Which Side Are You On?

by Conrad Landin

The Daily Telegraph supporting Boris Johnson? Surely not! For many, Andrew Gilligan’s promotion to the paper came as a relief. No longer would his hysterical opinions be broadcast to the capital’s retreating commuters as a point of course.

But when self-proclaimed Labour supporters take to its pages to shaft their own party less than a month before a crucial election, we can no longer be passive.

Lynton Crosby, the hard-right Tory campaign director, emailed the Tory members this weekend.

In an attempt to string out the mayoral tax row, Crosby invokes a number of sources, including the Telegraph, Lib Dem Brian Paddick and The Times. No surprises there. But Crosby also lists apparently ‘Labour’ commentators. “This isn’t just my view,” he writes. “See what others, including Labour activists, are now saying about Ken Livingstone’s hypocrisy.”

The Labour members he lists are Atul Hatwal, Jonathan Roberts, and Dan Hodges (who is quoted supporting Andrew Gilligan, who, like Hodges and Boris Johnson, is paid by the Telegraph).

It is time to call this what it is: Labour members undermining the Labour campaign for the mayor of London by doing and saying things the Tories want them to do.

They are acting as agents of the Tories’ line and the Tories’ strategy by throwing hand-grenades around our own trenches, rather than targeting the opposition.

Describing these figures as Labour activists is a insult to the hard work of the thousands of volunteers who have brought bread and butter issues such as transport fares up the agenda. And I’ll sort out a VIP ticket to my ward’s next canvassing session for any proven sighting of Dan Hodges on the doorstep.

None of these people have shown any interest in Labour winning this election. When the polls have shown the election to be on a knife-edge, they stay eerily silent. And then we see them pile in behind a newly negative and unpleasant Tory campaign. Self-describing tribalists like Hodges know too that when you’re close to an election, you can only pick your side. They have picked theirs: that of the Tory mayor.

Whilst Labour and its members are piling everything into this campaign, some people prefer to indulge themselves and their egos.

We only have to read the introduction of Crosby’s email to see the Tories’ vulnerability in this election. He is worried that his main election argument has gone into a tailspin. “Today, the national media are focusing on what disclosure means for the future direction of British politics and others are saying that it is a sideshow – just politicians spatting,” he says, adding that “These claims may serve Ken Livingstone’s purpose…

He should be worried – his strategy has veered off into a different debate: whether total disclosure is healthy for British public life. He and Johnson have poisoned the well. Many commentators are urging for the debate to move on.

Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,” he argues.

Johnson’s campaign is trying to divert Londoners’ attention from understanding that they will be £1,000 or more better off with Labour’s Ken Livingstone, through the reduction of fares and other key pledges – or, put another way, they will be £1,000 or more worse off with Johnson and the Conservatives.

If we can get this message out, then Ken will win. In a cynical attempt to deceive the electorate, the Tories have made a song and dance distraction.

Crosby’s strategy can be taken down. Real Labour activists will be doing just this in the coming weeks. Those few Labour members who continue to snipe must accept that they are simply the Tories’ useful idiots.

This article first appeared at Next Generation Labour.

Who and What is Harry’s Place

Harry’s Place is a political blog that has earned itself a controversial reputation over the years. Posted on the blog’s masthead is the following quote by George Orwell: Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”.

Yet even a cursory examination of the blog’s history would leave any objective person in no doubt that the stock in trade of Harry’s Place is personal smear, defamatory attack and Islamophobia.

Among the long list of predominately left wing politicians and progressive voices who’ve come in for attack by Harry’s Place over recent months and years are:  

Jenny Tonge, former Liberal Democrat MP and now Baroness.


Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith.


Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North.


Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London.


John Pilger, journalist and filmmaker.


Mehdi Hassan, political editor of the New Statesman.


Seumas Milne, associate editor and columnist with the Guardian


Ken Loach, filmmaker.


Organisations that have come under attack by Harry’s Place include Amnesty International; Muslim Association of Britain; Human Rights Watch; University and College Union; Islamic Forum of Europe; Liberty; Interpal; Cage Prisoners; The Guardian; Viva Palestina; Islamophobia Watch, Spinwatch; Socialist Workers Party; Respect; Palestine Solidarity Campaign; and Stop the War Coalition.

What the above and most of the many others who’ve come in for attack by Harry’s Place have in common is their criticism of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, along with their defence of the Muslim community.

Earlier this year a former regular contributor to Harry’s Place, Terry Fitzgerald, was tried and convicted of racially aggravated harassment against Ken Livingstone’s former political adviser, Lee Jasper.


In 2008 The Spectator magazine was the subject of a legal action over an article that appeared in its pages claiming that Islam Expo, a biennial Islamic exhibition, was a supporter of clerical fascism, genocide and racism. The basis of the Spectator magazine article was a piece that originally appeared on Harry’s Place.


The website serves as a platform for individuals with strong pro-Israel views. Following judge Richard Goldstone’s report on the war crimes committed during Israel‘s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of 1400 Palestinians, including 400 children, HP blogger Gene Zitver republished an article by Moshe Halbertal from The New Republic that tried to discredit the report.  In the preface Zitver added:

Think about that. How many of the world’s armies– especially those engaged in all-too-frequent combat– are concerned enough about ethics to develop such a code, and to include philosophers in the process?

Now of course Israel’s enemies will claim it is all just for show– a PR stunt. Such people lack the most fundamental understanding of Israeli society. The difficult matter of balancing Israel’s security with the objective of minimizing harm to non-combatants is one that most Israelis take very seriously.

Zitver here is defending the actions is of the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Cast Lead, the same army that according to Goldstone, targeted the “people of Gaza as a whole” in a war that was designed to “humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.

It should be noted that Richard Goldstone controversially later resiled from some of the report’s initial conclusions. However fellow members of the special UN fact finding mission to Gaza in the wake of Operation Cast Lead issued an open letter criticising the South African judge and questioning his motives for doing so.    


Harry’s Place also served as a catalyst for the launch of CiF Watch, a website allegedly dedicated ‘to monitoring and exposing antisemitism on the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Comment is Free’ blog’. However, as with Harry’s Place, its main task appears to be to be the smearing of anti-Zionists and voices critical of Israel.

Another of HP’s main contributors is David Toube, who used to post articles under the name David T.

Toube was threatened with legal action by George Galloway and Kevin Ovenden over repeated articles traducing the character and reputation of both as trustees of Viva Palestina, a charitable organisation which has succeeded since its formation in 2009 in taking 5 humanitarian convoys to Gaza, comprised of tens of thousands of pounds worth of children’s toys, food, medicines and other essential humanitarian supplies. In particular, Toube has repeatedly sought to paint the former Respect MP, George Galloway, as ‘funding terrorism’. It is an accusation with absolutely no basis in fact and is designed to prevent and obstruct the provision of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza.

Useful background information on David Toube and his blogging activities can be found here:  http://neilclark66.blogspot.com/2007/10/outing-of-david-t.html

Since threatened with legal action, David Toube posts articles on Harry’s Place under the pseudonym ‘Habibi’. The blog itself also took the step of relocating its registration from the UK to the US, where the laws governing libel and defamation are far less vigorous.

Other regular contributors are Edmund Standing, Michael Ezra, and more recently Sarah AB (Annes Brown).

Here for example is Standing taking Andy Newman to task for daring to criticize HP for hosting convicted racist thug Terry Fitz, while attempting to blame the victim of racism, Lee Jasper:  http://hurryupharry.org/2011/04/04/andy-newman-lee-jasper-and-the-disgrace-of-socialist-unity/

Sarah is a particularly interesting case. Unlike either Standing or Ezra – both out and out foaming at the mouth, rancid reactionaries – Sarah projects herself as the voice of reason, a lone voice of sanity in a sewer of lunacy you might say. However, scratch the surface of Sarah’s projected reason and sanity and you find moral turpitude of a kind which suggests that for Sarah Arabs and Muslims lie somewhere between retrograde and chitlen. This is confirmed by her ability in one paragraph to both acknowledge the injustice of the settlements while proudly describing in an HP article she wrote her participation in a counter-demonstration against pro-Palestinian activists engaged in protesting outside Ahava in Covent Garden, a beauty products store selling goods derived from those same settlements in occupied Palestine.

If this was really just about settlement goods, I wouldn’t have gone to London to counter-demonstrate. I’m perfectly receptive to stories such asthis, and I realize that some Israelis also choose to boycott such products, and that many are concerned at Israel’s moves to outlaw such boycotts. Neither in fact am I strongly opposed to such products being labelledmore clearly .  But although the Ahava campaign might seem limited and acceptable, the overall BDS campaign is intent on targeting every kind of contact with Israel cultural, sporting, academic.

Harry’s Place clearly views its place in the blogsphere with regard to Muslims, the antiwar movement, and those who support Palestinian human rights much as Senator Joe McCarthy viewed his in the US throughout the fifties when it came to communism and Communists.

No respecter of reputation, probity or the truth, its contributors eagerly slander anyone whose political views it disagrees with, using pseudonyms as both a sword and a shield to protect them from the legal consequences that would otherwise result.

It is a sewer of racism and reaction that is committed to providing unfailing support to a state, Israel, which is engaged in apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, while at home smearing and libelling progressives, antiwar and pro Palestinian voices, not forgetting those Muslims who dare assert their right to political engagement.



Another Shameful Day for the BBC

Who at the BBC thought it was a good idea to link a piece on Radio Four’s prestigious Today programme about the terrorist attack on New York ten years ago with the increase in Muslim population in Luton? You can listen to it here.

 What possible connection could there be, unless you seek to insinuate that there is a connection between the mainstream Islamic population and acts of violent terrorism?

 They didn’t rely upon insinuation though, they had Tommy Robinson (Yaxley-Lennon) of the EDL to explain his views in the most soft-ball interview since Blue Peter profiled someone who looked after injured kittens.

Let us look at the reality of the EDL, from the Evening Standard:

Darrell Copeland, 44, charged a line of police and smashed Sergeant James Lloyd in the face as the officers struggled to control demonstrators from the far-Right group.

Copeland, who had been drinking, struggled violently as he was arrested, headbutting a window, threatening to do the same to police and shouting anti-Muslim abuse, City of Westminster magistrates’ court was told.

He was held in custody after Saturday’s protest until his court appearance, when he admitted assault. District Judge Daphne Wickham heard that Copeland, from Milton Keynes, had previously been jailed for racist abuse.

Victoria Forbes, prosecuting, said he had joined EDL demonstrators at Aldgate station, where they chanted: “Let’s go f**king mental,” as officers tried to control the crowd.

Or as John Humphries unhelpfully editorialised for the BBC:

 “They are not so much an English Defence league as an ‘Englishness” Defence League”

On the same piece, a Muslim from Luton observed that in an uncertain world many people might turn to Islam. John Humphries observed “This is really rather chilling”

Who Inspires the Muslim Haters?

By Bob Pitt, from Islamophobia Watch

Nick Cohen has a piece in today’s Observer in which he points out that, while Anders Breivik was an admirer of the English Defence League, the Norwegian killer “did not only listen to British far rightists screaming out their hatreds in the madhouses of the blogosphere, but peppered his manifesto with citations of articles in the Daily Telegraph and other respectable conservative newspapers”.

Strictly speaking, most of the references to Telegraph reports in Breivik’s 2083 manifesto are by Fjordman and other “counter-jihadist” bloggers whose articles Breivik reproduces in his document. I can identify only two reports from the Telegraph cited by Breivik himself (this and this). His thinking was in fact influenced much more by the Mail, whose articles he cites on numerous occasions throughout his manifesto (the links can be found here).

But the point Cohen is making is basically correct – the mainstream right-wing press in the UK does provide both an inspiration and a cover of legitimacy for the anti-migrant, anti-Muslim ravings of the far right, including murderous fringe elements like Breivik. He is also correct in pointing out that the liberal media contribute to this Islamophobic narrative by giving disproportionate coverage to tiny extremist groups like Muslims Against Crusades

What is missing from Cohen’s analysis, however, is an assessment of his own role in all this. Because the truth is that his journalism has itself played a not inconsiderable part in stoking the baseless but widespread fears of an Islamic takeover of the west that motivated Breivik’s killing spree.

Admittedly, this has been a relatively recent development in Cohen’s journalistic career. Up until the Iraq war, which he enthusiastically supported, Cohen hadn’t shown the slightest interest in anything remotely connected with Islam or Islamism. But the role played by the Muslim Association of Britain in organising the mass opposition movement to that war suddenly awoke Cohen to the realisation that political Islam not only poses an existential threat to western civilisation but is also assisted by those non-Muslims who refuse to accept Cohen’s paranoid delusions on that score.

So, according to Cohen, a large part of liberal opinion has capitulated to “a movement of contemporary imperialism – Islamism” which “wants an empire from the Philippines to Gibraltar – and which is tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, racist and homicidal to boot”. And it’s not just liberals who are aiding the Islamists in their plot to take over the world. Cohen has denounced “appeasers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who sponsored Islamists working to create a sexist, racist, homophobic and totalitarian empire”. Anders Breivik would undoubtedly endorse every word of this.

Now, Cohen would argue that his denunciations are directed against Islamism rather than Islam. But the Islamists he condemns include Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose Al Jazeera broadcasts attract an audience of tens of millions and who is widely regarded as a leading reformist influence within Islam. In Cohen’s world-view even Tariq Ramadan represents a threat – when Ramadan received a friendly reception on his visit to the US last year, Cohen wrote that it “showed that today a type of fellow-travelling with radical Islam has spread from Europe to America”. And in the UK itself, Cohen would have us believe, the leaders of such mainstream organisations and institutions as the Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque are headed by those evil Islamists who are bent on world conquest.

This is where Cohen’s distinction between Islamism and Islam breaks down. For, if a major figure like Qaradawi is, as Cohen claims, a barbarian intent on killing homosexuals and genitally mutilating young girls, if a liberal Muslim intellectual like Ramadan embodies the threat from “radical Islam”, if the MCB and the East London Mosque are led by dangerous extremists whose objective is to establish an Islamic empire – then you can only conclude that the Muslim communities in which these individuals and organisations are rooted must surely be suspect too.

This is certainly the conclusion drawn by Breivik’s former friends in the English Defence League. It is the long campaign of demonisation waged against the East London Mosque by mainstream journalists like Cohen, along with his co-thinkers Andrew Gilligan and Martin Bright, that has inspired the EDL to mount an intimidatory demonstration in Tower Hamlets on 3 September. If the ELM is indeed a nest of “Islamic fundamentalists”, the EDL reasons, then the tens of thousands of local Muslims who support it must represent no less of a threat.

If a British Breivik emerges from the “counter-jihad” movement in the UK and commits similar atrocities here, it won’t just be the right-wing press that is to blame for stoking hysteria about “Islamisation” and its “appeasers”. Liberal journalists like Nick Cohen will have to take their share of the responsibility too.

Harry’s Place Should Be Ashamed of Edl Endorsement

harrys-place.jpgWith the tragedy in Norway surely grounds for a serious police investigation in this country into the activities of the EDL, it should not be forgotten that the Islamophobia preached by this far right organisation is in tune with much of the Islamophobic propaganda that appears on Harry’s Place.

Back in March we highlighted the endorsement of Harry’s Placed by the so-called LGBT division of the EDL. Now, with HP currently grandstanding on the Norwegian tragedy, we do so again.

Why does Harry’s Place believe that they would receive the dubious honour of a recommendation by the EDL?

Muslim Association of Britain on Detention of Raed Salah

Press Release

Muslim Association of Britain

The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) has condemned the recent move by the Home Secretary in detaining and proceeding to deport Sheikh Raed Salah, who came to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the Palestinian Forum in Britain and the Middle East Monitor Online.

The reasons quoted that the Sheikh constitutes a threat to the public, is demeaning to say the least, to any rational mind. Considering that the Sheikh was allowed to enter the UK and to address a few audiences without any restriction indicates that there was no meaningful threat.

MAB calls on the British government to release Sheikh Raed Salah immediately and to allow him to continue his programme in addressing the British people. He should be judged on what he says and not on allegations of what he stands for or has alleged to have said.

Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain said: “At a time when many parts of the Middle East is politically unstable, with revolutions and demands for change, it would be wise of the British Government to have a more balanced role in providing real solutions to address the peace process. Detaining and deporting individuals doesn’t support this role.

“Rather, a more open and transparent discussion is the way forward to achieve better stability in the World at large; and the Middle East in particular; which aids in extinguishing the flame of violent extremist which is fuelled by violent conflict over the World.”


Does the BBC Have a Problem with Muslims?

from Islamophobia Watch

Sunday’s The Big Questions on BBC TV was devoted to the issue “Does Britain have a problem with Muslims?” The very title illustrates how Islamophobic discourse has entered the mainstream. Can anyone imagine the BBC broadcasting a programme that addressed the question “Does Britain have a problem with Jews?” or “Does Britain have a problem with Blacks?”

Host Nicky Campbell set the tone with his opening remarks: “Osama bin Laden may be dead but his followers live on. On Friday the Pakistan Taliban killed 80 people in revenge for his death. Now Britain is a centre for the spread of Islamist ideology too, which not only poses a security risk but also inflames tensions between our communities. So our one big question this morning is: does Britain have a problem with Muslims?”

The panel was scarcely an improvement. The only representative Muslim figure was Salma Yaqoob. Alongside her we had right-wing journalist Ann Leslie, who took the opportunity to refer to veiled women as wearing “bin bags”, Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz and Taj Hargey of MECO. If the BBC had set out to find two of the least representative and most widely despised individuals within the British Muslim community they couldn’t have come up with anyone much better than Nawaz and Hargey, with the possible exception of Anjem Choudary. Indeed, it came as a surprise that Choudary wasn’t on the programme. Sure enough, half way through Nicky Campbell announced that it had been decided not to invite Choudary … and then read out an email statement from the idiot instead.

Thankfully, this was counterbalanced by some excellent contributions from the audience. True, we had to put up with a lot of nonsense from Davis Lewin of the neocon campaign group the Henry Jackson Society, including a slanderous attack on Salma Yaqoob. But there were good interventions from Saleem Chagtai, Myriam Francois Cerrah, Chris Allen and Yusuf Al-Khoei. Overall, the result was to present a much more positive view of British Muslims than you might have expected at the start of the programme.

Which didn’t please the anti-Muslim racists of the English Defence League one bit. A thread about the programme on their Facebook page attracted over 400 comments, the overwhelming majority of which were filled with the most vicious bigotry towards Muslims, including open threats of violence. Some examples can be consulted here. Screenshots of the whole “debate” can be found at Exposing the English Defence League, who point out: “The violent, racist, islamophobic, threatening rhetoric currently being published by the EDL on social networking is a must check out if you want to see them as they REALLY are.”

France’s Shame

15970313.jpg_39877766_warsawghettoafp.jpgThe ban on the wearing in public of the veil by Muslim women in France, which has just come into effect, brings shame to the French people and marks the latest stage in the process whereby Enlightenment values are being used to provide philosophical and political cover for the continuing isolation and stigmatisation of Muslims at home whilst bombing them overseas. It is a policy being carried out in the name of progress but which in truth is the cultural front in the ongoing war being waged by the West to assert and maintain its global hegemony.

The prospect of the French police arresting Muslim women who dare defy the ban recalls images of the Nazis doing likewise to Orthodox Jews throughout occupied Europe during the Second World War. It is a ban which damns secularism as a religion of intolerance in its own right and which institutionalises racist attacks on a vulnerable minority group.

Latest opinion polls in France show that a majority are in favour of the ban. But this in no way should be taken as a positive endorsement or justification for the legislation being implemented. On the contrary it reflects the traction which right wing, racist ideas have gained within mainstream French society, just as they did within Germany as the Nazis gained influence, and just as they have throughout history within the societies of imperialist and colonial states committed to the demonisation of the cultures, ethnic groups and religious beliefs of those peoples who’ve been marked out for colonisation and their resources for exploitation.

Islamophobia is now established as the acceptable form of racism for both liberals and conservatives alike throughout Western Europe and the English speaking world, reflected in the ease in which under the rubric of humanitarian intervention or security Muslim countries are attacked and their sovereignty violated. The French ban follows David Cameron’s speech at an international security conference in Munich earlier this year, when the British prime minister singled out the Muslim community for attack on the basis of the political radicalisation of a minority of its members, particularly young men. No mention of course was made of the role of British and European foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in this radicalisation. Neither was any reference drawn between Britain’s role in helping prop up autocratic dictatorships throughout the Arab world, in supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and the impact on Muslims at home. 

The real imperative behind these spate of government sanctioned attacks on Europe’s Muslims is the desire to maintain control over the region which contains the bulk of the world’s energy resources and therefore carries major strategic importance in the continuing struggle waged by the West to repulse any threat to its domination. A concomitant of this global struggle has been the waging of a culture war at home in order to curry either passive or active support for its inherent brutality within mainstream society.

That the current president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, should have the gall to present himself as the upholder of the progressive values of the French Republic is nothing short of an obscenity. From the very first day of his election, Sarkozy has sought to replace Britain as America’s closest ally in Europe. The alacrity with which he led the charge to western military intervention in Libya, and his continuation of France’s racist foreign policy vis-à-vis its former colonial possessions of Haiti and throughout Africa, has been complimented by his domestic assault on the social wage, pensions and rights of French workers over the past four years. Of the two million Muslim women living in France it is estimated that a mere 0.2 percent wear the veil. It is a statistic which indicts this legislation as an opportunist attempt by a French political class running in fear of a resurgent Right to gain support by embracing Islamophobic nostrums of Islam as an alien religion and a regressive culture with Muslims as the enemy within.

The stated reason for the ban, namely to effect social integration, is undermined by its focus on one religious and cultural group within French society. Social integration is a product of toleration and acceptance and not in the banning of cultural modes of dress or symbols in public.  

The principle is simple: no Muslim woman should be forced to wear the veil in public or forced not to wear it. Anything else is an act of oppression and must be resisted not only by Muslims but by the left and all who consider themselves progressive.

It is no exaggeration to state that the implementation of this legislation takes European civilisation a dangerous step closer towards the cruel embrace of the barbarism of its all too recent history.