Ministers to welcome the voice of Hizbollah

Only one Cabinet member opposed to Moussawi tour

By Stephen Pollard Marcus Dysch and Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

The government is poised to allow Ibrahim Moussawi, media relations officer of Hizbollah, into the UK — despite the opposition of the cabinet minister responsible for social cohesion.

The JC has learned that the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, is fighting a lone battle within Whitehall to prevent Mr Moussawi’s admission to speak at a conference at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies on March 23.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is thought to be willing to admit the former head of political programming at the antisemitic Al Manar television station.

Last week, Ms Smith told the JC that antisemitism was a key factor in determining exclusions.

No other Cabinet minister has, the JC understands, sided with Ms Blears, and the Hizbollah propagandist is to be granted a visa.

Ms Blears is believed to have argued that allowing preachers of hate into the country does not promote good community relations and that allowing him to speak in Britain would directly contravene the resolutions of the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, which she signed two weeks ago together with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and Ms Smith. Signatories to the declaration agreed to “speak out against antisemitism” and isolate those who “engage in hate against Jews”.

The Prime Minister has refused to back Ms Blears either in private or public. When the JC contacted 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister’s view, it was told to “speak to the Home Office”.

The Home Office refused to comment on an individual case.

But the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), a think-tank, has said it will seek to have Mr Moussawi arrested when he enters Britain. Director Douglas Murray said the group is prepared to go to magistrates and apply for an arrest warrant. “There can be no better case than to arrest someone who is a member of a terrorist organisation and is a spokesman for a terrorist organisation,” he said.

Attempts to secure arrest warrants have been made against Israelis visiting Britain, including in 2005 when a London court requested the arrest of former IDF General Doron Almog after human rights lawyers alleged he had violated the Geneva Convention.

Labour MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism and one of the organisers of last month’s London Conference on Antisemitism, said Mr Moussawi’s “message of hate” and “messages of resistance” are inseparable.

“I fear for the impact he will have on community tensions and feel it would be unwise for the government to allow him to speak here in the UK.”

Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, at whose fundraising dinner the Home Secretary was guest of honour two weeks ago, said: “Hizbollah terrorism threatens Jews and Israelis around the world. Hizbollah propaganda could hardly be more antisemitic. If this man is permitted to enter the country it will make an absolute mockery of existing legislation and will send exactly the wrong message from government.”

Mr Moussawi has visited Britain on three previous occasions from his home in Beirut, having spoken at another SOAS conference and taken part in a Stop the War Coalition tour.

SOAS confirmed this week that it had not considered revoking Mr Moussawi’s invitation following his promotion to media relations officer.

Meanwhile a report this week from Policy Exchange, which is regarded as the think-tank closest to David Cameron, the Leader of the Opposition, said that the Government should not fund Muslim groups that call for the destruction of Israel.

The report criticises the Government’s programme to combat extremism, arguing that it is too narrowly focussed on preventing violence while ignoring groups that promote militant ideas.

Instead, it calls for the government to set tougher conditions for engaging with Muslim groups, refusing support to those who, among other things, “call for or condone the destruction of UN states” or “support or condone terrorism anywhere in the world.” The report explains: “To be clear, it is not proposed that being pro-Israeli is a precondition for engaging with government… Too much latitude has been afforded by the British state to vitriolic Islamist groups who are hostile to the very existence of Israel.”

The authors of the report, called Choosing Our Friends Wisely, are Shiraz Maher, a former member of the radical Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir and now a fellow at Policy Exchange, and Martyn Frampton, a research fellow at Cambridge University. They argue that the Government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme — costing £90 million over the past three years — is not working because it has sometimes funded “Islamist-influenced” groups which advance radical agendas.

Last updated: 10:22am, March 12 2009