A pro-Palestine campaigner has narrowly avoided being banned from practising his profession after the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) decided that statements he had made against Zionists and Israel were not intended to be antisemitic.
But at a hearing earlier this month, the GPhC issued Mr Ali with a warning after he had said at the 2017 Al Quds March in London that:
- Zionists are not Jews.
- Rabbis from the Board of Deputies of British Jews were imposters.
- And the Tory party and some of its Zionist supporters were responsible for the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The panel said: ”The Registrant… is hereby given a Warning that his future behaviour and comments that he makes must at all times avoid undermining the reputation of the profession, or the reputation of the regulator and must uphold the required standards of the pharmacy profession.
“He is reminded in particular that ‘behaving professionally is not limited to the working day, or face to face interactions. The privilege of being a Pharmacist and the importance of maintaining confidence in the profession calls for appropriate behaviour at all time.”
The GPhC initiated disciplinary procedures against Nazim Ali in 2018 after a complaint by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) alleging that he had insulted Zionists, Zionist rabbis, and those associated with the Jewish Board of Deputies.
This despite the fact that Mr Ali had clearly distinguished between Zionism and Judaism during the rally.
Since then the case has taken many turns and twists with Mr Ali even being exonerated at one point before the case was reopened following lobbying from pro-Israel activists.
The Fitness to Practice Committee of the GPhC has now found that two statements made by Ali during the Al-Quds Day Rally were objectively antisemitic.
The GPhC arrived at its determination on the basis that a normal person on the “Clapham Omnibus” would ordinarily deem Mr Ali’s statements to be antisemitic.
On the Grefell Tower comment, the panel held an ordinary member of the public would not have understood the reasoning used by Ali as “it was not at all clear if there was blame to be apportioned” for the disaster at the time he made his statement.
However, having determined against Mr Ali, the GPhC accepted that his comments were not intended to be antisemitic; that he had not embarked upon a “deliberate diatribe of hatred;” that the comments were “not indicative of an underlying attitudinal failing;” and they were made in the heat of a highly-charged gathering where pro-Israel activists were referring to Muslims as paedophiles and terrorists.
‘Weaponisation of antisemitism’
The Islamic Human Rights Commission, which was supporting Mr Ali, said it is concerned that the disciplinary process displays a “cowering of the courts and professional authorities to political lobby groups when considering issues concerning Palestine.”
“This lack of pushback against vexatious claims by pro-Israel groups undermines equality,” said the IHRC.
Chair of IHRC, Massoud Shadjareh added: “While we are pleased that Mr Ali has not been struck off, this determination rings alarm bells about the galloping weaponisation of antisemitism that now increasingly seeks to target professionals for activities undertaken outside their work. It is cynically designed to cow pro-Palestine activists by making them vulnerable to disciplinary action simply for expressing legitimate political views.”
Meanwhile, The Board of Deputies condemned the decision saying it was “totally irresponsible” and a “serious failure to protect the public against hate speech.”
And Campaign Against Antisemitism called the decision “unacceptably weak.”
Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Today’s ruling marks the culmination of more than six years of work by Campaign Against Antisemitism to secure justice against the leader of the infamous 2017 pro-Hizballah ‘Al Quds Day’ march. It has finally been ruled that Nazim Ali’s address to the crowd contained antisemitic invective, an obvious conclusion that has been resisted for years.
“Despite this admission at long last by the GPhC, Mr Ali has only been given a warning, a slap-on-the-wrist sanction that shows a disturbing lack of seriousness toward racist conduct as it pertains to Jews.
“The road to justice in this case has proved long and winding, but we always said that we would not allow this injustice to stand and we are pleased that this ruling that the comments were antisemitic has at long last vindicated our efforts, even as the sanction shows that enforcement remains unacceptably weak in many cases. British Jews can be assured that we will always be unrelenting in pursuit of justice, and we will be meeting with the GPhC about its approach to antisemitic hate.”