A reader of this article has written to Neil Gerrard. I reproduce the correspondence with the consent of both parties.
Dear Mr. Neil Gerrard MP,
I am writing you today to ask you why you will be attending the ‘Eyewitness from Gaza’ event organised by Waltham Forest PSC on the 30th of March 2009. I assume you are aware that Dr. Daud Abdullah will be present at the meeting. In case you are unacquainted with this man and his vile and racist politics, let me fill you in on some choice bits:
As Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain he has has consistently and vociferously backed the boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day
He is also a signatory to the final document drawn up at the recent Islamist conference in Istanbul that calls for unceasing Jihad against the so called Zionist enemy and all its allies. The UK is defined as such an ally and the document supports attacks against the Royal Navy if it used to prevent the smuggling of arms into Gaza. It also proclaims steadfast support of Hamas, the racist and fascist terrorist organisation. He is signatory number 17 (http://www.hurryupharry.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/istpdf.pdf).
So I would like to ask you why you will be sharing a platform with this despicable human being. I sincerely hope that it is so that you can refute his hate and his racism.
Neil Gerrard replies
Thank you for your email.
I was rather surprised to receive yours, and similar emails, as I have not agreed to speak at a meeting with Daud Abdullah.
I received an invitation earlier last week to speak at the meeting on the 30th March, as I have spoken before at meetings of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
I am not going to speak at this meeting, and the organisers appear to have assumed that I was before receiving my reply saying that I was not.
I do not, and never would, condone ant-Semitism., but I must make clear that I remain critical of the policies of the Government of Israel, as do many Jewish people.
There’s a coda to this letter, as I think it reflects well on both my correspondent, and Mr Gerrard:
Dear Mr Neil Gerrard MP,
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my email. I am certainly glad that you will not be appearing at this event and I do apologise for assuming that you would without asking you in the first place.
I would also just like to add some cautionary advice if I may. Adding the ‘as do many Jewish people’ to your last sentence is a rather defensive measure and I would not recommend you use it in the future. It is perfectly acceptable and understandable to be critical of the Government of Israel. What is important to remember is that the merits of those criticisms are not reliant upon whether anybody Jewish shares them with you, but rather whether they are just and rational criticisms.
Thank you once again
To which Neil Gerrard responds:
Thank you for your email. I take the point you make about what I said; I guess that I was a bit fed up with getting a string of emails about something I wasn’t actually doing, and unfortunately it is the case that criticism of the Government of Israel is sometimes taken as anti-Semitism, as I know from past experience. However I do understand the point you make.
I think it is possible that the speakers at the event will change. The local organiser of PSC was not aware of the background, and is someone who would never advocate violence or knowingly provide a platform for anyone advocating violence or racism in any form.
I have to say, I am very impressed by this exchange, and by Neil Gerrard’s position on the issues. I should confess that I’ve been vaguely getting to the stage where my emotional reaction is to assume that any vocal supporter of Palestinian issues has effectively ‘gone over to Hamas’. I know, rationally, that this is not so. But I keep coming across people who consistently belittle the threat of Hamas, or pay lip service to supporting liberal and secular values, while talking up Hamas’ stock, or who appear wholly unconcerned by Hamas’ statements of genocidal antisemitism.
I should not forget that there are, in fact, very many strong supporters of Palestinian self-determination, who are horrified by the real suffering of Palestinians, now and in past decades, and who remain partisan in their cause, while not giving an inch to the racists and theocrats.
Oh, and my guess is that Bob Pitt will, even at this moment, be formulating a blog post denouncing me, while frantically tapping out an email to Neil Gerrard telling him what a scoundrel I am.