Led by its Racist Mayor Biggs, Tower Hamlets Council chose to support an Apartheid State

Led by its Racist Mayor Biggs, Tower Hamlets Council chose to support an Apartheid State









Led by its Racist Mayor Biggs, Tower Hamlets Council chose to support an Apartheid State

How is it that a Council with 2/3 Black and Asian Councillors Voted for a Tory Resolution on ‘racism’?

This is institutionalised Uncle Tommery

On Saturday 27th July Big Ride for Palestine, which raises money for sports equipment for children in Gaza, was prevented from using a park for their rally in Tower Hamlets. This was because of a decision by Tower Hamlets Council to adopt the IHRAdefinition of anti-Semitism which conflates opposition to Zionism and the Israeli state with anti-Semitism.

The truth of why the Council had banned the rally came out a week later as a result of a Freedom of Information request by PSC.

Council officers found it easier to lie than tell the truth. The council told The Big Ride that the event’s “political connotations” meant that the rally could not go ahead in the borough “without problems”.

Council staff feared there was a “real risk” that the event might breach the IHRA definition of antisemitism because of references on the Big Ride’s website to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. 

When considering how to explain the decision, one council official said it would be wise to “avoid the anti Semitism aspect ref their website as this could open a can of worms and come back to bite us”. Indeed it did!

On September 19th 2018 the largely Labour Council, just 4 of whose councillors are not Labour, unanimously passed a motion adopting not only the 38 word IHRA definition of anti-Semitism but all its 11 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’, 7 of which reference the State of Israel. In other words the IHRA has nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism.

On 14th November a petition was handed into the Council asking for the policy to be amended to include a provision that

“It is not antisemitic, without additional evidence, to suggest that it displays anti-Jewish prejudice to criticise the Government of Israel; or to criticise Zionism as a political ideology; or to describe any policy or law or practices of the state of Israel as racist, including acts leading to Palestinian dispossession as part of the establishment of the state; or to define Israel as an apartheid state; or to advocate Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.” (2) Support Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by flying the flag of Palestine at the Town Hall in the week before and after the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on November 29th.

This was unacceptable to Mayor John Biggs because the whole point of the IHRA is to defend Zionism not defeat anti-Semitism. This caveat would drive a coach and horses through the definition.  Biggs rejected this contemptuously stating that: 

there can be no qualifications or caveats to a definition of racism, particularly where they specifically relate to a single group or country

And Biggs is right. There can be no caveats over a definition of racism.  But whatever else it is the IHRA is not a definition of racism.

Biggs is not only a racist he is an idiot.  Racism applies to individuals not countries. You can’t be racist towards an abstract noun. The idea that we couldn’t have criticised Chile under Pinochet or Spain under Franco because we might be considered racist is a testament to the intellectual poverty of this former financial analyst from the City of London.

The IHRA consists of over 500 words whereas the Oxford English Dictionary definition of racism‘Hostility to or prejudice against Jews’ is only 6 words. As Antony Lermanwrote in the Independent this week:

I warned that adopting the IHRA would shut down Palestinian protest – I’ve been proved right, which describes what happened when Tower Hamlets implemented the decision.’

Tower Hamlet’s Council was led by a radical left MayorLofthur Rahman until 2015. Rahman was elected Mayor in 2010 and again in 2014. This proved too much for the corrupt local New Labour machine backed by Eric Pickles, who subsequently became Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel.

Soon after his reelection Rahman was accused of a series of electoral offences and removed by an election court presided over by Richard Mawrey.  It was what I called a‘Democratic Coup in Tower Hamlets by an Unelected Judge’.  

In the Guardian Richard Seymour and Ashok Kumar wrote about how The smear campaign against Lutfur Rahman is an insult to democracy. 37,000 people voted for him yet an unelected Tory judge had removed him.

Giles Fraser in ‘The Lutfur Rahman verdict and the spectre of ‘undue spiritual influence’ wrote that among the reasons for removing Rahman from office, was that he had exerted“undue spiritual influence” on some sections of the electorate, specifically Muslim voters .

Cartoon in Punch portraying the Irish as monkeys

The legislation under which this ‘crime’ had been committed was the 1883 Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act. The idea of “undue spiritual influence” was introduced to constrain the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy on what the English establishment at the time took to be the ignorant and impressionable minds of the Irish proletariat. Instead of impressionable Catholics it was now Muslims who were likely to be stirred by religious passions.  Mawry was explicitabout this. “Time and again”, he said

it was stressed that the Catholic voters were men of simple faith, usually much less well educated than the clergy who were influencing them, and men whose natural instinct would be to obey the orders of their priests … This principle still holds good … [A] distinction must be made between a sophisticated, highly educated and politically literate community and a community which is traditional, respectful of authority and, possibly, not fully integrated with the other communities living in the same area … [I]t is the character of the person sought to be influenced that is key to whether influence has been applied….

[i]t would be wrong … to treat Tower Hamlets’ Muslim community by the standards of a secular and largely agnostic metropolitan elite”.

If this is not racist then words have lost all meaning. Muslims were not as sophisticated as a white ‘secular and largely agnostic metropolitan elite’.  Anti-Irish racism has been transformed into anti-Muslim racism.

John Biggs is only Mayor thanks to a racist Deputy High Court Judge and Tory Lord Eric Pickles. 

What is remarkable is that the resolution was passed unanimously by Tower Hamlet’s Council on the proposal of its two Tory members.  What kind of miserable and corrupt Uncle Toms does Tower Hamlets have , and two-thirds of its members are Black and Asian, that they pass a resolution on racism moved by its Tory members.  The same Tory Party that introduced the ‘hostile environment’ policy which led to the deportation of the Windrush generation.

I have written to every Councillor in Tower Hamlets asking them to explain themselves. The answers should be interesting! For anyone who wishes to email them their email addresses are below.Tony Greenstein

See Critical Legal Thinking  Why Muslims Can’t Trust the Legal System: The Lutfur Rahman Judgement and Institutional Racism

Open Letter to Tower Hamlet’s Councillors How do you sleep at night?

In Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and veteran opponent of the struggle against Apartheid was quoted as saying that

“I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”In the Jerusalem Post of November 28 2017 Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela was quoted as saying that Israeli Apartheid was worse than in South Africa.

On 3rd April this year, Ronnie Kassrills, the Jewish founder of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the ANC’ military wing, wrote in theGuardian of how when he ‘fought South African apartheid’he saw ‘the same brutal policies in Israel’

These veterans of the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa are likely to have a somewhat greater understanding of what apartheid and racism means than Tower Hamlet’s councillors.

Perhaps it was the existence of Jewish only roads or the separate entrances in the hundreds of checkpoints – one for Palestinians and another for Jewish settlers – that impressed them. Or maybe it was the military collaborationbetween Israel and Apartheid South Africa or the existence of hundreds of Jewish communities in Israel which under the Admissions Committee Law 2011 bar Arabs from living in them. Possibly they were referring to the religious edict of the Chief Rabbi of Safed, backed up by dozens of other rabbis, forbidding Israeli Jews from renting homes to Arabs.

What may have clinched it for Mandela, Tutu and Kassrills was Israel’s unique ‘democracy’ whereby 600,000 Israeli Jewish settlers have a vote whereas the 3.5 million Palestinians whose land they have stolen do not.

It’s difficult to know what it was that most impressed these fighters against Apartheid, a system that was no different in principle to Nazi Germany.

To describe the Israeli state as an apartheid state is a statement of fact. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism unless you believe that most or all Jews are supporters of apartheid in which case it is you who is anti-Semitic.

Yet this was the pretext for Tower Hamlet’s refusal to host The Big Ride for Palestine and closing Altab Ali Park to them. What makes this racist act of Tower Hamlet’s Council all the more despicable is that you desecrated the name of the person after whom the park was named. Altab Ali was the victim of a racist murder just as surely were the 551 Palestinian children after Israel’s blitzkrieg in 2014. The Big Ride aimed at providing support for the children of Gaza yet you decreed that support should be given to the murderers rather than the victims.

It is unbelievable that in Tower Hamlets, where 38% of the population are Muslims according to the 2011 census, a resolution was unanimously passed in September 2018 supporting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

The IHRA has been heavily criticised, not only by prominent lawyers and academics but even by the person who drafted it, Kenneth Stern. In your desperation to claim your allowances did you even bother to read up about the criticisms of this fake ‘anti-Semitism’ policy?

Antony Lerman, a former Director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research stated that

‘Not only is there now overwhelming evidence that it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less.’

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, a Jewish lawyer, described the 38 word IHRA definition as

‘poorly drafted, misleading, and in practice has led to the suppression of legitimate debate and freedom of expression.

Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal Judge, who is also Jewish said the IHRA

fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite. He described it as‘placing the historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism.’

The noted human rights barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC said the IHRA ‘lacks clarity and comprehensiveness’ and that it has ‘a potential chilling effect on public bodies’

Even the man who drafted it Kenneth Stern, in testimony to Congress, said:

‘“The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus… It was never supposed to curtail speech on campus.”

Yet without a moment’s thought you passed the IHRA ‘definition’ the result of which was to ban a charity bike ride whose purpose was to raise funds for children in Gaza, who have been subject to a starvation blockade for the past 12 years.

What I find incomprehensible is that Tower Hamlet’s Black and Asian councillors voted for a motion on racism proposed by Tower Hamlet’s Tory members. That is like putting the Moors Murderers in charge of a children’s home.

30% of Tower Hamlets originate in Bangladesh. Do I need to remind you that in pursuit of free market economics and under successive Tory (and Liberal) governments, over 40 million people died of famine in Bengal under the British Raj?

As that well-knownTory racist, Winston Churchill, remarked:

I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

If there is one thing that distinguishes the Conservative Party it is an unashamed defence of an Empire whose depredations were justified in the name of a higher civilisation. Above all else it was racism which oiled wheels of the British Empire.

It is unbelievable that over 30 Black and Asian members of Tower Hamlet’s Council could vote for a Tory motion on racism. If I hesitate in calling them Uncle Toms it is only because Harriet Beechwood Stowe’s Uncle Tom is a noble character.

Last November a petition was submitted to the Council asking for it to be made clear that the IHRA definition would not infringe on the right of the Palestinians to criticise Zionism and Israeli racism. Tower Hamlet’s white and racist New Labour mayor John Biggs contemptuously rejected this proposal. Biggs stated that

 ‘there can be no qualifications or caveats to a definition of racism, particularly where they specifically relate to a single group or country.’

Leaving aside the novel idea that you can be racist about a country, a definition which is 500+ words long is no definition. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism‘Hostility to or prejudice against Jews’ is just 6 words.

It is clear after the banning of the Big Ride for Palestine that the adoption of the IHRA has had the effect of branding support for the Palestinians as anti-Semitic. I don’t know whether self-respect is a word that you understand but but if you do still possess any then you will ensure a speedy repeal of Tower Hamlet’s support for the IHRA.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

Petition submitted to Tower Hamlets Council – Safeguard Palestinian Solidarity

We the undersigned petition the council to We ask the Mayor and the Council to: (1) Adopt the following caveat to the IHRA statement of 19 September. This safeguards our right to campaign for Palestine in Tower Hamlets.

Tower Hamlets Council, many councillors and our Mayor have welcomed many visitors from Jenin in Palestine since the formation of the Tower Hamlets Jenin Friendship Association in 2002.

We are concerned that on 19th September the Labour dominated council passed, unopposed, a Conservative motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, along with its highly controversial examples.

As the far-right grows in Europe and in Britain, it is vital we stand against the poison of antisemitism and all forms of racism, wherever they emerge.

However, some of the examples contained within the definition adopted by the council may be used to prevent our community from expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for equality and human rights. Moves to suppress solidarity have been made by other London Councils.This Petition ran from 02/10/2018 to 14/11/2018 and has now finished.

53 people signed this Petition.

Council response

Tower Hamlets Council voted unanimously to agree the IHRA definition, and alt 11 accompanying examples, on 19h September 2018.

While I appreciate that there are strong views on this issue over thirty countries, including the UK and twenty four El-J member countries, have adopted the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism along with 130 councils across the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary.

The petition asks us to amend a decision we took in September, in effect to adopt a caveat to our adopted definition of anti-Semitism. In my view, there can be no qualifications or caveats to a definition of racism, particularly where they specifically relate to a single group or country.

I deeply worry about what message it would send to apply a caveat to a recognised definition of antiSemitism to reference the actions of Israel, as the petition seeks to do.
It is entirely right and proper to criticise the actions of Israel, and to show solidarity with the people of Palestine, but to do so as a qualification to a definition of anti-Semitism would be wrong in my view.

Councillor Mufeedah Bustin,Shad.Chowdhury@towerhamlets.gov.uk





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