Gaza still an issue over MCB Memorial attendance

By Martin Bright, January 28, 2010

The Muslim Council of Britain voted to send a junior representative to the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration this week.

After attending for the first time in 2008, the MCB resumed its boycott of the event last year.

The secretary general of the MCB, Dr Mohamed Abdul Bari could not attend, due to a previous engagement at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Nor was his controversial deputy Dr Daoud Abdullah or any of the three assistant secretary generals available.

Instead, the group was represented by Dr Shuja Shafi, head of its chaplaincy committee, and a health adviser.

MCB spokesman, Inayat Bunglawala announced earlier this month that he would be attending in his personal capacity. The HMD Trust does not comment on those it invites, but one senior member of the Jewish community close to the event said: “It seems like the janitor wasn’t available.”

The decision to attend is a victory for the relative moderates within the orgainsation and is thought to have been opposed by senior members of the pro-Hamas sister organisation the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).

The Department for Communities and Local Government last week made it clear that the full restoration of relations with the MCB would be helped by Holocaust Memorial Day attendance.

But the department expressed its ongoing concerns about Dr Abdullah, who signed the Istanbul Declaration, calling for attacks on Israel and those who supported the blockade of Gaza.

In an open letter to Communities Secretary John Denham published last week, Dr Abdullah said: “I always believed the decision to ostracise the organisation was unjust. The declared reason given by your predecessor was that I signed the Istanbul Declaration, even though I made clear from the start I signed it in my personal capacity. I therefore welcome your change of policy in relation to the MCB.”

He said that he had not called for attacks on British troops or attacks on innocent people. “The Palestinians have the right to resist Israel’s illegal occupation, a right supported by international law and the Charter of the UN in the same way as it is a common British value to respect international law and support justice and freedom of oppressed people,” he said.

Gaza ethnic cleansing talk attacked as ‘an appalling offence’

Jewish and pro-Israeli organisations have attacked a talk given at the Houses of Parliament comparing Israeli action in Gaza to the Shoah suffering of Jews.

Chaired by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, it featured Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer and Palestinian activist Haidar Eid, on a speaking tour organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

Dr Meyer spoke against “Nazi genocide of Jews to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the state of Israel” while Dr Eid spoke by via link from his Gaza home.

Organisers said they had invited communities to “remind us of their resistance to the mass taking of life, in this way honouring all resistance and undermining the racist Zionist view of Jewish exceptionalism”.

The Zionist Federation said holding the event, Never again — for anyone, at Parliament on Holocaust Memorial Day was an “appalling offence” to the Jewish community.

Speaking beforehand, Mr Corbyn said the Shoah was an “appalling period in history which will never be forgotten”, adding: “Hajo has survived and spent the rest of his life working and campaigning for justice for people all over the world. He has spoken out against the dehumanising effects of occupation very forcefully. Sadly, for much of this he has been condemned, which I regret.” Gili Brenner of the ZF said: “The shameless abuse of freedom of speech to demonise Israel on a day which commemorates the biggest tragedy in human history crosses a dangerous line.”

Jon Benjamin, Board of Deputies chief executive, said: “This latest attempt to exploit the most painful chapter in Jewish history in order to berate and demonise Israel is among the most despicable.”

Last updated: 4:40pm, January 28 2010