombshell” was the exhumation, after more than two years, of a Facebook post written by the Muslim British Labour MP Naz Shah during the Israeli aggression on Gaza. In the post, Ms Shah pointed out that the US sends billions of dollars each year in aid to Israel and was therefore, in effect, funding the violence. She suggested that Israel should be relocated to the US where it would be “welcome and safe” allowing Palestinians to “get their life and their land back.” Ms Shah added that this would save the US taxpayer a great deal of money too.

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When this Facebook post was brought to light by the “Guido Fawkes” right-wing website (the editor describes his politics as “Thatcher on drugs”), Ms Shah was accused of anti-semitism, suspended from the Labour Party and had the whip removed. The newspapers and Tory party clamoured for Labour to root out “endemic anti-semitism” within the party.

Next, veteran politician and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone was also suspended from the Labour Party after he appeared on television defending Ms Shah. He pointed out that there is a big difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism – the latter being opposed to Zionist policies which champion the persecution and expulsion of the Palestinians. He said that he had never heard anybody in the Labour party saying anything anti-semitic. Mr Livingstone then added , “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone

This comment led to Mr Livingstone being branded a “Nazi apologist” by Labour MP John Mann.

The Zionist lobby has campaigned vigorously against Islamic scholars and preachers, and has succeeded in having them – and many Arab politicians – banned from entering Britain, most European countries, and America, the “land of the free.”

The actions of this powerful group meets with no resistance from the Arabs and their governments, many of whom now regard Israel not just as a friend but an ally of a new Sunni nationalism. Israel’s airlines now fly regularly to some of the Gulf states, where it has opened embassies and with whom it coordinates on security and military matters and develops business ties.

Much of the success of the Zionist lobby is due to the hard work of a whole army of electronic activists who scour the internet for any critique of Israel, which is met with a barrage of angry, insulting comments and the cry of “anti-semitism.” Benjamin Netanyahu allows this brigade an annual budget in the range of $750 million, and their findings are also used to persecute any individual who has ever challenged Israel and to prevent them from talking or writing in newspapers.

Among these is your present writer, wishing you a long life, health and happiness.

Zionist lobby

Two days ago, the president of the Federation of Societies of Palestinian institutions in France sent me a message announcing that a planned event in Paris on the anniversary of the Nakba, at which I was due to speak, had been cancelled because of threats received from Zionist organizations. These threats included physical violence against participants. The security services were not willing to protect the event in the light of the “state of emergency” which has been in place since the dreadful terrorist massacres in the French capital in November last year.

Two weeks ago, Zionist groups in Austria succeeded in cancelling another Palestinian activity, this time a talk by militant Palestinian guerrilla Leila Khaled, who was denounced as a terrorist.

Three weeks ago I was invited to Germany to attend a celebration of Earth Day, organized by a coalition of Palestinian groups including doctors and students. Again, Zionist activists succeeded in getting the booking for the hall in which the event was to take place cancelled. In this case the honest people who organized the concert succeeded in finding an alternative venue and did not bow to warnings from the German security establishment that they could not guarantee their safety.

Malia Bouattia
Malia Bouattia

Some might ask: why is there no protest from the Arab and Palestinian governments and embassies?

When the Palestinian President weeps – not for thousands of Palestinian children but for a few Israeli victims – when he dispatches Saeb Erekat to Israeli youth camps, boasts about his security coordination with Israel, and turns the Palestinian embassies abroad into retirement homes for the elderly – it is no wonder that the Zionist lobby marches through the streets and squares of Europe without a competitor?

In contrast, there are many young Europeans and Arabs who do not give up, and resist the Israeli racist occupation, its Zionist ethnic cleansing and its cruelty, resist it fiercely and courageously despite every effort to silence them. These are the heroes behind the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement and they drink from the river of dignity, pride and justice; and notable among them is Malia Bouattia, the Algerian student who was recently elected President of the National Union of Students despite a ferocious campaign against her by the Israeli lobby, which accused her – of course – of anti-Semitism.

We do not exaggerate when we say that many difficult challenges lie ahead. When Ken Livingstone, who has spent his entire life campaigning against racism, is accused of anti-Semitism; when the two million who marched through central London to protest the war on Iraq are ignored; when David Cameron declares that the latest aggression on Gaza – that killed 2200, 76 percent of them civilians, and 500 children – as “self-defence” … it is our right to speak out, to be angry and to be full of sorrow.

We will not give up, even though our Palestinian Authority has ceded 80 percent of our land in the name of “moderation” and one day, however long it takes, we will prevail.

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