Hate material online? Let it stay
There is no point to Andrew Dismore's attack on WH Smith for selling the Protocols on the web - other than publicity
The Hendon parliamentary constituency contains a larger proportion of Jewish voters than any other parliamentary constituency in the UK. So it is only natural that the Hendon MP should cultivate his Jewish clientèle. And Andrew Dismore - the Labour MP in question - does so.
Mr Dismore is not a slave to the Jewish vote. Nor should he be. But on what we might call the "core" issues he is sound.
Shechitah is safe in his hands. Israel has a right to exist in peace within internationally recognised borders. Jewish faith schools are a jolly good thing. And so on.
Nor is Mr Dismore a slave of the Labour party. As chair of the parliamentary committee on human rights he has been forceful in the criticisms he has levelled at the government's 42-day detention policy for terror suspects. This calendar year alone he has "rebelled" no less than seven times against his own party, on a variety of issues, in the division lobbies.
He is therefore - you might say - "his own man". And that being the case I was more than a little intrigued to have read last week of a breath-taking threat he had apparently issued against WH Smith, the high street stationer and bookseller.
I quote: "Unless Smiths get their act together and withdraw these publications permanently... I will table an Early Day Motion... to draw attention to this problem."
Goodness gracious me! (thought I). This is serious stuff. Poor (actually rich) old Mr Smith (a 19th century Tory politician and newsagent) must be turning in his grave. An EDM. Just thinking of its overwhelming power makes the blood run cold!
Now, for the benefit of those among you who are ignorant of such matters and who have not yet read the latest edition of Thomas Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (otherwise known as the parliamentary rule-book) an EDM is a device by which any matter can - in a formal sense - be brought to the attention of parliament and (thereby) the press.
Hundreds of EDMs are tabled each session. Putting down an EDM is a relatively safe way of (for example) criticising the government, because very few indeed are ever debated. But an EDM can cause a media flurry, and - on occasion - annoy the whips.
The publications to which Mr Dismore referred in his threatened EDM are - apparently - the Tsarist forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The International Jew, a collection of articles originally published (so it was alleged) in a newspaper owned by the late Henry Ford, founder of the automobile company that bears his name.
Someone spotted these works for sale on the website of WH Smith, and someone else told Mr Dismore.
"I think it's appalling," declaimed the MP, "I can't understand why they [WH Smith] continue to promote this material."
Now I would be the first to agree that these works (like the Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew, which was reportedly on sale, in DVD format, a couple of weeks ago on the website of the Sun newspaper) are notorious, odious and indeed evil.
And if they had been displayed for sale on a WH Smith bookstall, or given away as a Sun "freebie", I would be the first to congratulate Mr Dismore on his parliamentary initiative. But in the internet, we have a medium that cannot be easily policed. That is, indeed, its great strength.
None of these works are actually "banned" in this country - not even (contrary to the assertion of the Jewish News) The Eternal Jew, which I myself show to student audiences from time to time, and excerpts from which were recently broadcast on a British TV history channel.
If Mr Dismore wishes us to adopt the sort of censorship practised in China, that is of course a different matter. But I suspect that what he really wants is some constituency-friendly publicity that will not indelibly harm his relationship with the Labour hierarchy.
Some weeks ago, as one of his constituents, I asked Mr Dismore to put down an EDM comparing the magnificent sum of £20,000 recently given by Gordon Brown's government towards an Anglo-Israeli academic exchange scheme with the paltry £30 million Dr Brown had previously thrust into the hands of the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Dismore refused point blank to do any such thing.