by Martin Iqbal
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
British Palestine Solidarity outfit ‘Palestine Place’ provides a platform for anti-Syrian speakers, while ostracising and banning activists who choose to discuss topics designated as ‘no-go’ by Zionist ideology. This is symptomatic of a wider disease prevalent in the ‘Palestine Solidarity Movement’.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement, not only within the UK but across nations worldwide, is becoming increasingly fractured and impotent. The movement is characterised by swathes of different groups squabbling amongst themselves, and ostracising members(1) who cross certain red lines – red lines which have been drawn by Zionism.
‘Palestine Place’: Symptoms of a Wider Disease
During my own recent experiences at ‘Palestine Place’ in London, I was unfortunate enough to witness acute symptoms of the disease afflicting the Palestine Solidarity Movement. The disease is not unique to Palestine Place; it afflicts the wider Palestine Solidarity Movement and the liberal ‘left’ in the UK. Not only is the Palestine Solidarity Movement paralysed with fear of being branded with the anti-Semitism epithet, but it routinely falls prey to Zionist and imperialist deception, manipulation, and propaganda. The carnal fear of being branded an ‘anti-Semite’ prevents any level of open and honest discussion on anything pertaining to Israel and the Zionist project – especially its founding myths which must be openly discussed and debated in order for truth to see light.
During an open discussion at Palestine Place in June 2012, one attendee brought up the subject of Gilad Atzmon’s alleged anti-Semitism. The gentleman proceeded to misrepresent Atzmon’s words in order to paint him as a racist who merely seeks to attack Judaism.
During this discussion the subject of holocaust denial and holocaust revisionism came up. At no point was the holocaust denied by anybody present, however this writer did make the point that we must make a distinction between ‘revisionism’ and ‘denial’. All historical events must be open to investigation and questioning; the very concept of history is based on revisionism. What legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet we are prevented from examining these very elements of history!
This particular discussion at Palestine Place continued for ten or fifteen minutes before the next scheduled discussion was due to begin. During this time, dedicated pro-Palestinian activist Ken O’Keefe came to Gilad Atzmon’s defence, drawing attention to Atzmon’s idea that Jewishness and Jewish culture must be part of our investigation of Israeli and Zionist ideology. Are Israel’s tanks, gunships and warplanes not adorned with the Jewish Star of David? Is ‘Israel’ not a self-professed Jewish State? The gentleman who had chosen to accuse Atzmon of anti-Semitism had misrepresented Atzmon’s views and launched into a baseless ad hominem attack.
Immediately before the next scheduled speaker, a spokesman for Palestine Place made an announcement to the following effect: some people have decided to air their views on the holocaust, we must remind you that at Palestine Place we do not tolerate anti-Semitism and we will not be discussing the holocaust any further.
It must be noted that this was after the same spokesperson had emphatically stated that day, that Palestine Place was not affiliated with any solidarity organisation (such as the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign), purely to avoid the politicisation and control of discussion!
This relatively small incident demonstrates how the Palestine Solidarity Movement is not only subject to Zionist bullying, infiltration, and lobbying, but more importantly cultural indoctrination. We are instilled with a cardinal fear of discussing the holocaust outside of the officially accepted narrative – a ‘thoughtcrime’ in this democracy and beacon of free speech known as Great Britain.
The knee-jerk ‘we do not tolerate anti-Semitism‘ emotional reaction is sadly typical, and it is trotted out before one iota of thought has been given to the content and substance of the discussion.
It is incredibly sad and disheartening to see that the Palestine Solidarity Movement is utterly beholden to Zionism’s biggest rhetorical weapon: false charges of anti-Semitism coupled with a religious observance of and adherence to the dogma of ‘the holocaust’.
As activists and truth seekers, are we actually going to conflate historical revisionism (the practice of investigating and revising our understanding of history based on facts and free debate) with racism? This logic is completely lost on those who have an immediate emotional reaction to this question.
Palestine Place Bars Prominent Pro-Palestine Activist, Backs Foreign Insurrection in Syria
On June 13, 2012, Palestine Place hosted a talk on the subject of Syria. Several guests were invited to speak – all of whom were anti-Assad and pro-’revolution’. Without exception, all of the speakers represented the viewpoint of the corrupt Gulf dictatorships, the USA and Israel, who are jointly seeking the dissolution of all bastions of Arab resistance to Zionism and Western neocolonialism.
Shortly before the talk, I witnessed Ken O’Keefe being asked to leave the premises by organisers who cited a ‘group decision’ that had been made. Hypocritically, not one of the attendees to the talk was consulted about this decision – the decision was made by Palestine Place’s organisers and had no ‘grassroots’ input whatsoever.
After Ken had left the premises the talks continued and the speakers dictated their opinion to the almost exclusively young (18-23) and impressionable crowd. One after another the anti-Assad guests expounded their mythical idea that the ‘revolution’ in Syria was at all indigenous, as opposed to being a foreign-led insurrection, which is now a clearly established reality.
The speakers were Simon Assaf, UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef, activist Dan Gorman, and ‘internet researcher and activist’ Miriyam Asfar.
Simon Assaf’s previous writings shed light on his ideological position. He is a commentator who claims to oppose western intervention in Libya and Syria, while breathlessly parroting the lies and propaganda that enable it. He saw the NATO-appointed NTC’s calls for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya as “genuine calls for help”,(2) and he mindlessly repeats the long-discredited claims that Gaddafi bombarded civilian demonstrations from the air. He even claimed that the case for the intervention in Libya was “very powerful”.(3)
At Palestine Place, Assaf continued with his delusional and romantic narrative wherein he painted the foreign-led counter-revolution in Syria as an indigenous people’s and workers’ revolution. He smugly dismissed ‘al Qaeda’ involvement in Syria as paranoid conspiracy theory.
No reasonable person would debate the CIA’s use of what would become ‘al Qaeda’ in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s to achieve its strategic objectives. This is not the stuff of ‘conspiracy theory’, rather it is established historical fact.
Assaf chose to ignore the deeply sectarian, thuggish, and terroristic inclinations of the ‘revolutionaries’ in Syria. Even the mainstream press has been forced to admit(4) that Abdelhakim Belhaj, former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is providing fighters and assistance to the so-called Free Syrian Army.
The LIFG, still listed as a terrorist group by the US State Department,(5) is a paradigmatic example of one of the CIA’s many proxy armies of brainwashed sectarian drones – commonly referred to collectively as ‘al Qaeda’.
Assaf, as well as the other speakers, reminded the audience that the ‘revolution’ started in Daraa, Syria, in March 2011. What they didn’t draw attention to was the fact that Daraa, like the majority of the hotspots in the Syrian unrest, is on Syria’s border. As a result of calls from short-sighted, hateful and poisonously sectarian-minded Sunni religious leaders (including our new ‘al Qaeda’ boogeyman Ayman al-Zawahiri), ‘jihadists’ in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq have flocked to Syria to fight against the Assad regime(6) (Assad is an Alawi and non-sectarian leader who allows 18 different sects to live in harmony). These ‘jihadists’ include Abdelhakim Belhaj’s men, who were shipped to Turkey in order to allow them to infiltrate Syria’s borders(7) from there. Further to this, the United States and Jordanian militaries began a joint military exercise known as Eager Lion in the summer of 2011.(8) What is the significance of this, and why is the majority of the unrest in border regions?
The Houla Killings – Fruit of the ‘FSA’
Predictably, Assaf and the other speakers accused the Assad regime of committing brutal massacres against the Syrian people. The Houla massacre – an event which is held as the ‘trump card’ by the ‘opposition’ in Syria, is deserving of inspection here.
In the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre, the Syrian ‘opposition’ and media outlets across the spectrum attempted to blame the killings on artillery attacks by the Syrian Army. When it became clear that most of the victims were killed at close range, many with stab wounds, the narrative became ‘pro-regime militia’. Now however, after the dust has settled, it is clear that pro-Assad elements had nothing to do with the Houla massacre, and in fact it was the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ and ‘opposition’ that is most likely responsible.
The Assad regime would have nothing to gain but everything to lose by perpetrating the Houla killings. These murders have played right into the hands of Syria’s enemies – those who seek regime change under the barrel of a ‘humanitarian’ gun. Initial reports from the opposition contradicted the physical manner in which the victims were killed. Three days after the event, Human Rights Watch joined the chorus blaming Assad and ‘pro-government forces’.(9)
However, the facts betray this speculation from the Syrian ‘opposition’ and so-called human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.
Those killed were nearly exclusively families from the Alawi and Shia minorities in Sunni-majority Houla (while HRW and the ‘opposition’ try to suggest that the victims were Sunni). This included several dozen members of one extended family, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Also killed was the family of a Sunni member of parliament who was considered a government collaborator by the rebels.
Considering these points(10) and the fact that the massacre occurred as three Syrian Army checkpoints were being attacked by armed gangs around the town, the idea that the Syrian Army was responsible for the Houla killings is asinine. It is now evident that the sectarian terrorists whom people such as Simon Assaf refer to as ‘revolutionaries’, were responsible for this heinous crime.
Another notable moment during Palestine Place’s decidedly anti-Syrian evening was when ‘activist’ Dan Gorman showed the audience a video of an opposition-produced puppet show which ridiculed Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez. During the few-minute sequence, the puppets of Bashar and Hafez joked about killing Syrians, and bemoaned the propaganda peddled by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. The entire audience smugly nodded, laughed and clapped as this ‘Two Minutes Hate’ played out before them.
When UK-based Syrian activist Shiar Youssef took the stage, he forged another memorable moment. “This is just how we work in Syria“, he said. He was referring to how Syrian activists work, compared to the way in which the Palestine Place activists were sat around on the floor of the room, gazing at the speaker. I have to confess, this reminded me of when UK Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted that the UK government is training Syrian activists.(11)
Conclusion: Solidarity Demands Intellectual Courage, not Servility & Herd Mentality
Palestine Place is, in every way, a microcosm of the international Palestine Solidarity Movement. Toothless, pseudo-enlightened know-it-alls who are intellectually servile, exclusivist, drowned in ego, and utterly impotent.
Ostensibly it has no individual leaders and is purely democratic, but this is meaningless since it religiously adheres to specific pre-defined boundaries of discussion. Freedom of speech and discussion exists only on paper; ‘thought criminals’ are barred and ostracised. It claims to present the opportunity for “radical change“. It ‘occupies’ a building with the full cooperation of the landowner (this writer confirmed this by speaking to activists on-site).
Frank Barat, a London-based human rights activist tells Mondoweiss about the ins and outs of Palestine Place. Barat, who this writer suspects plays a role in the Palestine Place project, promotes the organisation(12) as a movement that will mean the West will “never be the same again“.
He also insists that Palestine Place is “open to everyone and belongs to everyone“, and that it is a “hub of creativity, discussions and possibility for radical change“.
Palestine Place completely betrays these ideals.
Discussion of historical events intimately linked to Palestine and the history of Zionism, has been stifled. Attendees are banned and ostracised for having a different opinion; discussion outside of the mainstream is prohibited at this ‘radical’ outfit – whether this concerns the attendees or the opinionated, one-sided speakers who are invited to talk.
Palestine Place’s official ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ bars holocaust revisionism(13) (the act of enriching our understanding of history on an ongoing basis by examining and documenting the facts). I must reiterate: what legitimate reason could we possibly have for shielding any historical event from examination? What are they afraid of? What is there to hide? We are constantly reminded that we must learn from history lest it repeat itself (reminiscent of the ‘never again’ mantra), yet Palestine Place chooses to protect this aspect of history from scrutiny!
Interestingly, Palestine Place’s Safe Spaces Policy calls for (emphasis mine) “An end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied since 1967“. Does the land ethnically cleansed and occupied in 1948 not count? Did Israel’s crimes start in 1967? Palestine Place attempts to normalise the Nakba here, accepting the legitimacy of the 1948 land thefts and only referring to the 1967 occupation.
The following passage from the same policy statement is simply staggering in its dishonesty, keeping in mind the practices of Palestine Place:
Palestine Place will not be dogmatic nor prescriptive about attitudes, opinions or beliefs that relate to the political debate around Palestine.
Palestine Place is not an environment that encourages any level of independent or critical thought. Youngsters, keen to learn about the Palestinian cause (and the geopolitical landscape surrounding it – i.e. Syria) are being corralled into adopting a kosher ‘anti-Zionist’ viewpoint that will pose zero threat to Zionism.
Outspoken and dedicated pro-Palestinian voices are banned and ostracised. Guest speakers are invited who are exclusively representing a one-sided point of view. Discussion of Zionism’s founding myths are prevented. This supposed ‘solidarity’ outfit has demonstrably positioned itself into an anti-Palestinian standpoint, either wittingly or unwittingly.
The Palestine Solidarity Movement is terminally afraid of discussing subjects that are designated ‘no-go’ areas by Zionist ideology. The incessant false charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ is Zionism’s biggest ideological weapon – and we all know it – but our movement has no defence.
Only with real independent thought and intellectual courage will our movement proceed.
When we are held emotionally hostage by certain ideas, we must ask why.
We must never stop the pursuit of truth, regardless of the level of ‘herd mentality’ around us. We must take a step back and think objectively.
Exposing any and all deceptions which alter perceptions about Israel, anti-Semitism, and Palestine, is our place.
(1) ‘Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon’ – US Palestinian Community Network
(2) ‘Libya: at the crossroads’ by Simon Assaf
(3) ‘How Western Powers Blackmailed the Libyan Revolution’ by Simon Assaf
(4) ‘Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group’ – The UK Telegraph
(5) ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’ – US Department of State
(6) ‘Jihadists Declare Holy War Against Assad Regime’ – Spiegel Online
(7) ‘Al-Qaeda Terrorists Airlifted From Libya to Aid Syrian Opposition’ by Paul Joseph Watson
(8) ‘US, 18 other nations, wrap up Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan’ – The Christian Science Monitor
(9) ‘Syria: UN Inquiry Should Investigate Houla Killings’ – Human Rights Watch
(10) ‘Leading German Daily: Houla Massacre Committed by Syrian Rebels’ – EmpireStrikesBlack.com
(11) ‘US fears fresh massacre in Syria’ – The UK Telegraph
(12) ‘‘Palestine Place’ comes to London, and the west will never be the same’ by Frank Barat
(13) ‘Safe Spaces Policy’ – Palestine Place
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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