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John Ware: The race row played out on streets of Ilford

In the first of a two part investigation into Islamist group Mend, John Ware revisits how a Jewish MP was subjected to an antisemitic campaign aimed at ousting him from Parliament

    For ten years Lee Scott represented the constituency of Ilford North in London. He fought four elections, lost the last two and won’t be standing again — but not because he lost.

    “I wouldn’t put my family through what we went through in the last three of those four elections,” says Scott, who is Jewish.

    Two people came up to him on a Friday afternoon calling him a “dirty Jewish pig” and “saying they were going to kill me”. Some of his campaign team were approached in the street and asked: “Why are you voting for a Jew?”

    Leaflets that Scott considers antisemitic were also being handed out at several mosques labelling him an “ardent Zionist” who “considers Muslims as alien to the UK”.

    They also baited him as a “self-hating Jew” for denying that he had ever described Muslims as “alien”.

    “Does this mean he has been subject to a vicious antisemitic attack by himself? Lol,” taunted a blog from which the leaflets were printed.

    “Surely he can’t be antisemitic as he is Jewish himself. The only conclusion is that he must be a self-hating Jew.”

    The leaflets showed Scott in a skullcap, even though he only wears one in synagogue. “They intimated that I was an ‘enemy of Islam’, which was totally untrue.”

    Nothing like this had confronted Scott when he won the seat in 2005 and he says he was on good terms with the constituency’s 18,000 Muslims. But things changed in 2010.

    Some Muslims defended Scott publicly but he still had to install a panic device to contact the police in an emergency and he changed his home telephone number.

    The attempt to label Scott as a Muslim-hating Jew continued in 2015, making 2010 “look like a tea party. Things were intensified. There were more leaflets and I was told on doorsteps that people wearing Labour Party rosettes were urging them not to vote for ‘the dirty Jew’.”

    Scott lost to Labour’s Wes Streeting by 589 votes. He promised his wife he wouldn’t stand again but then came the snap election last year, and he ran the antisemitic gauntlet all over again.

    When the leaflets first appeared, the JC reported that they had been distributed by an “unnamed group”.

    Today I can put a name to the man behind those leaflets: a Muslim convert and martial arts enthusiast who goes by the name of Daud Niazi, real name Paul Rippingale.

    When I confronted Rippingale with the fact that he also doubled as Daud Niazi he said: “You’ve got your wires crossed my friend… there is no Daud Niazi, I think you are mistaken my friend.”

    But there is a “Daud Niazi”. In 2016 he founded the Redbridge branch of Momentum and that August the Ilford Recorder quoted him at a Momentum rally attended by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, praising Jeremy Corbyn as “a genuine guy, honest and sincere”.

    Had the person living at Rippingale’s registered address ever used the name Niazi? “No… there is no person of that name at the address.”

    But there is — I saw a man answering to Niazi’s description entering Rippingale’s address at 7pm on Easter Sunday.

    How about the blog called Ilford North Elections which Scott describes as “one of the nastiest things I’ve ever encountered in politics”.

    “I’ve never heard of that,” replied Niazi-Rippingale.

    Really? Even though the blog linked to an email address used by his various start-up companies? “Never heard of it. No, no. Not me…. nothing to do with me, no.”

    Again, he told me, I was “mistaken”.

    But I wasn’t. Through his Facebook page, Niazi-Rippingale again promoted the blog during the 2017 election to “British Muslims for Corbyn” and also to “Muslims in Redbridge Insha’allah”.

    And Niazi wasn’t just a keyboard warrior.

    “I’m gonna create some flyers specifically targeting Muslim voters, Palestine, foreign policy etc.”

    He asks for “suggestions on how to get 1-2 people for Friday prayers at each mosque”.

    Lee Scott, Conservative MP for Ilford North, addresses Tamil protesters, assuring them he has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to ask that he reconsider his decision to attend CHOGM
    Lee Scott, Conservative MP for Ilford North, addresses Tamil protesters, assuring them he has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to ask that he reconsider his decision to attend CHOGM

    The organisation whose website has drawn attention to this blog in each of the three elections since 2010 is Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development).

    Mend says it campaigns not just against Islamophobia but all forms of hate including antisemitism.

    “Mend has not, and will not, tolerate antisemitism and considers it to be equally abhorrent as any form of racially or religiously motivated hate.” Any accusations to the contrary “are baseless”.

    Sadly, such virtuous protestations from Mend don’t cut the mustard any more than do Jeremy Corbyn’s for the simple reason that neither have shown they understand the contemporary nature of antisemitism.

    They still seem blind to how the Left has so successfully mutated the historically crude virus of far-right Jew-baiting into a more sophisticated and resistant strain.

    That mutation has, of course, been the trashing of the word “Zionism” by relentlessly depicting what was once seen as a largely secular liberation movement into a malign, sinister, evil and manipulative force, exercising its malevolent influence on a global scale.

    If Corbyn has difficulty grasping where legitimate criticism of Israel crosses red racist lines, what hope is there for Islamists who today routinely compare the world’s only Jewish state to the Nazi genocidal monster? Or those who find the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s existence just plain tiresome.

    “They never let you forget (the Holocaust),” complained one Mend supporter in a covert recording by Hardcash Productions for my recent TV investigation into Mend.

    It would be pretty extraordinary if Jews did “forget” would it not? An attempt to exterminate an entire race is not an unforgettable event.

    Indeed, 70 years of refusing to accept the right of Jews to enjoy secure borders around their historic homeland might explain why some Israeli soldiers are no longer prepared to give those who try to breach them en masse the benefit of the doubt.

    To be clear: the recent actions of IDF snipers apparently picking off unarmed men — even if many of them were, as Israel says, Jihadists — is unacceptable. Such conduct by a sovereign defence force governed by an ethical code, as the IDF is, demeans them.

    But those moved to fury by Israel also demean themselves when they refer to the country as “blood suck (ing) more Palestinians”, a place that “drink(s) our blood”, populated by “Nazis” whose intentions are “genocidal” and are so beyond the pale that the only thing likely to deter Israel is “gas”, and who urge Iran “come on — press the button”, who accuse “Jews” of finding a “solution” to Palestinians by “shipping them out” and who accuse “pro-Zionist pro-war” Jewish philanthropists of having a vested interest in “making the world unstable”.

    Where has this racist venom come from? From the social media accounts of Muslims who have either worked for Mend, or still work there — that’s where. It is but a sample of my trawl through their accounts and the comments of clerics who Mend have provided with a platform.

    Mend says that with “1,000 volunteers across the country” they “cannot police the social media activities of every single volunteer”. Fair enough. But the examples I have given have come from individuals who had designated roles within Mend’s management operation.

    Mend also says it has “never supported ‘conspiracy’ theories, nor shown any sympathy for such theories”. Why then take on people who do? On the last anniversary of 9/11, one newly recruited Mend Group Co-ordinator posted three items asking who was really behind the attack? I wonder who he had in mind.

    Mend insist they are striving for a harmonious, integrated, cohesive, stable society. Very well. They need to show they are serious by taking a lead in educating Muslims to keep their criticism of Israel and Zionism free from analogies with Nazi Germany.

    The Nazis got through in a week the number of Palestinians who have been killed by Israel over the last 70 years as a result of anti-terrorist operations, not a plan to exterminate them.

    There is a job to do here: surveys of British Muslims broadly indicate a prevalence four times greater than non-Muslims for regarding Jews as having too much power and for being responsible for most of the world’s wars.

    No such education is required in the case of the Labour MP Wes Streeting, who won Ilford North from Lee Scott in 2015 and increased his majority in 2017.

    Although Streeting has sometimes been strongly critical of Israel, he has also spoken out against criticism that uses antisemitic tropes.

    His speech at the Jewish community’s protest rally in Parliament Square last month was also uncompromising.

    Demanding that Labour drain its “cesspit of antisemitism”, Streeting attacked Corbyn for his “mealy mouthed statements”, dismissed the Chakrabarti report as a “whitewash” and demanded Labour permanently expel Ken Livingstone for saying Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s.

    Streeting also said “if you are silent about antisemitism” you are “complicit” and that “this isn’t about votes, it’s about our values”.

    It is indeed, which begs the question: why is Streeting silent over Mend in his Ilford North constituency?

    Since being elected in 2015, he has worked closely with Mend, an organisation the CST adjudged four years earlier to have “a troubling attitude to antisemitism”.

    Last November, Streeting helped launch Mend’s Islamophobia Awareness Month in Parliament — despite publication two days earlier of a 78-page report by the Henry Jackson Society with 802 footnotes, much of it detailing verbatim the extremist and antisemitic comments from members of Mend, its partner organisations and supporters.

    Several MPs pulled out of the event but Streeting did not. “Mend has both an opportunity and a responsibility to make it very clear what the organisation will and won’t stand for,” he said.

    Streeting has had many opportunities to explore this with Mend but it’s not clear that he has taken them.

    Wesley Streeting - UK Parliament official portraits 2017
    Wesley Streeting - UK Parliament official portraits 2017

    By my count, he’s attended nine Mend events since being elected in 2015, several of them with Vaseem Ahmed, the man who, until January, was in charge of Redbridge Mend. And when it comes to troubling attitudes about antisemitism, Ahmed has them.

    In one of our secret recordings, Ahmed recounts how, when discussing a joint project with Citizens UK, he rejected their request to apologise for supporting the infamous 2014 tweet by Naz Shah MP supporting Israel’s population being “transported” to America – with its Holocaust echoes of Jews being transported to death camps.

    Ahmed said: “I did a ‘Lol win win yeah?’ That’s it. Anyway they’re now saying to me that that’s antisemitic. They said: ‘All you’ve gotta do, is delete your tweet, send an email apology and then commit that you’ll never send a tweet like that again.’ I said ‘I ain’t doing nothin’ mate. If you don’t wanna work with me that’s up to you.

    “But 100 per cent that is not an antisemitic tweet… stop misconstruing anti-Israeli, or anti-Zionist behaviour and criticism and turn it into something that’s it’s not. I said if anything, what you’re doing now I find actually Islamophobic.

    “Its structural Islamophobia because you’re saying I’m not allowed to criticise the state of Israel. So obviously we parted and didn’t agree.”

    A Redbridge Labour Party source says Streeting has “fallen under Mend. Some of us have tried to reach out to Wes to tell him not to give them a platform but he doesn’t respond”.

    Streeting responds that Mend officials “have talked about the importance of tackling antisemitism” at every Mend meeting he’s attended. Would that include Mend’s ex Redbridge boss Vaseem Ahmed who has been Facebook friends with Daud Niazi promoter of the blog that targeted Lee Scott?

    Scott says that Ahmed was an activist during that election and believes he saw Ahmed at an “intimidating” rally near his house.

    “Suddenly cars drew up and about 20-plus people got out carrying Palestinian flags,” he says. “I told them I’ve always called for a two-state solution and peace for everyone. I said it was about to rain and suggested they went home.”

    Did galvanising the anti-Zionist vote tip the balance in favour of Streeting with his narrow 589 victory over Scott?

    It’s true the Ilford North result bucked the national trend with its 6.4 per cent swing to Labour more than four times the national swing.

    Within hours of Streeting’s victory, Sufyan Ismail, the head of Mend, tweeted that the Muslim vote was “probably key”.

    But the more likely explanation is Labour ran a well-organised campaign. Members of Streeting’s official campaign say they are disgusted by the antisemitism directed at his opponent.

    Scott says he respects the electorate’s decision, “so there is no sour grapes from me. But I confess I am a bit baffled by the absence of any challenge to Mend by Wes since he’s been elected — to put it mildly”.

    Particularly since Streeting increased his narrow majority in 2015 to nearly 10,000 in 2017.

    But in the Corbyn Labour Party, it’s no longer electoral majorities that count as much as the local party apparatchiks now increasingly under the influence of Momentum.

    After the 2015 election, Niazi went on to form Momentum in Redbridge and was joined by Mend’s Vaseem Ahmed.

    A Redbridge Momentum co-ordinator was selected to fight a new ward in the May elections in preference to a key Streeting campaigner but is now suspended by the Labour Party.

    Streeting was recently attacked by Redbridge Momentum for his “silence following the massacre in Gaza” — even though he had not been silent.

    His speech attacking Corbyn, Chakrabarti and Livingstone will not have endeared him to Momentum or Mend, so his selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate at the next general election may not be that secure.

    But then as Streeting says, calling out antisemitism “isn’t about votes. It’s about values”.

    In which case, if he takes on Mend and Momentum locally, he might have to be prepared to pay the ultimate price.

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