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In response to our earlier story B&H Tories rushed out a statement written by Graham Cox, chairman of the local Conservatives and co-incidentally one-time head of Brighton CID. Unfortunately it didn't shed much light on the issue - so here's what we said in return...
Dear all at Brighton and Hove Conservatives,
Thank you very much for taking the time to put this statement together so swiftly. A line by line response is included below – however we think that the key sentence is this one “We are concerned that the activities of Smash EDO may contribute to an atmosphere where anti-Semitic prejudice can become respectable.” - underlining added.
This would seem to suggest that B&H Conservatives do not not actually consider Smash EDO to be anti-semitic per se.
This is a long way from the sentiments expressed by Robert Nemeth, Deputy Chairman (political) via Twitter “@Smash_EDO followers are often anti-Jew, no doubt about it” or referring to Smash EDO's “militant anti-Jew stance”. On 7th June Nemeth called the Summer of Resistance campaign a “Summer of anti-Semitism”. These comments were re-tweeted by other B&H Conservatives.
Robert also took the opportunity in his column in Latest Homes magazine to accuse the campaign of anti-semitism. After the magazine was asked to look at his allegation they immediately withdrew the story and issued a printed apology.
Rachael Bates , Mike Weatherley's P.A. made the following comments also on Twitter “smash edo are anti-semitic and absolutely vile” and that they were “the equivalent to Nick Griffin”.
Linda Freedman, B&H Conservatives Events co-ordinator tweeting as @lindi_lmf made perhaps the most damaging allegation of all when she said on 29th June “Surprised @smash_edo not saying Holocaust didn't really happen http://www.iranholocaustdenial.com/”
Can you please explain the discrepancy between the official statement and the views of various members of B&H Conservatives as expressed above?
Do B&H Conservatives consider Smash EDO to be a racist or anti-semitic organisation?
Do B&H Conservatives consider that Smash EDO has engaged in holocaust denial?
If the answer to the above two questions is 'NO' then would you consider publishing a retraction or an apology?
Text of statement and response
Brighton & Hove Conservatives have noticed a rise in racist incidents targeted at the Jewish community (e.g. graffiti, daubing of swastikas on Jewish graves etc.). Sadly this confirms that anti-Semitism remains a prejudice which sleeps very lightly. We have a duty to challenge it whenever it shows any sign of rearing its ugly head in any form, direct or indirect.
Totally agreed – of course many members of SMASH EDO and SchNEWS are also involved in struggles against anti-semites and racists. We hope that there is no suggestion here that any of us are involved in anything as horrific as 'daubing of swastikas on Jewish graves'.
Of course it is legitimate to criticise the Israeli Government. However, the relentless targeting of Israel by Smash EDO and other local extreme left-wing groups gives the impression to some of going far beyond that. Accusing Israel of apartheid is offensive to many Jewish people and, indeed, many South Africans who lived under that pernicious system. The support of a ‘cultural boycott’ of Israeli artists, theatre groups, orchestras and university lecturers is all too reminiscent of the 1930s.
The Smash EDO campaigns on an anti-arms trade basis. The Israeli government is an end user of equipment supplied by the factory on Home Farm Rd. That equipment has been used in the commission of war crimes and the campaign have an absolute right to point that out.
Smash EDO supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. The Apartheid comparison is justified for the simple reason that the society under the control of the Israeli state, including the Occupied Territories, is one that is racially stratified. In Israel your rights are dependent on your racial origin.
The 1930s comparison on the other hand is dubious in the extreme – nobody is suggesting a boycott based on racial grounds. Sorry to have to take you on a whistlestop tour of the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism but you seem to need it.
However the campaign began as part of the movement against the war waged in Iraq by the U.S and U.K governments in 2003. Since the campaign began it has drawn attention to the conflicts in Libya and Somalia. Most recently the campaign has focussed on the drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, primarily the responsibility of the U.S government. Smash EDO has not therefore “relentlessly targeted Israel”
Some members of the Jewish community in Brighton & Hove do feel intimidated by these campaigns against Israel – especially as Smash EDO say little (nothing?) about the activities of the Governments in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe (to take just four examples of regimes whose approach to basic human rights are deplorable).
The governments of Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe do not (as far as we know) use weapons components supplied by EDO MBM. Therefore the campaign hasn't mentioned them. In response to queries from the public the campaign has issued the following statement about the government of Iran.“We are not apologists for the Iranian state, the confrontational and racist statements of which help no one and which represses its own people. However, the threat of war comes from Israel and the US, not from Iran.”.
In contrast Saudi Arabia is an end-user of EDO MBM's equipment, a fact mentioned in campaign literature. You are right to point out Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record. However the irony of the Conservatives condemning arms sales to Saudi Arabia isn't lost on us. Remember the Thatcher brokered Al Yamamah arms deal? We do.
Jewish residents have asked us to speak out about these matters, afraid of the consequences if they do so themselves. Robert Nemeth’s recent experience of being attacked at an architecture conference, having pink (!) glitter sprayed over him and his speech ripped up by local extremists, rather bears out their fears at the consequences of speaking out.
Of course the glittering of Robert Nemeth was not carried out by Smash EDO – it was in fact a protest against Mike Weatherley's anti-squatter legislation. SchNEWS has tracked down the glitter thrower and ironically (although irrelevantly) he is in fact proudly Jewish!
If, as a result of Mike Weatherley MP and members of the Brighton & Hove Conservative Party speaking out on this matter, organisations such as Smash EDO are considering the impact that their anti-Israel comments have on members of a minority group then that is to be welcomed. We must all be vigilant to ensure that anti-Israeli rhetoric is not used as a cover for others to engage in anti-Semitism.
Surely we must also be vigilant that legitimate criticism of the State of Israel is not mis-labelled as militant anti-semitism to serve other political agendas.
We look forward to your response.
'Ground the Drones' demo to take place in Lincoln this Saturday as UK expands armed drone programme - and international resistance to the Drone Wars amps up.
Smash EDO campaigner vindicated in court.
Smash EDO campaigners found guilty after glue-on
EDO blockaders finally get their day in court.
Police high tech tool of oppression turned against the arms dealers during Smash EDO's Weapons Inspection demo
Shamed Tory Nemeth's nemesis, aka the glitter throwing thug, in his own words
(Actually this was originally posted as a comment on the article "Tory Story" but we felt it was just too good not to share more widely)
Local Tories libel anti-arms trade campaign as anti-semitic. We unveil how Weatherly's minions failed the smear test.
New Police tactics but the good city of Brighton and Hove luckily survives to live another day as Smash EDO score a pre-emptive strike for peace with a "No War on Iran" demo